The neigbouring city to Vina del Mar is a harbour city called Valparaiso. It is an old city that has been built into the sides of the steep hills that surround the bay of Valparaiso. As with most harbour towns, the city centre is largely reclaimed land and the rest of the city is built up on the hillsides.
When we were on our Antarctic trip, we met a guy on the ship called Reinhardt. He is Chilean and lives in Santiago, but was born in Vina del Mar and knows Valparaiso well. During our stay in Vina, Reinhardt came through and visited us and took us on a days outing to Valparaiso. It was fantastic to have someone who grew up in the are show us around, as an unofficial tour guide he was amazing. He could pepper the various places with his own stories of his family who lived there and his personal experiences of being in Valparaiso as a child. Valparaiso is a city that has literally grown up on the sides of the hills. The design is incredibly haphazard and the streets have been put in place as a matter of convenience and not necessarily design. The roads in Valparaiso are therefore chaotic, they are narrow and cling to the sides of some very steep precipices. Houses too are built in a completely random manner and location. The homes are often very narrow, but high, they have great views for the most part, but if you are afraid of heights, then maybe Valparaiso is not for you!
The “old town” part of Valparaiso is magnificent. Most of the original homes still stand and they are very eclectic and are often painted with a lot of colour. They have a lot of character and many of these steep buildings are intertwined with cobbled streets and sidewalk cafes, really picturesque. Also, Valparaiso is peppered with funiculars. The funiculars take their passengers up the steepest parts of the hills, much like an elevator except up the side of a hill. These are really old, some of them dating back to the late 1800’s. We never rode on one, but watched some of them in action and to be honest they looked just a little rickety.
From the images that I captured, you will see there are a lot of homes with Chilean flags outside their homes and windows. The Chilean government does not normally allow civilians to fly the national flag but they said that it was permissible to remember the victims of the earthquake from a few weeks before. While we were in Vina, just 2 days earlier, 3 aftershocks struck just south of Santiago, the biggest measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale. We felt the room shake for 40 seconds, and it then dissipated. Shortly afterwards we heard shouts and looked out and saw people running, Francis went outside to see what was happening and a Tsunami Warning had been issued and everyone was running to higher ground. Francis was told by the building caretaker that we needed to go to his apartment, which we did, along with a few other tenants. The building we were in was high enough above sea level to be safe, but we did notice that the sea receded a bit and became eerily calm, no waves at all for about 20 minutes. This was a sign that there was some disturbance, fortunately neither Vina del Mar nor Valparaiso were hit by a Tsunami, but a city further South was hit with a pretty big wave, incredibly sad in light of what Chile has just been through.
We spent the afternoon in Valparaiso and then moved off to Vina del Mar to have some coffee on the beach at one of the beachfront restaurants, it was a great day, and we were really fortunate to have Reinhardt with us or we would never have seen Valparaiso through a locals eyes!