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Showing posts from September, 2014


Chile III - Valparaiso

Valparaiso "The Jewel of the Pacific" Valparaiso, thirteen hours by bus from La Serena, has to be one of the most colourful, fascinating and lovable cities I have ever come across. Until the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it was also one of the busiest and richest in South America as every ship that sailed between the Atlantic and the Pacific was obliged to call in. Victim of history -this luxury hotel intended to be the grandest in South America was almost completed when the Panama Canal opened in 1914. It fell into decay as the city's fortunes faded  It was also very international with immigrants flooding in especially from from Italy, Ireland, England and Germany. They and their descendants are commemorated in many streets and monuments in this city and elsewhere. Bernado O'Higgins for example, and his friend Mackenna were of Irish descent and prominent in achieving independence from Spain in 1818. Arturo Prat who stands at the head of Sotomayer Pl

Chile II - La Serena and the Valley of Delight

The road from San Pedro to La Serena First let me say Chile is huge - not wide mind you, it's only 350 kilometres across its widest part and 4,300 km long according to wiki, sandwiched as it is between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, and you have to cover a lot of miles before there is much change in the scenery. I had hoped to break this journey, but the main industry here is mining, including the biggest copper mine in the world, so accommodation was at a premium and I ended up having to go straight through to La Serena, about 1156 kilometres away and twenty -one long hours by bus. Most of the way the landscape looked like the picture above, but as we came down a long pass towards the coast the vegetation began to change to scrub and cacti.  In summer La Serena is a very busy seaside town, but at this time of year it was rather quiet. Greening up -seen from the bus   I wasn't all that excited about the the hostel I had chosen. When I arrived the owner charged me

Chile I - San Pedro de Atacama

Dawn breaks over the El Tatio Geyser field San Pedro de Atacama has to be one of my favourite small towns, not the least because there's nothing for hundreds of miles, except for volcanoes that is - twenty - eight to be exact, although only one is active. The town itself is a charming mix of simple adobe structures and cobbled streets.  Once a way station for cattle drives to the coast, tourism is now the main reason for its existence and they flock here in droves, not always to the delight of the locals. The village of San Pedro Even the furniture in the hostel was made of pise For the most part though, Chileans are warm and friendly. I got more hugs in my month here than I'd had in the last seven years. Yes, it's expensive and they do take your money, but at least they do it with a smile. During the day it was warm enough for the men to take their shirts off and most of my fellow hostellers wore shorts, but as soon as the sun set it was very cold. The hos