We ride south along the coast of Chile and enjoy some camping along the way…the coast is beautiful. the water turns darker blue along the way and the coast becomes rocky and waves crash and break against it with big white sprays shooting skyward. Sometimes I catch glimpses of long wave breaks from the PanAm. A couple of days south of the El Qui Valley we ride into the northern edge of Valparaiso in the town of Concon. We stop for a lunch of fresh fish in a small local café where workers come for home cooking….then another 15 minutes up the road is Vina del Mar and a few more miles delivers us to Valparaiso.
We spend nearly 3 hours riding up and down the hilly and windy cobblestoned streets of the old part of Valparaiso trying to find a hostel with off-street parking for the bikes. Needless to say many of them advertise online that they have parking but they mean you can park on the street. Two hostels make sure to tell me that the bikes would not be safe on the street and to find something secure. Valparaiso has a bit of a crime problem from what we here, but then again, most cities around the world have an element of that.
The city is very hilly and reminds me of San Francisco. There are ascensors located all over the old part of the city, many over 100 years old. It’s a unique and fun way to save you from hiking up and down a lot of stairs.
After finally landing in a hostel on Cerro Allegre (translates as happy hill, and there are several named hills in town) we meet up with friends from the road, Erica and Sam for a Thanksgiving dinner of sushi and a beer at the oldest Cervezeria in Chile – Casa Cervecera at the base of one of the Ascensors.
The city is filled with graffiti and street art. On a free walking tour one day two young guides explain that in an effort to preempt graffiti many resident and business owners have hired artists to paint murals on their buildings. There is an unwritten code among the artists, they say, that keeps them from tagging other artists work.
On the tour we pass the Plaza Sotomayor with a monument to some of the Naval heroes of Chile and in the background is the former headquarters of the Navy.
Such a beautiful city…..I’m really enjoying wandering around.
We stop at a local man’s house and are treated to an alfajore, a cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche and coated in chocolate, and can buy more if we like.
We are told by the guides that Valparaiso was the richest city in all of South America at the turn of the 20th century. It was an incredibly busy port on the Pacific side of the continent and had served for centuries as a stopover for resupplying as boats sailed around the bottom of Tierra del Fuego either direction. But then the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 ended all of that and this enormous city was left in financial ruins. And they that to this day it hasn’t fully recovered.
We visit the port and enjoy the view of the boats….this has been a lovely place to visit.