Author Archives: Gio&Bert

Valparaiso, muralism and grafitti to the next level


When we get out of the bus in Valparaiso, after a three hour drive from Santiago de Chile, we feel a bit lost and cannot figure out well where we find ourselves in this new city.  Overfriendly people spot us coming out of the bus and offer us the best price for the best hostel on the best location and they would even bring us to their hostels.  It sounds good but works badly for us as we feel trapped in this maze of competing ‘hotel-stuffers’ hungry for their part of the tourist-cake.  So we take a local bus and leave the rather dirty and dark district behind us and go for the centre of the city.  As minutes pass by, the image at the other side of the bus window starts to change slightly to cleaner streets, to better maintained facades, to less poor and to more joyful.  It doesn’t take too long to find Hostal Licanantay, a good place to spend the night, so we leave our backpacks and go for our first impression of the city.  We find the typical street market scene, people buying and selling local food and drinks, a harbour and coastline with its classic promenade with views on the Pacific horizon.

Surrounded by suburbs that are located on the steep hillslopes, the enclosed centre is actually nice and tight.  It’s a representative example of a with abrupt mountains encircled village that became a big city despite the geographical inconvenience or in this case I would almost say geographical impossibility, an example of an ever growing population of by now 876.000 individuals that have no soil to expand on and by that building up its population density.  Steep, almost vertical streets snake up and down looking for a mode to connect the different neighbourhoods of this city.  An infinite amount of little, almost hidden, stairways curl between the buildings to offer access to every corner of each hill.  Seven authentic, historical recognized, elevators offer an alternative on doing a daily workout of a couple of thousands steps.

DSC05331 DSC05381  It looks chaotic like an anthill with all these small passageways going somewhere and some of them going nowhere further then the entrance of a building.  It’s the ultimate urban jungle!!!  It could be easily the scenery of a ghetto ruled by violent gangs feeding daily their bad reputation as, local people say, delinquency and poverty are worse than elsewhere in Chile, the sextrade is still widespread and at night some parts of town are unsafe.  But despite of that Valparaiso found a way to brighten up the grey slum. Valparaiso has put its wish for banning that sad depressing dark image in the witch pot together with the need of political, economic and sociological freedom of expression of many inhabitants, it has stirred it a couple of times and magically has been able to brew a cultural gaudy adventure in a concrete labyrinth.  We feel like this secret potion has changed oppression into freedom, shadow into sunshine and indifference into pride while we walk the first few alleys.  Muralism, wall paintings, decoration of street furniture, graffiti and urban poetry have just been lifted to a complete new level for us.  Making street art legal gives the artist the time and liberates the devotion to make the best of it.  And that’s exactly what we are looking at here… the mother of all urban expressing.

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With every turn we take, another moment of silent marvel overcomes us, every step down different colours in new shapes are overpowering us and with every step up another miniature landscape is overwhelming us.  Some of them, on a quality level so good they should be in a museum and others with such a truly profound message they should have sound.  Valparaiso got eventually so famed for its colourful alleys that it didn’t take long for famous artists to join the movement which today is known as the “Museo a cielo abierto”, a marked tour through the hidden stairways guiding the fascinated public towards the many famous paintings. 2014-03-16 12.22.48

Nevertheless the big coloured walls, it is the countless small details that keep the whole act together.  Streetlamps that are taken out their traditional forms, small artistic altered bench on a square corner, fascinating handrails that guides you down, a small statue on the corner of a roof, an artistic composition hanging out of a window,… and after a while even the, amongst buildings hanging, colourful laundry drying in the sun starts to be part of the image.

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It is easy and uncomfortable at first, taking all this different sideways in all four dimensions, to get lost in an urban web like this but it turns into eternal gratitude to look for your way out passing by all this occurrences of the human soul.

Our recommendations:

  • Hostal Licanantay has everything you might need, has a reasonable price (6500 CLP per person/night), is close to the centre and offers a great ambient.
  • Ask for the ‘Museo A Cielo Abierto’ and try to get hold on a street map that indicates and gives explanations about several artworks all part of the old part of Valparaiso named World Heritage by UNESCO in 2003
  • Some of the cemeteries are worth a visit, they are packed with diverse beautiful statues and enormous mausoleums.
  • Get well informed about public transport, as after having asked on the street for directions we were walking in circles for quite a while, looking for the correct bus terminal.
  • If going to Argentina, change money into dollars (you might loose on exchange fees but will gain more on the black market in Argentina)
  • Being in Valparaiso means to be just a stone’s throw from one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda, talented writer and politician, winner of Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 and one of the most beloved poets in Chile. Here you will find La Sebastiana, located in Cerro Bellavista, a pretty bizarre house totally designed by the artist, with breathtaking views on Valparaiso’s hills and its coloured streets, a library, a cultural and tourist information center where you can find useful tips about the region and the poet, a bar with a nice terrace looking on the beautiful indoor garden and, of course, a store. An astonishing place, it is definitely worth a visit. Do not leave Chile without visiting the other 2 houses, in Santiago (Casa Museo La Chascona) and in Isla Negra, El Quisco (Casa Museo Isla Negra or Black Island).

Opening Hours

  • March to December: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm hours.
  • January and February: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 8pm hours.
  • Monday closed.

Ticket prices

  • General ticket: $5.000 each person.
  • Students: $1.500 each person (with student credential)



Categories: Chile | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Santiago de Chile



After a long day of getting in and out the car, of seeing wild live in natures finest decors/settings we finally get lucky and get a below average slow ride from the border directly to Chiles capital. A giant glowing carpet as far as we can see, flowing in any direction as a river out of course and flooding the land, looking for lower ground, pops up in front of us the moment we leave the last mountain behind us.  Santiago de Chile is different than most of the Latin capitals I’ve seen in my live.  It’s day and night with La Paz, Caracas, Managua or Bogota, might be a bit like Panama City if you wish so, but most of it… Santiago reminds me of Madrid.

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A modern metropolis where people live and participate rather than just survive the day, a city with an extend cultural offer that goes from music over drawing, painting and muralism till movie and theatre, a capital that breaths economic and political power… all this wrapped in this Latin way of doing things.  We take a first night in the Hostal Casa Grande and together with many others we are just amazed for the prices.  “It’s as expensive as London”, the ever smiling chap of the reception updated us quickly with sudden proud.  One night we’ll stay here and then a bit of couchsurfing to lower our daily expenses.

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Plaza de Armas is our first stop after a short but deep sleep, we take it as a reference for orientation (although I’ am not totally sure if it is the city centre square) and from there on we start a day walking through Chile’s capital downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding alleys, speckled by art deco, neo-gothic and other styles.  And did we enjoy that!?!  Just as a cork on a champagne bottle people are anxious to pop out to tell and show the world proudly that they are not the same poor underdeveloped Chile they once were.  We saunter with a safe feeling the very well maintained and clean streets.  We come upon the Mercado Central, the place to find any kind of fresh fish or seafood as well as restaurants offering the finest fish dishes.

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With wonder we cross the ‘puente peatonal: Los Carros’ over the Mapocho River which is transformed into a street market, to enter the big daily fruit and vegetable market.  Every now and then on a lost random corner a fine selection of street artists fill the air with live music, dance and/or visual art.  Bit by bit we start to go get higher as the streets slightly go upward direction ‘Cerro San Cristobal’ one of the main green oases of the city which we enjoy some minutes later, elevated 300meters above the city and 880 meters above the sea level, an almost 360º view on Santiago’s modern skyline.

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We, together with some friends we met during our trip and our ‘couchsurf’-host, enjoy this interactive area of El Cerros’ play gardens, the maze of tracks to small lakes with ducks, botanic gardens along with the open areas inviting you to experience with oversized instruments.  Santiago is definitely a city where Europeans can feel home for a while after a long journey crossing different neighbouring countries.  Chile by night is just amazing, is what we realize the very moment we get out the metro.  Lots of people coming and going looking for the wild nightlife, advertising brightening the streets with all different flashing colours and many challenging fragrances steaming out of every eating place is what we find ourselves in at midnight in the big city…

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…so we drank, laughed and fall in love with it.

Our Recommendations:

  • Hostal Casa Grande seems a bit expensive (10000 pesos per person/night) but it was past midnight and we really did need a place to stay
  • Hostal Plaza de Armas on the very Plaza de Armas was 6300 pesos Chilenos per person/night and had a great service and good ambient… and stunning views on the square.                                                                    2014-03-08 14.52.03
  • Cerro de San Cristobal can be easily a full day of fun, is interesting for young and old and gives you a nice view on the city and the Andes.
  • Some days, some of the museum, theatre and musical activities have free entrée, so inform well at different places to make sure you have the full and right information
  • Public transport: Metro costs around 600-700 pesos Chilenos and in combination with buses you will get everywhere.
  • For the mountain bike lovers: The slopes of the Andes just some miles away from Santiago have many trails and tracks to discover. It can offer you some serious downhill experience!
  • Take a day to wander along the streets and admire the street art and the graffiti, they are the heart and voice of the people. So more than once you might get touched by their messages…

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Categories: Chile | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Uspallata, at the foot of Mount Aconcagua

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In a cold desert climate where summers have pleasant days and cool nights, and winters are chilly to biting cold, we find Uspallata, a humble little crossroads town on the way to the Chilean border.  A perfect base to do some exploring in the area and at the same time a town with back country character is our first and correct impression as we step off the bus after a two and a half hours ride from Mendoza.


A very friendly lady at the information point shows us the cheapest overnighting possibilities and camping grounds.  We end up at Cabañas Ranquil Luncay and made the right choise.  A fine mix of bungalows, camping sites, football field, grills for client use and the beautiful surroundings make our heartbeat going faster.  We set up our tent and go for a walk in the town that has maximum ten streets of which all of them have view on the mighty Andes.  The people are openhearted and warmly welcoming us in every shop.  They make time to explain, to ask and have time to be interested in the person they have in front of them.  A being-home feeling starts to get under our skin and just some streets later, when a nice man invites us tasting different Argentinean wines outside his small grocery shop around an old wine barrel, our body get stuffed with both good Uspallata vibrations and the finest wines of the area.

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We buy a wine, half a chicken and vegetables to honour the grill just outside the tent.  As we come back at the campground a young Argentinean couple has put their tent next to ours and will make fire up the grill next to us.  We get in contact, have a nice chat and together we get to the conclusion that we will travel the same direction towards the border.  They invite us in their car and together early in the morning, with our clothes still smelling at the wood-fire-grill, we leave this small town behind us to adventure us in some of the most dramatic scenery in the region: the backdrop of the highest peak out in the Andes.  First stop is Puente Del Inca, where the sedimentation of thermal springs forming a big bridge over the Vacas River is something interesting to see but where the sedimentation on everyday items as shoes, cans, backpacks and bottles are the real mouth opener here.

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The story is that if you would leave any object a month in these waters they would get petrified by the minerals in the water.  Thousands of different objects covered by a yellow ocher stone layer are for sale and each one of them more incredulous.  After that we make a stop at Cerro Aconcagua where we make a beautiful walk along minor lakes reflecting the white sharp shaped notoriety of the Andes to a viewpoint on mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain on the American continent.  It is where we finally get rewarded, after many hikes in the barren high Andes, by the flight of two condors as they glide through the sky stretching their wings till a width of 3,2m.  Another dream that came true and the line “eyewitness the free flight of a wild condor” get crossed on my ‘100 things to see in nature before I die’-list.

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Another few kilometers later we leave the main road and start to ascent a steep dust road trail up into the mountains.  The old car that brought us so far is climbing on its last effort to get till the Cristo Redentor de los Andes statue at 4000MASL on the very border of Argentina and Chile.  After hugging goodbye, the two youngsters with car leave us in front of the Cristo redentor tunnel which is the border with Chile.

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It takes us a while but finally we succeed to hitch-hike a car that will drive us totally till Santiago de Chile, the capital of the sixteenth country of our journey.

Our recommendations:

  • At Cabañas Ranquil Luncay we find a camping ground just 300m out of the center. Each tent has its BBQ and stunning view on the Andes as we unzip the tent door.  We paid 100 for the night
  • Cerro Tunduqueral with remarkable petroglyphs at just 7,8km
  • Bosque de Darwin at Paramillos de Uspallata at 24km with its more than 50 petrified araucarias from the Tertiary age.
  • At some streets from the towncenter you find the Bódevas de barro from the late XVIII
  • Nearby (63km) we find Los Penitentes where sporters in summer will find lots of posibilities for hiking on high altitiude and in winter a cheap ski and snowboard destination.
  • Cerro Aconcagua, a playground for the skilled andinists and alpinists but a true 7000MASL defiance for new and not experienced adventurer
  • Thermal waters and stalactites are brought to another dimensión at Puente del Inca on a 50min drive from Uspallata
  • Find yourself gasping for breath at one of the highest borders of the world while admiring the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer of the Andes at 4000MASL.
Categories: Argentina | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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