Friday, June 11, 2010
The Graffitic Wonders of Valparaiso
Right now we are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean off the Coast of Lima heading for Guayaquil en route to Quito.
We had an amazing time in Valparaiso. We arrived at Santiago airport and managed to get a return ticket on the Centroaeropuerto bus (the other is TurBus), which dropped us off at the Pajaritos bus/metro station just in time to catch a Pullman bus to Valparaiso. We drove into the sunset along a long straight turnpike crossing the coastal hills in two long tunnels arriving an hour and a half later at the Rotavaria bus terminal after which we caught the first city bus that pulled in along Puerto Montt and then O'Higgins to the Lider Express supermercado, where after some figuring with the road signs dragged our luggage up steepish Cummings to the wildly chic Casa Verde Limon the house of the green lemon, adorned with commissioned art in situ and crowned the most atmospheric hostel 2009 by hostelworld.
It had a cavernous four-storey high central enclave for a living room with individually decorated doubles and dorms, and three keys - one to open the gate to the alley that linked the building between Cummings and the street below, one to get in the side door and one to open the deadlocked bedroom which had a huge six foot wide bed.
After picking up some food from Lider, we ventured out in the night and took the local ascension the crazy little near vertical cable cars established in Valpariso at the turn of the 20th century up to Cerro Conception, one of the precipitous hilltop neighbourhoods that overlook the harbour.The entire region is a case of art overtaking life. Basically graffiti has taken over and taken the artistic lead so that all the buildings either sport grafitti or are painted in contrasting pastel hues. The entire neighbourhood has this odd mix of run down desolation combined with avante garde bohemian cafes, bars and a few odd churches, a castle and a few absurdly narrow buildings built in the wedge between steeply winding streets.
In the morning we retraced our steps ascending by one ascension and later descending on the other side by another, taking in the sweep of the city from the heights and scuttling back mid-morning to pack and retrace our steps on the local bus, the intercity bus, and the Santiago airport bus, only to find we had misread the departuere time and given ourselves a two and three quarter hour wait before boarding for Quito and losing the camera among the luggage in the process giving myself near apoplexy as well as having a slightly sore tooth and Christine having a bloating varicose vein driving her balmy. Nevertheless, despite the brief time we were there, we had a really good experience of the famously quirky flavour of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso has provided the funky urban cultural complement to the natural environment of the passes and the resort and ski towns of the Lake District.