We took a 1.5 hour bus ride from Santiago to the nearby and iconic city of Valparaiso, or Valpo as locals apparently call it.
The journey was a comfortable with onboard bathroom. I was surprised at how quickly the bus entered what seemed like desert wasteland so close to the main city. With mountain ranges in the back ground, the journey was eerie mixed with excitement.
This is a popular tourist route with buses leaving every 15 minutes. Still, as the unseasoned backpackers that we were, Stella and I felt adventurous and embraced our first backpacking trip together.
Valparaiso is like the cooler and unkempt cousin of Santiago. With its iconic multicolored houses and street art, the city excited us plenty during trip planning. What Google Images and YouTube videos didn’t tell us were the constant fragrance of dog urine and trash that occupied our nostrils. The photoshopped pictures also added a layer of picturesque calm that masked the edginess and poverty that can be felt immediately as we got off the bus. (I’m guilty of brightening up my photos also, see below)
My dear wife was in a prolonged panic mode after reading many stories of snatch and run robberies. Being the small Asians that we were certainly didn’t help our chances. But what could we do? Not about to bulk up and change our appearances overnight. (How nice that would be, to just take a pill and suddenly look like locals.) In reality, we took necessary precautions and walked with arrow-like speed and precision everywhere we went.
We joined a walking tour and had a brief lesson on the city’s history of an once bustling port city declining after the opening of the Panama Canal. Ships coming from Europe no longer needed to go around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The economic growth that came with the ships breaking at Valparaiso for refueling and supplying also stopped along with it. The beautiful architecture is still testament to its former wealth and fame. In recent years, the city applied and received UNESCO recognition as a world heritage site. With good leadership and just wealth distribution, I can see Valparaiso becoming a bustling haven of tourism.
Here’s some pictures we took of this wonderfully attractive city that had us on edge the entire time.
Until next time, Chao.