Notes of a traveller

Alan Dodds – photographer (among other things)

Notes of a traveller

Northern Chile – Valparaiso and other places

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Coquimbo and La Serena

Chile stretches more than 4000 km down the pacific coast to the very tip of South America. Our first stop is in the (relatively) small port of Coquimbo with it’s sister city of La Serena. The huge concrete cross, complete with lift, dominates the skyline as we approach. Gone are the dire mugging warnings of Peru, so we look forward to a day strolling around town. We have some sunshine for the first time in a while. We are told to expect a temperature of around 16C.

We decide to go first to the sister town of La Serena and jump on to a local bus for the 12km journey. It costs us one dollar each and it is great to be using local transport for a change.

concrete cross above the port of coquimbo chile

The concrete cross towers over the jumble of dwellings spilling down the hillside.
harbour of the port of coquimbo chile

Fishing boats and high rises greet us when we dock.
Streetscape in the port of coquimbo chile

Where the road ends, the steps begin.

Chile is known for its street art and this is our first example of many we see as the day goes on.

Street art in the port of coquimbo chile

This painting is really full on, and I find myself conflicted by it. Not sure what to feel!
flowers for sale in La Serena Chile

Back on safer ground … I always feel it is a good sign when there are flower shops.
Instant coffee in La Serena Chile

This was a surprise. The mug is first filled with hot milk and then you add as much coffee as your want.
Market shopp in La Recover,  La Serena Chile

The La Recover market in La Serena has some interesting stalls.
Piano in La Recover market  in La Serena, Chile

I wonder if anyone plays this piano
street art in La Serena, Chile

More street art and a cactus to boot!

We have arrived in La Serena on a Sunday and most of the shops are closed. It has left the colonial streets of La Serena quiet and peaceful. We spend some time strolling around its avenues and squares in the sunshine.

street in La Serena, Chile

The finely cobbled streets are quiet on a sunday.
Doorway in La Serena, Chile

I’d guess someone thinks this building is be important!

Having caught the bus back to Coquimbo, we decide we have had enough walking for the day, and so make straight for the comfort of the ship. It gives us a chance to look around the port and we are heartened to notice that there are a number of wind generator parts waiting to be shipped somewhere and assembled.

Pirate ship in Coquimbo, Chile

This coast was famous for it’s pirates. I bet, back in the day, they would have given their eye teeth for an engine!
Wind generator parts in Coquimbo, Chile

It warms the cockles of my heart to see these wind generator blades.
stretched truck in Coquimbo, Chile

Well, I never knew that a truck could stretch like this! I wonder what happens when it wants to go round a corner.

San Antonio and Valparaiso

We have been looking forward to visiting Valparaiso and so find ourselves disappointed to discover that we will not dock there after all. Apparently, the port of Valparaiso has decided that it doesn’t want any more cruise ships to call, preferring the more profitable cargo ships.

This means that we will dock instead at San Antonio, further south down the coast. Valparaiso is now an expensive shuttle bus and an hour and a half away. Determined to get there anyway, we walk out of the dock to the local bus terminal and buy tickets on the regular service to Valparaiso for $8 each return … that’s a bit more like it! We enjoy the ride through the coastal hills in some comfort.

We could, of course, catch a different bus to Santiago, but that seems like too big a city for us just now. Valparaiso is another UNESCO world heritage city and is well know for it’s street art among other things.

Bus terminal in San Antonio Chile

Off we go to the local, long distance bus terminal.
street art in San Antonio Chile

The bus terminal is painted appropriately … no green tin walls here.
Valparaiso Chile

From the colonial buildings in the city of Valparaiso, houses climb the surrounding hills, some still serviced by victorian-era, funicular railways.
Street art valparaiso chile

Now that’s what I call street art!
Sign in valparaiso chile

It’s the same everywhere … more for less.
Folk dancers in valparaiso chile

In a city square we come across these folk dancers.
Sleeping man in valparaiso chile

This man doesn’t seem too impressed with the dancers.
statue in valparaiso chile

Behind this statue in an enormous Morton Bay fig tree … a reminder of home.
local bus in valparaiso chile

These city buses are plentiful and cheap and fares are advertised in the front window.
Statue in valparaiso chile

Not sure what to make of this beautiful flower arrangement in a city park.
Street art in valparaiso chile

Cool dude …
Fruit stalls in valparaiso chile

Stalls selling all manner of things are set up on the pavements.
Street art in San Antonio chile

Walking back from the bus station to the port in San Antonio
Armoured vehicles in San Antonia Chile

Mmmmmm …

Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas

We are now a long way south down the west coast of South America. Puerto Montt is at the southern end of the Chilean Lake district, the string of lakes which, further south still, become the Chilean Fiords as the South American continent peters out in a maze of mountain girt fiords on it’s way to the mythical Cape Horn. Already, Puerto Montt is in a sheltered waterway, away from the pacific swells which rocked us to sleep last night.

Harbour in Puerto Montt Chile

This is tender port and the ship anchors out in the bay
Tyres in Puerto Montt Chile

Looks like it might be a bit damp down this way.
playground in Puerto Montt Chile

A deserted children’s playground near the bus station.
Mamahostel in Puerto Montt Chile

Puerto Montt is definitely on the South American backpacker trail.

We are getting the hang of the local buses, and so catch one up to Puerto Varas which sits on the shore of the most southerly of the lakes. (Yet another dollar spent for the 15k journey). This area was settled by immigrants from Germany under a government resettlement scheme. The architecture reflects this german heritage.

We have come here hoping to see the famous snow capped cone of a nearby volcano, but alas the clouds hide the mountains and so a postcard will have to do.

building  in Puerto Varas Chile

Perhaps we are somewhere in the german mountains …
Hotel in Puerto Varas Chile

Lots of hotels here
Coffee shop in Puerto Varas Chile

Ah … a coffee shop! Time for coffee, cake and free WiFi.
Hotel in Puerto Varas Chile

Not sure about the colour scheme.

Back in the less manicured Puerto Montt we go to the row of shops set up for the tourists, just down the road from the tender dock. The street alongside the port is somewhat run down.

Street art in Puerto Montt Chile

The buildings are somewhat run down
shop in Puerto Montt Chile

Nicely crafted model yachts under a failing roof
Shop in Puerto Montt Chile

An everything shop. We contemplate buying a plant to take home but feel it might not survive the journey.
shop in Puerto Montt Chile

One for the locals.
Spurs in Puerto Montt Chile

Do they really use these?
Shop in Puerto Montt Chile

Wooly penguins.
Cross in Puerto Montt Chile

A cross overlooks the harbour.
Puerto Montt Chile

We leave Puerto Montt in the late afternoon light with the big mountains still shrouded in cloud.

And so we leave Puerto Montt and sail still further south and into the Chilean Fiords, that string of channels that eventually leads to Cape Horn, an area of mythical status in the annals of seafarers through history.

For us, this is one of the highlights of this journey. More next time!

Enjoy 🙂

8 responses to “Northern Chile – Valparaiso and other places”

  1. Lynn Ayiotis says:

    Wonderful insight into your travels. x

  2. Christina McGuinness says:

    Greetings…a bit late in reading as IVe just returned from a 10 day trip up to the magnificent Pilbara, by myself and loving it! eMail to follow!
    Meanwhile so enjoyed this last missive with pix…incredible Chilean coast 4000ks! As always, good yarning…great pix! And now going on to next part of the adventure…via boat! Cheers Christina!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Hello Alan and Jacqui
    How great we get to go on a pictorial odyssey with you! The images tell quite a story in themselves and then the lovely humour in your captions, Alan always brings a smile!

    So pleased you are getting to realise some long held dreams e.g. visiting Valparaiso and no doubt experiencintg some surprises. Thanks a again for sharing it with us.

  4. Heather Broad says:

    My goodness Alan- this is a Judith Chalmers eat your heart out travel blog!!
    Brian said he hopes you are no longer conflicted but rather harmonious and mellifluous
    Keep safe our weary travelers

  5. Tony / Beryl D says:

    And so continues this wonderful journey of yours, envious, envious and still more envious!!1 seriously though, super photos ( please tell me Alan what ‘ A ‘, ‘ S ‘ and ‘ ISO ‘ you’re using as I’m trying to master same!!!! ) and Valparaiso, that’s a golf course we played in Spain isn’t it!!! Please keep enjoying this wonderful trip and, more importantly, keep us ALL part of it.
    Tony and Beryl xxx

  6. Ian Gawler says:

    Thanks Alan; great photos and a window into this part of the world 🙂

  7. Brian East says:

    Again great photos Alan. We stayed in Puerto Varas before we recrossed the Andes by 4 coaches and 3 boats. We enjoyed a German beer festival and sang “Happy Wanderer” in Spanish! Memories.

  8. Mary Searle says:

    Great blog again Alan.The first part that you showed in Chile is very similar to what I have seen in Brazil; loads of graffiti/street art and colour interspersed with ugly concrete sky scaper blocks.
    Tom was working on reception in a ski hotel high up above Santiago when he was in his 3rd year of uni working in different parts of South America and you are right about the city; itvisxmuch like anybother big city.
    all love and good travels! Xx

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