V: Valpo

20160208_160211This is a difficult post for me. This blog is not meant to be a series of journal entries detailing everything I’ve done in my travels. The point is to find a story and write it down. So, here’s the problem: I had a fantastic time in Valparaíso but nothing very exciting happened to me there. Valparaíso (or Valpo as it is affectionately known) is a mid-sized port town whose golden age came about during the California Gold Rush when anyone hoping to make their fortune in America would pass through on their way up the coast. After the construction of the Panama Canal, traffic in Valpo dropped drastically. As often happens, artists and musicians moved in when rent was suddenly affordable. Valpo exploded with colour, art, music and poetry.

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The well-known Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, had a home there. Salvador Allende, the first democratically-elected socialist president of Chile, was born there. Hippies flocked to the city and filled the streets with music. 20160209_190633(1)Almost every wall in the hills is covered in some form of street art. Today, most people live in the hills (Valpo is encircled by 42 of them) and go down to the flat part for groceries, transport out of the city and bars. To get around you either have to be in decent shape (there are a lot of stairs in Valpo) or you can take the funiculars up and down for a nominal fee.

My time in Valpo was spent walking around with a few wonderful people (and one or two stray dogs) I met there. We saw various rounds of a dance competition, heard live music in the plaza, took in vistas of the city, visited Neruda’s house, frequented a few bars and even took one of the local buses out to Vina del Mar – a bustling beach about 40 minutes out of the city.

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It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with a crew of determined backpackers.

If you ever have the opportunity, I recommend visiting Valpo. It’s a beautiful town with heaps of personality and dozens of alleyways filled with art just waiting to be discovered.  20160209_181843[1]

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