Today Ailsa, Emma and I decided to go to Valparaíso, a city located an hour and a half north-west from Santiago, known for its seaport and for being and educational centre in Chile.
In the bus I was reading the headrest and on the bottom right the paragraph explains that if you hear an alarm or see a red light above the drivers cabin, it means he’s speeding, and it’s your right as a Chilean to ask him to slow down. Nice incentive to active citizenship.
Valparaíso is pretty vast and is overlooked by favelas lined hills. The center in itself isn’t too big and a 30-minute walk took us from the bus station on one side, to the colourful vibrant neighbourhoods like Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Bellavista the city is famous for. In order to climb up to the top of these neighbourhoods set in the hills you can walk, but if you’re feeling a bit lazy or are short on time you can hop on one of the many funiculars which reach up to the top. These funiculars are showing their age, however they have stood the test of times and are still carrying locals and tourists alike up and down the hills.
Checkout this badass bus with chrome alloy wheels…
Another set of Valparaíso shots:
One thing that you cannot help noticing is that people sell literally ANYTHING, straight from street stalls and tend to specialise in everyday products from Air Fresheners to Sellotape to shoelaces. There is a whole culture around street merchants and they aren’t their for the tourists in particular, the locals actually support this economy. I assumed this, because the welfare system is set-up in a certain way for it to come across as neither an entitlement nor an open-ended expenditure, and is carefully crafted so that it does not result in dependency. Welfare goes to those who help themselves, and it cannot become a lifelong crutch.
This means that chileans have to find ways of earning a few pesos- any way they can.
In short, Chileans are expected to work and look after themselves and their families.
There are also so many stray dogs living among the people, going about their business, untouched, as if they had a sacred status likewise to cows in India. So watch your feet and don’t tread on one of the many dogs who won’t hesitate to lie down all paws out in the middle of the street to bask in the blistering sun, for their routine siesta. The dogs are so streetwise and can regularly be seen waiting for the green light at zebra crossings, hopping on buses and getting off at their usual stop (although they don’t pay a fare, looks like animals ride for free here), and participating in manifestations.
But there is a true dark side to this story, there are an estimated 1 million stray dogs in Chile, about half of which reside among the 5 million humans in its capital city. The majority have either been abandoned by their owners for a variety of inexcusable reasons, or are the depressing product of a society that is unwilling to spay and neuter its pets.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back soooon for more Chilean adventures!
In the mean time, check out this amazing track by the chilean deep-tropical three-piece band, Matanza that my chilean friend Niko showed me.