BootsnAll Travel Network

Valparaiso and La Serena

The overnight bus to Chile was OK, but didn´t have much chance to sleep because of the border crossing, passport checks, baggage checks and customs etc. I arrived in Valparaiso at about 6am. Well at least I thought I did. I got off the bus at what I though was Valparaiso, but I soon realised it was actually the next town along the coast, Vina del Mar. I thought it was about 30 minutes bus ride to Valparaiso so I decided to wait at the bus station until it got light at about 7am and then try and find a bus. As it was Sunday morning I didn´t think buses would be running that early and I ddidn´t think turning up at a hostel that early without a reservation was a good idea either. But after waiting at the bus station a while I realised that actually Chile was an hour behind Argentina so it was only 5am so I had a long time to wait. Later I was chatting to a guy who told me it was actually only about 5 minutes to Valparaiso, so at about 7am I gave up waiting and went and got a taxi instead. This also didn´t go quite according to plan as it turned out the taxi driver had no idea where he was going once we got to Valparaiso, so after driving around for a while, stopping 3 times to ask other taxis for directions I eventually made it to the hostel, only to find that they had no spare beds. Luckily the guy there wa really nice and phoned round several other hostels to find somewhere for me to stay. Turns out Valparaiso is a very popular place for a weekend break, so took him a while to find me somewhere and there were no spaces left in dorms so I had to go for a more expensive single room, but by that point I didn´t care. It was only a few minutes walk down the road though and when I arrived the room was worth the extra cost. For only 3 pounds more I actually had a family room with 2 beds, a sofa and private bathroom in a very nice hostel. It was also really good as I was able to check in straight away and get a few hours sleep before breakfast. I ended up having a really nice day in Valparaiso. Its a world heritage listed site and is a great place to spend the day just wandering round the streets. It is built on a big hill rising up form the coast. It has been destroyed several times by earthquakes so there is a strange mix of architecture from a lot of different ages. There are loads of cobbled streets and alley ways between the different styles of houses all painted different colours and with a lot of street murals. So I spent most of the day just wandering round the streets. My hiking in the Andes over tha last few days proved to be good training for the very steep streets. I also went to Pablo Nerudas house and that was really interesting. After visiting the one in Santiago a few months ago it was interesting to compare the 2 and find out more about the man. So I had a busy day there seeing most of the sights and then left the next day on the bus to La Serena, a town on the coast further north. I just stayed in La Serena a couple of days before getting the bus further north to San Pedro de Atacama. Its a small town without a lot to do, except a couple of interesting museums and a beach. The highlight of my stay here was a trip to the observatory. The area is famous for astronomy and has all the biggest telescopes in the world because of the surrounding hills in clear skies with very little light pollution. The first part of the evening we spent outside looking at different types of stars through a telescope and identifying some constallations. Then we went inside to use a bigger telescope to see Mars and Saturn. The view of Saturn was amazing as you could see the rings and one of its moons. They also showed us some really intersting photos of other galaxies taken from the huge telescopes in the area.

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