Valpraiso and the French Geophysicists
Growing tired of waiting, I began to scout the route by other means. So if you do not have a truck what do you do? You hitchhike to the coast with four French doctors of Geophysics of course. I met a young scientist here in my youth hostel and taking sympathy on my situation she invited me to join her friends on a trip to Valpraiso. They were here in Santiago on an international conference to foster relations between the scientific communities of Europe and South America. A perfect solution, if not for the copious mojitos we consumed the night before our departure. The sinuous road through the mountain pass and heavy footed driver left one of our passengers greener than the hillside.
Valpo as its known by the locals is an interesting town. Prior to the development of the Panama Canal, Valpraiso was one of the most integral stops for all boats rounding Cape Horn en route to the west coast of the Americas. The waterfront is bleak and extremely industrial. But the upper barrios have an extremely laid back and bohemian feel. As the port is no longer as active as it once was I’m not sure what people who live here actually do. The brilliant pastels of each intricate building, makes the town a visual wonder. The development has encroached upon the steep slopes that are accessed by a series of funicular cable cars that ascend the cliffs to provide panoramic view of the bay. The streets are lined with friendly stray dogs longing for a belly scratch, a spider web of overhead power lines and graffiti that ranges from artistic genius to simple political sentiments. It’s a great place to sit in a café and a photographer’s paradise, but not a destination for an extended stay.