Good drivers and good legs. Welcome to Valparaiso.

12 September 2016

Valparaiso, the port city on Chile’s Pacific coast.

Home to the oddest collection of brightly painted shacks cum mansions clinging to the side of the surrounding hills.

The houses here are a mixture of corrugated iron, wood, brick and adobe, painted every colour of the rainbow. These des res’s are everything from four-walled tin construction to gothic edifices that even the Addams family would feel very comfortable calling home. The only common trait is they all appear to be defying gravity in the way they cling to the very steep hill sides.

To access the numerous barrios of Valparaiso you have to either make use of the many funiculars, take on the endless stairs or chance the steep cobbled winding roads.

It is said that if you live in Valparaiso you are a good driver and have great legs. Don’t know about the driving, but my glutes are killing me, so maybe I’m developing “Valpo” legs.

The city is filled with dogs of every breed, mostly street dogs, however all very well fed, healthy and friendly. Of course where there are dogs, there is caca. Everywhere you step. It doesn’t really rain here, so what’s deposited today, is there the next.

To the local hound who keeps leaving a steaming pile on our door stop, I’m dobbing you into the collective that’s neutering the Valparaiso street dogs. I know where you live. 


Anyway enough of caca.

Did you know this city was devastated by a major earthquake and tsunami in 2010? Lucky our casa is high up looking over the ocean, well it is now. I’m not sure if it was even higher up the hill prior to the earthquake, and has just been shaken down over the years, however it’s over 100 years old, so it’s now survived two major quakes. I feel reasonably comfortable.

It’s a great city to just get lost in and enjoy the graffiti, ocean views and architecture. 

“Lost” – go with that description. However, if Google Maps could get a grip on the road, staircase and laneway system in Valparaiso we wouldn’t be getting lost quite so often. 

So we have a week in our ridiculously large casa in Valparaiso, giving us an opportunity to wander the different barrios, a day in the local wine region and a day out to a población rural to enjoy a different pace.


The local barrios have been hit by years of graffiti art; some faded, some not artistic, but all make this faded and dusty city an open air gallery.





The wine tour to the Casablanca Valley started off well with a private tour and tasting, followed by a picnic in the grounds. Very civilised.

The second winery tasting finished with a crash … well, more like a bloodbath with a wine bag dripping with a beautiful vino tinto and no-longer complete bottle of Syrah. Oops. Bodega RE, thanks for the replacement bottle. We swear it was the wind that blew the bag over.


Our sojourn to the countryside took the form of a combinación train and bus trip. Depositing us in a small dusty plaza with a church, there were a few bored dogs sunning themselves alongside the tumbleweed. Spaghetti Western come to mind? Me too. (Although there might be a little poetic licence in that description.) There was, however, a donkey and a couple of hombres in ponchos complete with spurs to complete my Chilean countryside postcard.

September 11. September 11 has a different significance in this country.

In Chile the day is commemorated by visiting one of the numerous memorials to the exiled and ‘disappeared’, marking the day 43 years ago that Pinochet sent the airforce over Santiago to bomb the presidential palace where the democratically-elected President committed suicide rather than face the murder and torture squads that his fellow Chilenos were subjected to over the next 17 years of his dictatorship.


Well I think I’ve covered it all, caca to coups.

Adios chicos.

About Freoroamers

Richard has worked in hospitality and travel for almost three decades and has been a regular traveller since childhood. He now travels for both work and pleasure, and is a Senior Contributor to Trip Advisor and other digital media travel platforms.
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