This was to be a long day for me. Early in the morning, took a bus to Valparaíso, for a day there. In the evening, was to take an overnight southwards to Concepción. As did not get back until late the previous night, could not appreciate the passing landscape in the hour and a half journey. Rather was making landscapes of my own kind in my sleep.
First thing first upon arriving into Valparíso. The search for food! There were a few veggie places listed in my guide, but they were up on a hill. So tried my luck searching for a place on shore level, which of course wasn't there. As now customary in Chile in my quest for something to eat, it's a process which lasted almost an hour. Oh well.
Over lunch, tried to read up as much as possible of the areas southwards. Had an ambitious idea of going through the Lake Districts, Patagonia and reaching the Tierra del Fuego. Needed to read up more on those places to find out whether my time limit would be feasible. Over the course of the day, calculated that it would not be impossible, but would mean I had to pass quickly through these vast distances, and only being able to visit the highlights, in order to say I had made it to the End of the World. A very nice idea, but would be too rushed for me. Well, looks like will have to fit in a few more trips back to South America at some point then!
Anyway, Valparaíso! It's a port city, which once held a strategic and important location in the days when there were many objects exported out of South America and to Europe, and North America. With the construction of the Panama Canal, it fell into decline, as boats no longer had to sail all the way round Cape Corn. Nonetheless, you can still see some port activities there today. Though what draws more visitors to Valparaiso, are the levels upon levels of bright and different colour houses built up on the hillside.
It took me a little while to locate the cable car going up the mountain. How was I to know that it would be concealed behind a building??? The ride up was short but sweet. At the top, were streets varying from the typial block grid system found in most Latin American countries. There were streets winding round corners, rising uphill, then winding down around at the next bend. A real challenage to any map draughtsman!! It was really enjoyable trying not to get lost, and in the meanwhile admiring the architecture and the creativity of its occupants. The view at the mirador was also nice.
Then it was taking the cable car down again, for a walk towards the next set of cable car. I had read that there was an open air museum of murals. Having painted some murals myself recently (hahahaha), I wanted to find out more about these ones. Arriving to the entrance of the cable car, found a map showing the locations of the various murals. How thoughtful! And it turned out that it wasn't necessary to take the car after all, the musuem begun on the stairway up the hill. Even better!
What a creative way to lure people into doing some exercises and walking uphill! Also got a glimpse into the life of the people living in the area; where pedestrians rung the bell of their friends' house, children playing football or simply sitting on the stairs in the shade playing games with their friends. The murals themselves, I didn't find to be very special, though were an interesting addition to the already well painted houses.
At the top, I understood why there was a map showing the pieces which belonged to the museum. Perhaps inspired by this project, the residents had taken up mural painting themselves - mainly on their own walls, though some were on street walls too. They were all very creative, and perhaps demonstrate that the environment in which people live can really influcence how they live and act.
Further up the hill, I arrived at "La Sebastina", another of Neruda's house. Having really enjoyed the previous tour, was interested to find out more about the poet. Though described as "Neruda's least known house", it was certainly not the least visited. The little house was crawling with tourists. Perhaps due to the limit of space, there was no personal guided tour, but information was given in each room and displayed like a museum.
It was a very fun house, one of Neruda's earlier projects. He had bought the house when partially completed, and shared it with two of his friends, a married couple. The couple decorated their house however they liked, and likewise with Neruda. Neruda's design was inspired, of course by boats, and the layout took on the form of the urban planning of Valpariso. The walls were painted in different colours, and the stairway was not the straight forward affair as in most houses. Again it was filled with many eccentric objects he had picked up on his travels. You can really appreciate his humour and passions from walking through it, and would make any budding architects jealous with how much fun this poet had in the design of his house.
After that, I was content with the sightseeing done for the day, and tried to catch up with various things on the internet whilst waiting for my night bus. All in all, yet another very enjoyable day!