susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Monday, May 22, 2006

Valpo and Beenyar

Oh, I'm an old Chile hand - Valpo is Valparaiso of course, Chile's major port and famous for its high hills covered all over with crumbling mansions and shacky slums, nearly of which (both types) are made from corrugated iron, and brightly painted in several contrasting colours - style: vibrant hippy from a distance.

We cheated and took one of the 15 funicular railtracks up to the lower of the heights, where the views are spectacular over the bay, the faded grandeur is most appealing, and the shacky houses aren't quite slummy. The slums, the real places, are even further up the hills.

Then we took an overcharging colectivo (like a taxi, but a fixed route, and anyone can join in) to visit Pablo Neruda's house (Chile's Nobel Prize winning poet) - a mad, twisty, multi-roomed vision that is Valparaiso in miniature - though not made from corrugated iron!.

Coming down from the hills, we wanted a cheapy after the fleece-the-foreigner colectivo bloke. So we hailed a bus, cute, green painted, stuffed to the gills and oh yes, very cheap indeed. It brought to mind that expression: 'life is cheap', because the driver felt he had to obey gravity to the max. It's hard to convey hurtling down narrow windy streets, over lumpy bumpy roads (erm, think they're meant to be roads, but hard to tell). White knuckling, I looked death in the face - and found he didn't seem so bad after all. Oh, how we laughed like hyenas as we tumbled out - maybe survival has its good side!

Beenyar, or Vina del Mar, just along the coast, is much more posh - along the sea front, that is. Just as ropey a few streets back though. We were feeling posh and sucked fruit juice through straws in a very smart restaurant and listened to the waves crashing over the rocks nearby. You could tell it was smart - the maitre d' couldn't crack his face.

Vina holds the record for touts. We were pursued by one indefatigable tout from the back streets to the seafront, dodging to avoid him by crossing roads back and forth and middle and side. Nope, he dogged our footsteps along the front, and waited outside the restaurant to pounce as we left. Guess who he was (see previous sentence).


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