Saturday June 29: Valpariso
A Colorful Hillside
I slept about the same as yesterday. I had no trouble falling asleep. I got up at 3 and used the bathroom. I had no trouble falling asleep afterwards. I woke up around 6 or 6:15. Around 6:20 I got up and took a shower so that I wouldn't have to do it after breakfast.
When I got out of the shower, we all got up and went down for breakfast. Sam wasn't into eating, and rather shortly went back up to the room. Amy and I finished our breakfast and then went up ourselves.
It was forecasting rain, and it was wet outside, so I decided to wear my hiking boots and my green soft-shell. I prepared my day-pack with an umbrella and my down jacket in case it got cold.
Amy was paranoid about the time and went down while I was still packing up. But I got finished with the packing and still had about 7 minutes to lie down before Sam and I headed down to the lobby. We were far from the last people to arrive.
There was a large puddle in a low part of the hotel front courtyard. Some guy's job was to sweep the water out and/or to bail it into a bucket.
Surprisingly, as we boarded the bus, we saw glimpse of blue sky! As we drove through Santiago, the sun came out, and it looked really wonderful. Particularly nice was the sun-lit buildings with dark clouds behind. Unfortunately, from the moving bus, I could not get any pictures. We were joking that the reason the sun was coming out was because we were leaving. I would have really liked to go up the cable car under those conditions.
We drove west along a river and then through a tunnel into the next valley. Here, the sun was not shining, and it started to rain in earnest. We stopped at something vaguely like a truck stop to use the bathroom and maybe do some shopping. I had to laugh at a roughly $50 (presumably fake) fur coat that was labeled "Made in USA".
There was something like very coarse sawdust or perhaps shredded paper or something like that all over the floor in the entrance. I think it was to soak up water from people's shoes. They also had some of those free-standing propane heaters in the lobby. We saw them elsewhere, for example in the Italian restaurant. Our guess is that it rarely gets cold enough that they need central heat, so they use these propane heaters indoors to boost the temperature slightly.
There were large puddles around the bus, and a small stream going down the wheelchair ramp. I didn't really care because I was wearing waterproof boots, but some other people looked really funny trying to get to the bus without getting their feet wet.
We had a change of plans due to the weather. We went first to Viña del Mar. The ground sloped down to the road/beach steeply, and the hillside was covered with buildings. Between them there were many stairs and not a few funiculars. This area was very resorty.
We stopped at a small overlook and went out, even though it was drizzling slightly. We took some pictures, but the conditions were not the best. There was a lot of surf and wave action, however. Then it started raining heavier, and we returned to the bus.
We drove back south a ways, and then stopped for lunch. We were supposed to be back in an hour. We went to the same restaurant as half of the people and the guides. Lunch ended up lasting about 2 hours, but we were not worried because we were with the leaders. I got a cafe con leche, but it was very small and more like a treat then a real beverage.
Halfway through lunch I joked that the bus left 10 minutes ago. But when we eventually settled the bill and left, the bus had, in fact gone. So we had to wait a while for the bus to return.
To my surprise, while we were eating, the rain vanished, and it was very sunny. Unfortunately for me, I hadn't figured on sun, so I had left my sunglasses in my luggage.
Then we drove down to Valpariso and got a small tour of the lower town. We then drove up the hill, got off the bus, and walked down. The buildings are very colorfully painted. More interestingly, there was a ton of graffiti, and a lot of “art work”. Some of it was not bad, and a lot of it was rather bizarre. We went down one very steep street (no cars) that would rival anything San Francisco had to offer.
At various places they had some retaining walls that were positively huge--several stories tall.
Halfway down, we were looking over some flowers, and Amy told me that there were lots of hummingbirds about. I couldn't get a good picture, although Amy had more success. They didn't spend any time in the air, just launching themselves, buzzing around, and then landing again.
It was amazing how much it warmed up. I was glad that I wore my soft-shell and not my down jacket.
We visited the oldest funicular there, but we didn't go down there. Instead we went around, past two churches, and then went down a different funicular. It only held about 8 people, so it took several trips to get us all down.
A short walk from the bottom saw us board the bus, only to drive 3-4 blocks to our hotel.
This one is spiffier than the one we had in Santiago, although it is basically just a nicely done basic hotel room. We were on the 6th floor with a view over the water. We could not have asked for a better room. Amy spent a while looking at birds in her books, while I've been typing this up.
In 15 minutes, we're going down to a talk about eclipses and how to photograph eclipses. Then there will be a late dinner, and then once again to bed.
Amy and I thought that the presentation was interesting. As expected, Sam was bored. It turns out that most of our crew have seen total solar eclipses before.
Afterwards, Amy wanted to go to a noodle place that she had seen at the end of our walk. So she and Sam started (they had brought their jackets) while I ran up and got my soft-shell. I hurried and caught up with them.
The area of the "noodle place" was rather deserted, although there was one occupied table inside. It turns out that it was a Peruvian restaurant and not a noodle place. We checked out the suggested restaurants, but the most likely one seemed somewhat far away, uphill, and we were warned not to wander too far at night (it was probably about 8:00 or so).
I would have liked to have hooked up with others from our group, but they all seemed to have disappeared. So we decided to eat at that Peruvian place.
On the way back to the hotel, we came across some sort of street fair, apparently celebrating the festival of Peter and Paul or (San Pedro y San Pablo). The lights on the hillside looked almost like fallen stars, but my attempts at photographing them were unsuccessful.
When we got back to the hotel, we found that a lot of people were having dinner in the hotel restaurant. I wish we had known that before we ran off,
Amy had heard something about their providing us with bottled water. Amy asked at the front desk, and they said something about getting it at the kitchen. She went over there and effectively ended up buying three bottles of water.
Up in the hotel room, Amy spent some time going through her pictures, looking through her bird book, and trying to identify the ones she saw. I spent some time trying to take time exposures of the ships at anchor and the train in motion from our hotel window.
Tomorrow we head up to a winery tour. The weather should be sunny. The next day is going to be quite interesting. We will be leaving the hotel at 5:15 am. We will have breakfast at our destination. We'll hang out there all day, hopefully enjoy an eclipse just before sunset, have dinner, and then fight our way back to Santiago, which is expected to take up to 6 hours. We should get there around 3-4am. We'll get a chance to sleep for a few hours (literally), and then we have to get to the airport to fly up to the Atacama. Fortunately, we have nothing planned for the first day, so we can just rest and settle in.