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One Bright Spot in a Country Full of Inconveniences

Valparaiso, ChileChile is the first country I’ve been to that I’m beginning to genuinely dislike. It’s not for any one thing in particular but for many small things that have accumulated over time. Each time I enter this country it feels as if I’m confronted with inconvenience after inconvenience or feel as if I’m being [...]

Valparaiso, Chile

Chile is the first country I’ve been to that I’m beginning to genuinely dislike. It’s not for any one thing in particular but for many small things that have accumulated over time. Each time I enter this country it feels as if I’m confronted with inconvenience after inconvenience or feel as if I’m being nickeled and dimed every time I turn around. Some inconveniences that spring to mind are

  • On my first experience in Chile I crossed into a small one-bank kind of town only to find out that the one bank in town does not accept foreign ATM cards leaving me in Chile without Chilean pesos. What kind of border town doesn’t allow you to take out any local currency?
  • On my next bank experience my ATM card was eaten by the ATM. Granted, this wasn’t any fault of Chile but it was still one more annoyance in country.
  • Upon entering Chile for the second time a twenty minute border process took three hours.
  • After waiting for three hours at the border I arrived in Santiago too late to catch a bus to Valparaiso and all hostels were filled because of Lollapalooza. This left me spending a night in the Santiago bus station until the first bus to Valparaiso the next morning.
  • I’ve found buying certain Chilean products outside of Chile is cheaper than actually buying them in country. Example, wine.
  • In the southern part of the country relentless bad weather combined with few buses or roads left me cold, wet and standing around…a lot.

After saying all of this I do have to say that it’s not all bad. Valparaiso just may begin to change my outlook on the country. I am thoroughly enjoying this city and it’s blast from the past vibe. The trolley bus system harks back to the 50’s and 60’s and it’s downtown architecture seems to be a mix from the first half of the twentieth century. Apart from the downtown area the city was built on a series of hills, or cerros, so exploring any neighborhood has me trekking up hills or taking one of the many cable-car systems set-up. I can’t help but think that if US cities were built in such a way obesity wouldn’t be quite so endemic.

From Valparaiso 2011-04
A hard day at work and then an even harder walk home. This
shot was taken from the half-way point of one of Valparaiso’s
hill communities.

Besides the cable cars to get you to the top of the cerros the city has a system of colectivos to transport people from the base of the city up to their homes on top. It’s comical walking around the base of a specific cerro and finding gridlocked streets filled only with colectivos and a loooong line of people waiting to hop in.

Atop each hill community are colorful corrugated steel houses painted in reds, purples and greens. Next to these are similar corrugated metal houses that have yet to receive the memo that their house needs to be painted in a similar blindingly bright fashion. I find myself walking around this city seeing it as a mix of various other places I’ve visited – The plaza’s remind me of Mexico, the historic downtown is similar to Casco Viejo in Panama City and the colorful houses are like those in the La Boca barrio of Buenos Aires. Further increasing the feast for your eyes are the walls and sides of houses that are filled with murals and wall art.

From Valparaiso 2011-04

Recently all cities have begun to look the same and Valparaiso has been a breath of fresh air with it’s unique architecture, art and city vibe. I have loved walking around exploring this city and it’s the first city I could actually picture myself living in throughout all of Latin America. There is an abundance of sunshine and heat as well as beaches and mountains in close proximity to one another. The only problem is that Chilean Spanish is harder to understand than Boomhauer.

Journey Back into Chile and Valpariso

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Filed under: Chile, Cubicle Ditcher

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.