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Sunday 16th May - Valparaiso
By Claire
Sunday, 16th May 2004 23:12

A bunch of really noisy northerners woke us up at 4am and still haven't shut up. We got up at 6 and walked to the bus station because the metro doesn't open until 8 on a Sunday. It was icy cold and very foggy but the streetlights are surprisingly bright and there are no dark alleyways anywhere. It took about 40 minutes because they'd hidden the bus station and then moved it to the wrong building, but we got there just in time. The only other passenger was a nun who smiled a lot.

Everyone recommends visiting Valparaiso, which is supposed to be a very pretty town on the coast, so we did. It only took 90 minutes to get there, and it was light, but cold and foggy when we arrived. I forgot the guidebook and the map, so we had no idea where wer were supposed to go. There were evil wolf-like dogs with white eyes roaming the streets. All sorts of dogs, actually, and everything smelled of dog wee. The town was virtually deserted at 9am, although one or two people seemed to be setting up market stalls. We found a tall bridge over the railway line which gave a view of the sea and some giant boats, and, in the distance, under the fog, was a beach.

The town is made up of hundreds of tiny streets all over the hills, with multi-coloured ramshackle houses crowding every nook and cranny. It would have been pretty if it wasn't for the fog. We climbed up a very steep, very long flight of stone steps, past about five levels of houses and got to the top of the hill. There were many more dogs up here, a couple of them with one green eye and one blue one, and a couple of huge cemeteries, one reserved for dissidents. There were a bunch of old men standing around looking menacing, otherwise I would have had a wander round; the tombs all looked old and ornate and interesting. A windy road took us down past more cemetaries, more dogs (and a few cats that hissed at us) and no people. There was dog poo and rubbish everywhere.

All the big shops were closed but shops selling buckets and chickens and dog food were open. A market had appeared all along the main street and people had laid out jumpers and buckets and trays of fruit out on the pavement. It was still very cold and foggy and threatening to rain, so we changed our bus tickets and got on the next bus back to Santiago. We were back by 1.

We bought rolls and cheese at a supermarket and had lunch. The three very loud northerners are giving anyone within earshot their own version of South American geography and unfortunately it looks like they're doing a similar trip to us. We will make sure they never discover our travel plans!

I think we'll order a pizza tonight. We're off to Punta Arenas tomorrow.

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