Saturday, January 3, 2009

Out of Santiago, On to Valpo

Just to get the record straight so that the dates match up here. I am now back in Cuenca after a long travel day, but I'm going back in time to talk about what happened since I last updated. Here we go...

Several days of just hanging out in Santiago were good and relaxing. The guys had a great apartment and we were able to have a couple of barbecues on the roof, giving us a wide view of the city. The plan was to go to Valparaiso for New Years. We'd done some research and found out that the city is listed as one of the top 5 cities in the world for New Years Eve parties along with New York, Hong Kong, London, and Rio de Janero. Some of Adams friends were renting an apartment with a bunch of beds in a hostel, so we hopped on board even though it was a ton of money for the one night.

I wanted to see the city before all of the craziness, so Adam and I went to the city a day early. Zach couldn't go because he had work the morning of New Years Eve. There weren't many hostels left so we took the first one we could find online. When we got in to Valpo we could see that the weather was considerably different. Every day in Santiago is roughly the same--hot and no clouds at all. In Valpo, however, it was colder and overcast. Walking from the bus terminal to find the hostel, the city seemed ugly and cold.

Winding our way up the hills we got the hostel but were told that they made a mistake and they would have to walk us over to their sister hostel in the center. There was no room because everything was already booked. So we went to the new hostel and found a very friendly staff who even gave us a discount on the room. Dropping off our things we went to walk around the city. Adam had already been there twice so he was able to navigate more easily through the streets. Soon the sun broke through the clouds and it was hot. Without my hat or sunblock, I was an easy target and was starting to burn.

Walking down by the port we saw the Pacific Ocean, then headed up into the hills via one of the ancient "Funicular" elevators, which scale the incredibly steep hills to take you to the neighborhoods that surround the crest of the slopes that the city was founded on. We'd heard that the hills can be a bit dangerous, so we watched our backs as we explored the area, taking in all of the murals and artwork that the city is known for.

Once we'd seen enough we went back to the hostel to grab hats and sunblock, and then caught a bus to the neighboring town of Vina del Mar, where everyone goes to the beach. We walked past some fancy looking hotels and casinos and eventually sat on the wall by the beach for an hour or so taking in the sights. Earlier in the day the weather was lousy, but now everyone was out enjoying the sun in the sand. The sun doesn't set at this time of year in the area until 9:30 p.m. It threw me off the entire week and changed how I ate, usually making me eat later as a result. We headed back as the sun was starting to dip down and took a nap, tired after a long day of walking.

For dinner we went to a famous restaurant in an alley called J. Cruz, which is known for a dish made of fries, scrambled eggs, onions, and steak. We shared it and though we wanted it, knew it was terrible for our health. Just looking at it would give someone a heart attack. The place was completely packed, and they shoved people in at communal tables. We got there just in time though, because when we left we could see the line extended far down the alley.

Grabbing a few beers at a bar, we eventually called it a night in order to prepare ourselves for the mayhem that would take place for the New Years Eve party. It would rock our world in terms of crazy, city-wide parties. More to come on that tomorrow.

Above: Street murals which cover the city walls, the port of Valparaiso, a shot of the streets, sky blue house against sky blue

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