We had loaded onto the bus for the roughly hour-long trip to Valparaiso from Santiago. The weather was a bit chilly, but it was nothing that my jacket and long sleeve shirt could not handle.
Exploring the Countryside
It was beautiful just looking at the countryside as we drove through. All the shades of green and vineyards contrasted with the normal brown tones of the outskirts of Las Vegas. We saw fields of grass instead of rows of cacti.
The road going up into Valparaiso was a winding one. The city was built on ascending hills of the mountain range. When I stepped off the bus in Valparaiso, I was mesmerized by the beauty around me. I could see the Pacific Ocean and harbor with boats anchored at sea in the distance as well as rows of vividly colored houses. Some were green and pink and yellow and brown. Most of the buildings weren't just painted but covered in street art. Not like a typical graffiti spraying of a signature or phrase, but instead actual paintings of various types.
The walk was long and steep but gave space to take in the beautiful art and time to admire the architecture found throughout the city heavily inspired by the French and Italian crafters of the time. At the city center, we could just make out through the crowd of people the beginnings of a very important holiday tradition in Chile – Navy Day. The holiday commemorates the Battle of Iquique in 1879 and the bravery of Captain Arturo Prat. The day is marked by parades, which is what we could hear from where we stood.
Since we couldn't go any closer to the march, we decided to cut our time short at the city center and visit a historical site instead. It was a house-turned-art exhibit called Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Valparaíso. The wealthy man who owned the house had a great collection of many paintings and carvings that were of both national and foreign origin. Several paintings illustrated how Valparaiso looked during different time periods. After the tour of the mansion of a house, we loaded back into the buses and drove to the coast.
A Historical Encounter
Closer to the coast the smell of the sea was stronger, but still not clear or distinct. The original restaurant we were supposed to eat lunch at had closed. This ended up being very beneficial in the end. Partially because I got to eat an amazing Peruvian dish, but mainly because we were able to see the soldiers march right after we finished our meal. We all crowded around the window just to see them march and sing as they continued walking down the route. I felt very lucky to have been able to see such a display. Next, we loaded up the bus again and headed to a famous beach, Reñaca.
From Beaches to Dunes
Getting out of the car at the beach I was hit with the salty crisp smell of the Pacific Ocean. The afternoon sun was creating a beautiful glow. Of course, during this stop, many of us took pictures and a couple even ran down to the shoreline. The tour guide, Natalia, told us that this part of the ocean was freezing, the kind you felt in your bones. This didn't stop people from going into the water as the beach was also known for its surfable waves.
I was looking forward to our next stop. We were told that we would possibly be able to go sandboarding. Again, most of us rushed out of the car and went head-on with the giant hill of a sand dune. Of course climbing sand is a lot more difficult than climbing up dirt hills, but we managed to make it to the top. The view was magnificent of the ocean and shoreline below. The sun was on its descent, which just made everything glow, and it didn't matter that when we got to the top there were no boards to rent. Of course, many of us took beautiful pictures. Then to end the day we ran back down the side of the dune some at more steep angles than others.
Moving on from Valparaiso
Valparaiso was a beautiful and colorful place to visit. The next journal entry will be from Alvaro Hernandez-Chavez who is also a member of cohort 12, a senior studying computer science.
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