Day 55 | Saturday, December 17, 2016
This morning we are getting on a bus at 11:50am bound for Valparaiso. Fortunately, we know at this point there is no reason to be at the bus station more than 15 to 30 minutes before our departure time especially since we already have our tickets. This means we can sleep in a little, take our time getting ready, and packing our last few items.
We left the apartment with more than enough time to get to the bus terminal but for some reason some of the streets around the bus terminal are closed off and traffic is a nightmare. Our Uber driver has had to drive past the bus terminal and loop back around. We are now sitting in stand still traffic about a 10 minute drive from the bus terminal under normal traffic conditions. I am refusing to look at the time or to ask Steve for the time to prevent worrying. What I don’t know… Finally via the slowest moving traffic crawl possible we are within reach of the bus terminal. Our driver pulls over to the side of the road and we bail out grabbing our backpacks. The driver wanting to get out of the traffic snarl and get a new fair responded as urgently as we did and promptly began unloading our bags from the trunk and then was off. We briskly charged for the bus terminal. Thankfully we scoped things out the other day when we bought are tickets so we have some concept of where we are headed. Lets pause for a moment and contrast the difference between our bus experiences in Peru and Chile.
Interestingly enough when we purchased tickets for the bus in Peru they wanted all our information: name, birth date, nationality, passport number, email address and a phone number. When you go to get on the bus in Peru any checked luggage is done at counter (at least on Cruz del Sur) where they verify the weight of each bag and label it with a claim number and give you a receipt. Then they have you go through a security inspection of your carry on items, they wand you and video record the whole process. Then they send you out to get on the bus, someone standing at the bus checks your ticket and tears off the portion the bus company keeps and reiterates what seat to take. You get on the bus and just before they are ready to leave the security officer that inspected your carry on gets on the bus and video tapes everyone sitting in their seat. In Chile it has been rather the opposite. When we bought our tickets they couldn’t have cared any less who we were and didn’t ask for any identification. I am not even sure the lady asked for identification to confirm Steve was the authorized user of the credit card. Arriving at the bus terminal this morning you don’t check your luggage at a counter you simply walk out to the bus and they label it with a claim number, hand you the receipt and load it directly on the bus. As we approached the bus door a gentleman asked for our tickets to which Steve produced them. The gentleman violently shook his head and told us that this was not our bus. We then went back to the bus luggage compartment attempted to explain this was not our bus and retrieved our luggage. We stood aside as the bus departed and attempted to determine which bus was ours. Fortunately the bus in the stall next to the one we had just attempted to board also was headed for Valparaiso and we guessed that was ours. Once the porter finished loading the bus we had just attempted to board he moved over and began loading luggage onto the bus we would be taking. We handed over our luggage once more and boarded the bus. This time no one checked our tickets as we boarded. Without any security checks and without video confirmation of the passengers we took off. Once on the road our tickets were checked.
After a two hour bus ride we arrived in a town. There was no announcement and no signage confirming where we were. Steve finally asked the bus driver and he confirmed we were in Valparaiso. We collected our backpacks and exited the bus. We then went to claim our luggage. Somehow we lost one of our claim receipts, amongst the sniping and me starting to tear apart my backpack the porters took pity on us and gave us our bag. Since it was the only bag left and no one else was standing around waiting to claim it–it was a simple process of elimination.
Steve ordered an Uber. We were in luck as he was waiting just outside the bus terminal hoping to pick up a fair. A quick 10 minute drive and we were at our hotel.
We had a little time to eat some of the snacks we had with us and do a little research on restaurants in the area before our free walking tour started at 4:00pm.
Fortunately, I confirmed our attendance of the tour ahead of time as we were the only two that showed up and I think had we not confirmed possibly no one would have met us at the meeting point.
A private tour is always nice because you can move at your pace and focus on the things you are interested in. We started out in the flat lands adjacent to the port area know as “El Plan”. Where we saw Plaza Sotomayor where the Naval Headquarters, monument to the Heroes of Iquique, and the oldest building in the city are located. Next, we walked along Prat Avenue lined with distinguished buildings from various periods and styles of architecture. As we turned on to Prat Avenue we passed the justice building. In true Valparaiso humor notice the statue of lady justice. Typically she would be blind folded and holding the scales out balanced. This rendition holds the scales tangled at her side with a cross held upside down staring at you with eyes wide open. (For the full story of how this statue came to be check out this blog.) On Prat we saw “El Mercurio” building, the oldest newspaper in Chile still in operation. From here we wound our way through the streets to a staircase that lead us to a funicular (a small railway car in which a cable attached to a pair of cars on rails moves them up and down a steep slope, the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalancing each other) that we road to the hills know as “Los Cerros”. On the hills we explored a jumbled mass of fine mansions, tattered houses, and shacks along the narrow streets. Amongst the building we caught superb views over the city and bay. Along the way we saw many examples of Valparaiso graffiti which have gained the city the title of Chile’s street art capital.
We finished the night retracing the route of the tour, buying a cool photo for our collection and catching dinner at a Peruvian restaurant of all things. So far this has been a nice departure from Santiago and I have hope for Chile yet.