A Travellerspoint blog

Valparaiso - Day 48

Windy beach time

22 °C

It's really overcast in the morning here at the moment but the weather seemed to pick up by late morning yesterday so we kept to our plan of having a beach day. A quick bus ride from the promenade in Valparaiso and you're in Vina del Mar, but we got on a bus that didn't take us to the centre and ended up at one end of the beach. It was incredibly windy, we were dressed for summer and it was a long walk to the main part of the beach. After an empanada to warm us up - I wanted cheese but got cheese and prawn, and Andrew had something called Pino, which had beef, egg and olive inside - we settled down onto the beach and spent the rest of the day here...
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:56 Archived in Chile Tagged beaches cargo_ships Comments (0)

San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso - Day 46

Flying through the desert

23 °C

We journeyed from San Pedro to Valparaiso today, and sensibly we decided on a few hours flight to Santiago and a 2 hour bus ride, rather than a 24 hour bus journey on a normal (not lie flat) coach. We got an airport transfer to Calama airport and the roads were long and straight, with nothing much on either side.
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The airport was tiny and we met Caroline and Tash at the gate, who were heading to Mendoza, Argentina, via Santiago to meet Tash's boyfriend who was flying out to start his trip with them. Tash looked particularly clean and well dressed, unlike the rest of us, in preparation for seeing her boyfriend after 3 weeks away! Andrew said I nearly missed the flight because I was in the toilet but I swear they hadn't called us yet...needless to say I was the last one on the plane! The flight was pretty uneventful but the views of the desert from the plane were awesome.
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The journey to our hostel in Valparaiso was easy too. A bus from Santiago airport to Pajaritas bus and metro terminal, then a bus straight to Valparaiso and a short taxi ride to the hostel on one of the many steep roads in Valparaiso. We were there a little earlier than we thought and no one was answering at Hostel Destino Bella Vista, which meant we spent the first 20 minutes sat on the doorstep! We found a phone number and the owner Patricia met us with hugs and kisses, apologised and said her English wasn't very good but she spoke German as well as Spanish. She showed us around, gave us a map and talked us through the city, and we got through fine with bits of English, Spanish and German! We were given our room for the first night (as we came a day early and couldn't get the room for the whole time) and it was a bit like a sauna with wood clad floors, walls and ceiling!

We were tired from the journey so went to the supermarket to get food to make at the hostel. Going down the hundred or more steps to get the food was fine, but the walk back up with a few bags and a 6 litre bottle of mineral water was not easy! It felt like we were at altitude again! The hostel has a balcony out back that looks on to the hills of Valparaiso, so we ate and drank wine there, looking at all the houses lit up in the distance.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:52 Archived in Chile Tagged planes desert roads Comments (0)

Valparaiso - Day 47

Very cool Valparaiso

24 °C

We changed rooms this morning so now we have a balcony looking out on to the street and in the distance the port and sea.
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The weather was lovely today, so we went on a free (aside from tips) walking tour of the city, with a Where's Wally guide (stripy tshirt) We met in a square near the port and had an ice cream while we waited for the others tourists to turn up. The tour guide was a Californian girl living in Valparaiso and she took us to the port, telling us the importance of it for Valparaiso, showed us the buildings and statues in the square and took us down an old 'wealthy' streets that are now almost derelict. We even had a dog follow us for this first bit.
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Because the city is built on a hill, there are ascensors (wooden elevators) everywhere but only a few now work, which is a shame as I am sure some of the older people living here struggle to get around or have to pay for taxis. You can see from the picture of the steps why you need them! We took an ascensor to the top of a hill and the view out to sea and along the coast was really pretty.
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The buildings on the hills are colourful, apparently painted years ago using left overs from the ships and now the city is a unesco site it has to keep this way. I love it went seaside buildings are painted this way, it gives them real character.
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I tried to take a picture of all the colourful houses on the hill above, but this cute couple caught my eye <3
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The guide stopped us at the door of a man who sells alfajores - a biscuit, best described by saying its a Wagon Wheel without the marshmallow but with caramel - and we all had one for free (she must pay him later on her tips) and you could buy more if you liked.
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Street art is massive here in Valparaiso and you can see it almost everywhere. We were told that people were tagging houses here (that rubbish spray painting of your name), so the homeowners have been paying street artists to create something on the side of their house instead as taggers won't spray over art out of respect. The first couple of pictures here are from the 'wealthy street', a roof from the viewpoint at the top of the ascensor and from the down the alley near the man selling alfajores, but the rest are in and around the concepcion area:
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The guide also told us that Red Bull do an extreme sports event here called the Valparaiso Downhill, where people bike around the city, down ramps like below. Check it out on YouTube, it looks crazy.
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We finished the tour at a bar that had more street art all around it and we drank a Pisco sour - out first in Chile - while the guide gave us lots of information about places to eat and visit. It was a good tour for 'free' and definitely worth doing if you have a free afternoon in Valparaiso.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:21 Archived in Chile Tagged art buildings skylines statues ports street_art Comments (0)

San Pedro de Atacama - Days 44 & 45

Chilling out in the desert

24 °C

After my sickness the day before and not eating for about 36 hours, I felt really weak, so the first day in San Pedro de Atacama was a quiet one, to make sure I was well enough for the stargazing tour tonight. The stargazing in San Pedro de Atacama is one of the best in the world.

We went out into the dusty little desert town, had a walk around and stopped for some lunch. I had a cheese, avocado and tomato sandwich - by the way, the avocado in South America is so tasty! - but could only manage half.
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We got picked up from the town at 9pm and Caroline and Tash were on the same tour as us! You really do see a lot of the same faces on the tourist trail and they'd been staying in the same hostel in San Pedro as Roger. We took a short drive out of town and the bus driver turned the lights off inside the bus as he pulled into the stargazing area.

A Canadian man, who took the tour, came on to the bus and greeted us, then took us outside to begin. The sky was unbelievably clear, just in like in Bolivia, and it was just beautiful. I so wish we had a camera that could have taken an image of it all. The guide took us through the history behind stargazing, where the constellations are, what people thought the position of stars meant years ago, what we know about the stars now and so much more, all with good humour, which made it really fun. He had this awesome green laser pen to point everything out to us in the sky and that made it really easy to follow too.

I saw my first shooting star!

You could see Jupiter and even the shadowy area that was another galaxy of stars in space with just your eyes. We then got to play with some massive telescopes. We saw Jupiter again but with its rings and some of its moons - it was so clear! We saw Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, the jewel box cluster of stars that looks red, blue and green close up, and Alpha Centauri, which is actually two stars and because of the angle we were looking at it, it looks like a sparkler on bonfire night through the telescope. And so many more. It was so cool to be able to see them all and the couple of hours we were out there went so quickly.

After the telescopes, we went inside a building with a clear roof so you can still look out and a tree in it (they must have built around it) to have hot chocolate and ask any questions. Lots of people had questions and Andrew asked one too about how you measure stars and the distance between them and us. I was a bit distracted because the man on my left was sipping his hot chocolate so loudly (his wife and son didn't even tell him to be quieter!) and a woman in front of us was madly stroking up and down the trunk of the tree with the palm of her hand?!

Today I felt better and we had a chilled out day, blogging, shopping and we spent the afternoon having beers (Andrew) and lemonade (me - not well enough for alcohol yet) in the plaza people watching and chatting. We definitely found that you need some days doing 'nothing', otherwise it really does wear you out. Sounds funny when we're basically on an extended holiday!
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Andrew made an awesome curry for dinner. The group of French people at our hostel were so impressed by his cooking that they didn't think we were English!

Due to the slow day, Andrew has started reading a book - 1227 QI facts to blow your socks off. Apparently a 1/6 of the earths land surface surface legally owned by the Queen, 50% of Nasa's people are dyslexic and a kangaroo has three vaginas. He's only on page two and he keeps telling me a fact every 30 seconds...totally putting me off my writing!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:32 Archived in Chile Tagged mountains desert_town stargazing Comments (1)

Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - Day 43

Tour Day 3

20 °C

4.30am. I'd already been up for 2 hours though with massive stomach cramps. I could still taste the onion lasagne and thought that was to blame. We packed in the dark, save for a few torch lights, and I felt so sick and bloated too. I couldn't eat breakfast either, which anyone who knows me understands is really unusual! There was even fruit salad and pancakes and I still couldn't eat!

We set off in the dark to the geysers. The sunrise in the desert was lovely. When we arrived at the geysers it was cold and windy, and we were getting higher in altitude. The geysers were cool but after a while I had to let Andrew stay and take the pictures as I headed to one side as i thought i was going to be sick. Alan was there too, also thinking he was going to be sick, but from alcohol! We couldn't be sick so we wished each other luck for the journey ahead.
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The next stop was an early morning dip in some hot water springs.
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First stop for me was the back of a building to be sick though :( I thought this might help but it was the start of the end! Luckily though I was well enough at this point to get in the pool. Here, we were at almost 5,000ft above sea level, the highest altitude we'd been at, and it was cold and windy outside but getting into that hot spring was like walking into boiling water. It was almost too hot to stand, but slowly your body became used to it and it was really nice. Once I got out I started to feel horrible again and had to use the loo!

It's not fun being sick and needing the toilet in a bumpy jeep driving through the desert. I drank dioralyte and took Imodium and Imodium instants, but everything was coming back up. There was another lagoon and the Dali landscape, which signaled the end of our tour, and I was annoyed to have been ill for them and also for our goodbye to everyone on the tour that was going back to Uyuni instead of on to Chile, which included Lucy and George.
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I somehow managed to get through the journey to border control out of Bolivia and into Chile, and the bus drive in the middle to San Pedro de Atacama. The bus driver was so nice to me though, Gonzalez told him I was sick and he let me sit up front with him and drove really slowly.

We arrived at hostel Mamatierra at lunch time and it was like my body knew I was near a toilet! I couldn't stop being sick and going to the loo for about 4 hours, I couldn't even keep water down and nothing was working. So the £40 medical kit finally came in to good use! I took some antibiotics that were in there for just this reason. I then managed to sleep for a few hours and when I woke up I felt a little better (I could lift my head off the pillow!) and could keep a dioralyte down. Thank you Nomad for making us buy the really expensive kit!

And that was the story of my first bug abroad!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:27 Archived in Bolivia Tagged landscapes desert hot_springs geysers Comments (0)

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