Santiago is base for nine nights now, a long stretch we interspersed with a one night visit to Valparaíso for a check on contemporary culture with a stop in Casablanca on the way back to visit an organic winery. Emiliana has chickens and Alpacas roaming on site, thus one night away neatly combines the three things we wanted to do outside Santiago: wine visit, a variety of camelid and checking out the coast.
Street art as Valpo reinvents itself
A free tour in Santiago a few days earlier was an excellent orientation to the capital so it was with FREE TOUR we checked in with again for the geographically-challenging, steeply banked hills of Valpo. This was Chile’s main entrance and exit in the 19th century and a European outpost, a mainly Italian, Spanish and surprisingly British town. Come the 1920s, though, the Panama Canal circumvented its’ use as a port for Western Latin America and it slipped into sharp decline. The ascensors, lifts up steep hills, colourfully decorated houses and street art now are now its main attractions, a USP of contemporary culture and history.
Touring with a pushchair, however, was suicide and a sling would have done the job far better. In addition to the sharp climbs and falls, many by steps, there are also chaotic bits of pavement, three hours was tough. It’s also hard to escape the feeling there is, and was, a lot of economic hard time here so wealth is boho style. Indeed, it seems a lot of the town’s wealth is artistic, though maritime activity does have a role. Perhaps as a result of both these realities it was also tricky for food with supermarkets scarce and good restaurants hard to track down in 3D. If it’s purely sea you want to see, then the beaches of nearby Vina del Mar would make a good combination visit.
Maximising taxis, ubers and buses
Assuming a visit from Santiago, long distance buses are the way to do this and of all the public transport options in Latin America, comparatively it’s the most comfortable option. Even with a pushchair, getting the L1 Metro line to Pajaritos gives a step free journey to the bus door and a calm and navigable bus station.
Unfortunately, disgorging at Valparaíso is an altogether different experience. We were greeted with layers of dog chods on the pavement, two scrapping vagrants and a collective taxi system. These are confusing if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and provide a disincentive for drivers if you’re armed with a baby. There is a small regular taxi rank to the right of the buses as they park, though it might need a wait.
Keen to avoid this on the way out we took an Uber, readily available in the town. The first we got, however, booted us out with a crap excuse three minutes in. The second lost his GPS signal out of town, meaning we needed to navigate and direct in Spanish. It’s been a theme of Latin America that Ubers are numerous but tend to, illogically, cancel on longer routes. Cheaper than regular cabs but seemingly less guaranteed.
Once we did actually navigate our way to Casablanca, these stresses melted away at the bucolic setting of Emiliana Organic winery, between Valparaiso and Santiago. I always speculate what organic really means in food and drink and the answer here is pesticides and growth stimulants are eliminated and replaced with natural alternatives, animal or plant. A good approach here is take a tour to find out the organics then relax with either a tasting, a picnic or both on the lawns with a gaze to the Andes. See below of baby and chickens, seconds later mutual interest was replaced with tears and squawking after the cockerel cock-a-doodle-doo-ed in Bart’s face.
Given the bus experience over the taxi, we should have bussed back as well. It was actually very easy to do. I now know that buses on this route can be flagged down from the hut stops and despite being on a motorway with the Santiago route the other side to the winery, there is a pedestrian access bridge over on the left exit as you hit the security gate. I think the prices of buses are about 10% the cost of a cab.
It’s over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina for a mirror image of this, namely relaxing in the ground of wineries, taking note of the oddities and by analysing at great length the differences in taste. Emiliana and Casablanca in general were cheap by European standards, it will be interesting to see if Argentina’s economic woe has made wine cheaper, in the past it was expensive, though of superb quality.
Banner image credit wiki commons