Friday, January 05, 2007

The scenery decides to change once again and now in Chile, the landscape is almost totally cultivated with fruit and vegetables as far as the eye can see. Deciding that the main road was just a little too busy, we took the turn off to Concon to take the coast road for a bit of a change of scenery. And with an early stop in Valpariso in our sights, thats when michelle's KLR decided to break in half... It transpired that one of the subframe bolts from her 'overweight-solutions' add-on kit had dissapeared and the remaining poor bolt had no choice but to shear off. Luckily it happened while we were travelling slowly on a much quieter road and Michelle was able just to pull over when the back end subsided by several inches. We managed to piece the KLR back together temporarily and thanks to a guy working in a house nearby who took the removed luggage in his van, we followed him to a friend of his who just happened to be a welder. Even though it was approaching siesta time and it was a baking hot, they managed to remove the sheared bolt and re-weld the tank mount in a couple of hours all for 3GBPs. So with many 'muchos gracias's' all round, we resumed our coastal route to Valpariso. This area is so much like the 'costa del sol' or the south of France it hurts. The coast is just teaming with developments, high rises and holiday appartments from Vina del Mar to Valpariso that it's very hard to see where one town ends and the other begins.

Obviously a popular man then

We made it into Valpariso and after a quick visit to the tourist office in the 'mugger friendly' area of town, I managed to find a decent hotel up the hill in the old part of town. The hotel doesn't have moto parking so we have to use the underground carpark but thats ok, we're please to be in a decent place and the view from the kitchen on the top floor just has to be seen to be believed. This whole area is built on a steeply sloping hillside and all the multicoloured houses are so tightly packed that it seems a miracle that the whole lot doesn't come sliding down the hillside. To get around here, there are a load of old ascentors or funiculars, in addition to the plethora of hidden stairways that snake between the houses. We had a very enjoyable evening wandering aound this area, taking way too many photographs as the place is just so photogenic. After being warned not to walk in the area around the bus station at night, I felt slightly apprehensive about the town however we had absolutely no problem here at all. The views from up here are just great at night, and as well as being able to watch the comings and goings in the plazas down below, we could see right along the coast.

Valpariso by night

The following day, we took the bus to Santiago which is only about 1.5hours away. Normally, when you arrive in a new city, its a good idea to go to the tourist office to pick up a free map and find out what there is to see. After we'd arrived at the bus station, we tried the information desk but to no avail, they had no maps. We carried on walking toward the downtown area, along a wide street which seemed to have nothing but tool shops, impressive though they were. We did end up with a rather good meal though in a restaurant within the very lively old fish market where you are pestered by all the restaurant doormen to within an inch of your patience.

We also got a bit of art culture, not because we needed any but because we both needed the loo. Finally, we wandered through a pretty nice park surrounding an old castle which required you to sign in with your national ID number. As I naturally didn't have one of those, a made-up number seemed to satisfy the security guard.

Back in Valpariso the following day, we treked up the hill to the poet, Neruda's house. I didn't know anything about this guy, much to michelle's amazement but he really sounded a bit of a character and I loved his poem about the building of his house. The place is built on about three levels with incredible views over Valpariso from just about every room. I particularly liked the bar (where only Neruda himself was allowed to make the cocktails) and the plan for the hellipad on the roof which was intended as a launchpad to the heavens. Kind of makes you wonder what kind of cocktails he was making.

While we were getting some lunch there, we got talking to an English couple who lived in Canada and were doing a 6 month tour of South America. They were staying in Vina del Mar near Valpariso and as it was Xmas, they had treated themselves to a decent place to stay with a balcony on the sea front, a great idea. Our original plan that day was to try and do some Xmas shopping, but one of the great things about travelling is your plans change on a daily basis. They invited us back to check out their fancy pad which was on the 9th floor of an appartment block facing the beach. We were going to go to the big mall from there to do our shopping but Colin and Gill invited us to stay for lunch. Colin and I went for a wander along the beach while the girls sorted out lunch. We were then treated to a fantastic dinner on their balcony and plied with wine and Pisco Sour, it really doesn't get much better than this!

Our hosts for the day- Colin & Gill.

Thanks guys!

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