Saturday, 18 October 2008

Valparaiso, Vina Del Mar, Ritoque and Santiago

Another relatively short bus ride (of 10 hours....) and we'd arrived in the very colourful coastal city of Valparaiso. We had 2 days exploring here and the neighbouring city of Vina Del Mar. Valpo has a cool open air art gallery where artists have been invited to use the sides of houses and walls in a suburb to paint. Vina has quite a nice big beach and a huge colony of pelicans that swoop around the coast.We discovered our next stop by accident when we were looking for hostels in Valpo. It caught our eye as it was a really small hostel in a secluded location right on the beach about an hour north up the coast, in a small place called Ritoque. We didn't want to head straight to Santiago as we were waiting on a bank card that was being mailed out to the main post office there, so we decided to book into this secluded little place for a couple of nights. We got to Ritoque to find a cool A-frame hostel a stones throw from a beach that stretched 12km. The owner, who describes himself as a citizen of the world (later admitting that this was because he didn't like saying he was American!) is a lovely guy (Ian) and is really hospitable. He showed us to our room which was on a mezzanine floor in the A-frame building meaning that in the morning you could sit up in bed and have a gorgeous view of big waves rolling in off the Pacific. We decided to try a bit of surfing, saw a gorgeous sunset and, along with some other guests from the hostel, Ian arranged for the beach shack restaurant to open up just for us (as its still out of season) where we were treated to Chilean sea bass that the owner had caught that morning! Needless to say it tasted incredible.
We dragged ourselves away from Ritoque, partly because it was gorgeous and partly because we had heard that Santiago was pretty average in terms of cities. The sun was shining when we arrived and we actually loved Santiago (although this may have been also due to fact that we drank ALOT of the Chilean cocktail called Pisco Sours, and the fact that our hostel had a swimming pool!). We also went to the big park at the side of the city that is on a small mountain and spent a few hours lazing in the shade of the palm trees watching life go by down below. Some of the hostel staff also took us out to a salsa club which for some reason we decided to go to in flip-flops. We arrived to the sound of a really excellent live band and a room full of Chileans moshing and, fuelled by the afore mentioned pisco sours, we launched into the melee. Neither of us really remember how we got home but we were happy to find both pairs of flip-flops next to our bunkbed the following day!

Next stop is over the Andes to Mendoza, the home of Argentinian wine (yes, more drinking).

Keep in touch.

Mr and Mrs Mason x x x

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