Tuesday, 23 August 2011

El conflicto Mapuche.

Primer foto:
Michelmore, J., 2011. Petición contra el uso de la Ley Antiterrorista. En: Antofagasta, Chile.

Segunda foto:

Michelmore, J., 2011. Grafiti sobre la huelga de hambre de los Mapuches. En: Antofagasta, Chile.

Tercer foto:
Michelmore, J., 2011. Exhibición de fotos a favor de la libertad de los presos políticos. En: Viña del Mar, Chile.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Mi regreso a San Pedro

My return to San Pedro.
With only two weekends left in Chile, I decided to spend one of them in San Pedro, a small picturesque village located in heart of the Atacama Desert, five hours north of Antofagasta. This was in fact my second visit to San Pedro, I went last December however there were still many things I was anxious to see before returning home.
San Pedro is very popular tourists spot due to its remarkable geography and rustic ambience. Upon arriving it was immediately apparent that this village was part of the “gringo trail”, filled with Brits, Australians and other Europeans, I felt quite disorientated by the amount of English being spoken! Who would have imagined a little village tucked away into the Atacama Desert could be filled with so many foreigners. Antofagasta in comparison has very few tourists.
I checked into my hostel and soon set off to organise my tours. That afternoon I left at 3pm to the “Valle de la Luna” (Moon valley). The valley received its name because its landscape filled with stones and sand closely resembles the moon’s surface. Its extraordinary landscape is as a result of the Atacama Desert meeting the Andes creating a unique panorama. The Moon Valley was very different to the places I had previously visited in San Pedro, as the name suggests, the valley was stark, dry and with no sign of life. Our first stop was Quebrada Cari, where our guide told us to be silent and listen. In the silence we could hear the salt in the rocks making a crackling noise. It’s amazing how small one can feel in the vastness of the desert.
Our next stop was the caves at Cañon where we had to get on our hands and knees and crawl through a cave in the pitch black, making it quite an adventure! Fortunately a few of us had torches as it was quite a difficult task, one tourist made a reference to the 33 miners who were trapped underground last year, although it was an exciting experience, I must admit I was rather pleased to reach the light at the end!
We then headed to the "Tres Marias" (The three Marias) a large stone figure located in the Moon Valley which was named by the Belgian Priest Gustavo Le Paige, a famous and influential figure in San Pedro’s history who believed these three stone figures depicted three religious scenes. Gustavo Le Paige was a keen archaeologist with a great interest in Atacama Culture. He was responsible for the discovery of many artefacts which are now on display at the Priest Gustavo Le Paige Museum in the village of San Pedro.
Our next stop was “Valle de la muerte” or Death Valley. Our guide explained that there are three possible explanations for the valley’s name, the first being that there is a particularly treacherous road that passes through the valley where many people have tragically lost their lives. An alternative explanation is that there is simply no life in the Valley, there is no water and therefore no animals or plants, it is essentially dead. Another legend is that when Gustavo Le Paige explored the Death Valley he described as “el valle de marte” (Mars valley because it resembled Mars) however his Belgian pronunciation of “marte” was understood as “muerte” which means death and well the name stuck!
We finished our day enjoying a scenic sunset at the Moon valley, the landscape was magnificent, with pale blue and pink strokes painted into the night sky, with the dunes of the dusty desert and the moon high above, I really felt like I was exploring another world, another planet, like a serene dream.
The next morning was an early start, 630 am as I took part in “el tour antiplano” a tour specializing in the exploration of surrounding high altitude areas which lead us about an hour south of the village of San Pedro. Our first stop was the “Salar Atacama” (The Atacama Salt flat) where we observed a fine looking assembly of flamingos enjoying their breakfast as the sun rose. We were especially fortunate to catch a glimpse of the flamingos; within just ten minutes of our arrival the entire group had flown away, proving that these attractive and elegant birds are not particularly social creatures. With their beautiful rosy colours reflected against the pale blue water and the backdrop of the desert, I couldn’t think of a more delightful way to begin the day. After a hot coffee and some breakfast to warm us up (the sun had only recently come up so it was freezing!) we headed off to a nearby village called Socaire.
Socaire is a small historical village that is famous for having two identical churches made of rock,adobe and wood. The first church was built in 1745 and has been a national monument since 1951 however the church was heavily damaged in an earthquake. Consequently the inhabitants of the village decided to build a replica of the first church but were then told by the government that they had to restore the original church due to its historical significance and beauty, thus leaving this small village with two matching churches!
We then entered the “Reserva Nacional las Flamencos where we saw Laguna Miscanti and Miñiques. This is perhaps my favourite spot in San Pedro, the moment you arrive you are rendered speechless by the lagoon’s magnitude and natural beauty. You are struck by a feeling of serenity. The lagoons are made up of an incredible range of blues; azure, turquoise and a ring of white salt where the water meets the land. In the background are volcanoes dotted with snow. It was spectacular.
We then headed to a small village called Tocanao
On our way back to San Pedro, we passed a group of llamas strolling through the Desert landscape, a classic South American scene and the ideal way to end my journey.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Observacion de los astros en el desierto

Star gazing in the Desert.
About four months ago at the end of February, my French friend Emilie kindly invited me to join her and a group of about thirteen people to go out into the desert to observe the stars. The team was led by a rather eccentric French professor who teaches astronomy at one of the most prestigious universities in Antofagasta.
We set off at about three o’clock in the afternoon with the professor’s truck filled with a vast range of supplies, blankets to keep warm, food and water and most importantly his hefty astronomical equipment.  We left the urban setting of Antofagasta and drove about an hour deeper into the dessert until the Professor found an appropriate spot for observation. We spent the first few hours enjoying the scenery, with the hills of the desert, sea and clouds all blending mystically into one. There is a great sense of isolation in the desert.  
As well as the professor, there was another young Chilean astronomer who works at the Paranal Observatory, one of the largest and most cutting edge astronomical centers in the world where astronomers come to carry out their research.  In comparison to the French professor’s bulky telescope which he had for several years, (and was extremely fond of!) this man’s telescope was much more modern and compact, I was surprised by how quickly and with such ease he was able to locate specific stars and planets.
Waiting for the sun to set, we all enjoyed warm cups of tea and coffee while chatting with the other group members, we were a particularly international party composed of Chileans, French, a few Brits and a German which made it a very interesting and enriching experience.
   As dusk fell, the two astronomers prepared their telescopes for observation, with the more modern telescope I saw Jupiter, Saturn (you could even see its ring!) and open and closed clusters.  A Chilean lady in the group, another astronomer pointed out the Milky Way which was particularly exciting because you could appreciate its vastness and clarity even without a telescope. With the larger telescope, I witnessed some open and closed clusters and before leaving I observed the Moon, an amazing experience as we could see everything in such detail, including the moon’s craters!
Moments while the astronomers were preparing the next viewing I found it captivating just looking up at the stars, it was astounding with such lucidity they could be seen. During the tour we were taught about “Contaminación de Luz” (light pollution), a process whereby the reflection of the lights in the sky at night make it harder for us to study the stars, which explains why people flock to the desert to star gaze. I had never seen the night sky filled with so many stars, I was astounded by its splendor, there was a sense of timelessness that evening. We stayed in the desert till about 1:30 am by which time the wind had picked up, it was very cold but fortunately I have grown accustomed to the dramatic change in temperature in the desert and I was well prepared with warm clothes. 
Something I have discovered while on my year abroad is that so many opportunities are passed through word of mouth and you should take advantage of every invitation that comes your way. I must admit, I have never been particularly keen on astronomy or Physics however going out into the desert and seeing things which I had only ever previously seen in a textbook firsthand made a world of difference. Sometimes you should just take chances. My star gazing trip in the Atacama Desert was a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience.
Our Group

                                                       The French Professor

 Our chosen spot for observation.
                                                                    The more modern telescope.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Semana Santa en La Serena ( Holy Week in La Serena).

     Eager to make the most of the long Easter Weekend, I decided to travel over 400miles south of Antofagasta to an attractive city called La Serena, the capital of Chile’s fifth region which is located north of Santiago. I managed to catch a ride with my good French friend Emilie; the journey took over ten hours however the changing scenery, good conversation and some entertaining French music made the trip an extremely enjoyable one.
   We left Antofagasta early on Good Friday and for the first few hours all that could be seen were the barren hills of the dessert and a handful of dreary mining towns. That said, after living in the desert for eight months I have learnt to appreciate that the desert has its own beauty, perhaps the harder it is to find beauty, the more we treasure it. For example, one single flower found in the desert can appear all the more enchanting because of its rarity. The desert can seem stark and hostile at times and I have grown to value the people who came many years ago to the north of Chile to find work in the mines and have carried on living in what seems to many as an inhospitable land. Antofagasta in particular is known as “la tierra de oportunidades” (the land of opportunities) and I greatly admire the determination and drive of many Chileans who are ready to make tremendous sacrifices to find work “en el norte” (in the North).
As time passed, the scenery became greener until we finally reached La Serena. We then met my very good university friend called Ushmi and my boyfriend Emil who had arrived at La Serena the previous day. They both hopped into the car and we continued our journey to the Elqui Valley which was about one hour east of La Serena. The Elqui valley is a real tourist haven, with an abundance of vineyards and orchards set against the arid mountains of the dessert its charming scenery is entirely unique. This part of Chile is called “Norte Chico” and is characterized by being partly desert and partly not. Many believe that the Elqui Valley is a centre of mystical energy; it is also one of the main astronomical centers of the world.
   Although Chile is described as a Catholic country I have not noticed Chileans as being particularly devout, however the evening that we arrived at the Elqui Valley it became apparent that Catholicism still has a strong following.  As we started exploring the town we passed the Plaza where we watched a dramatization of the Easter story, as we continued walking we noticed that many of the streets were lined with small candles and offerings, creating a very serene and thought-provoking atmosphere. It was evident that for many of the valley’s inhabitants this religious occasion was an extremely important event.
The next morning, we explored the little town by daylight and I was amazed by the valley’s natural beauty. What was particularly fascinating was how a place which has many characteristics of the desert could also posses such a wonderful variety of flower and fauna. The intense colour and beauty of the flowers were particularly striking; it felt wonderful to be surrounded by greenery.
The Elqui Valley is the heartland of Pisco (Chile’s national drink, a strong clear spirit made from grapes) so naturally our first stop was “La Planta del Pisco Mistral,” (The Mistral Pisco factory). The tour of the factory was extremely interesting; our guide explained in detail each part of the  making process, the history of Pisco and finally we were able to try different varietys of Pisco. There is come controversy whether Pisco was in fact created in Chile, some argue that it belongs to Peru, but as you can imagine, Chileans are very quick to dismiss that argument.( Emil was horrified by the idea!)Chileans love to drink Pisco and a popular Chilean cocktail is “Pisco Sour” which is Pisco accompanied with lemon and sugar. “Piscola,” Pisco and Coca Cola is another national favorite. The highlight of the tour was enjoying a Pisco sour at the end with Ushmi and Emil, admiring the view of the beautiful valley set against the backdrop of arid desert.
Another reason for the Valley’s popularity is that it was the home to Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet who was the first South American to win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1945. She was also a teacher, a diplomat and a feminist who devoted herself to improving the education system in Chile and abroad. After our Pisco tour, we took short bus ride to a small town called Montegrande, where there is a museum dedicated to Gabriela Mistral which was a real pleasure to explore. Our guide informed us that despite moving abroad Mistral always thought of Monte Grande as her home and her fondest memories where of her childhood there.   
That evening we took a bus back to La Serena which we explored the following day. After the serene nature of the Valley it seemed strange at first to be back in an urban environment, however the city has many attractive old colonial buildings. First we celebrated Easter mass at a beautiful colonial stone church and then browsed the “Recova” market close by which was filled with native handicrafts. We then took a bus to Coquimbo, a fishing town just twenty minutes south- west of La Serena which is legendary for its delicious, and inexpensive seafood. Emil and I are both real seafood enthusiasts, Ushmi on the other hand is a vegetarian, a concept Chileans could not seem to grasp, barbecue is after all is their favourite dish! We stopped for a bite to eat at the Coquimbo fishing terminal a thriving fish market filled to the brim with both locals and tourists.
After lunch we strolled around the town, admiring many of the old colonial buildings which overlook the ocean. With colorful murals and beautiful wooden architecture, this small fishing town was definitely worth a visit. After Coquimbo we took the bus back to Serena and from there we returned to Antofagasta, this time travelling by bus.
     My trip to La Serena was particularly special, firstly because I was able to explore another part of this incredibly varied country with Ushmi and Emil and secondly because I was able to appreciate La Serena’s and its surrounding areas uniqueness. I had never imagined a place where you could find such a wonderful contrast between nature; the vineyards of the valley, its trees and its colourful flowers with the hills of the desert. Once again, this wonderful country called Chile has surprised me.
                               Ushmi and I at the Mistral Pisco Factory
                                  Ushmi and I in the Elqui Valley.
                                              The Elqui Valley.

Gabriela Mistral Museum.

                                                   La Serena
                            Emil and I at the Coquimbo fishing terminal.

                         Coquimbo, homage to Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Mistral, both chilean poets won a nobel prize for literature.   

Monday, 21 February 2011

El Sur precioso ( The charming South).

 Placed in the very fortunate position of having a two month summer holiday period (one of the many perks of teaching!) I was eager to make my first trip south of Santiago and experience life “en el campo” (the countryside).  A good friend of mine named Carolina kindly invited me to visit her family who live in a small town called Victoria in Chile’s fourth region.  Thrilled by the prospect of discovering the south, I caught a bus 2 days later making the trip a rather spontaneous one! With Carolina’s beautiful garden and wooden country style house, I felt a strange sense of nostalgia for home; it was not all that different to the English countryside of East Sussex. A proud and enthusiastic gardener, Carolina’s father was eager for me to try every variety of fruit in his orchard at once, an offer I was not going to refuse! It felt wonderful to be back in the countryside.
       Our first day trip was to the Cordillera, to the east of Chile, near the Andes.  Along the way we stopped of at the “Salto Del Indio y de la Princesa”, two waterfalls, one belonging to an Indian and the other to a princess. The legend behind these waterfalls relates to love triangle between an Indian, an Indian princess and a Spanish Conquistador. As the story goes, the Indian fell in love with the princess; however her heart belonged to the Spaniard.  Faced by the tragedy and humiliation of unrequited love, the Indian decided to end his life by jumping off a rock, which in turn created a very turbulent and aggressive waterfall, reflective of his shame and enraged sentiments. The princess’s romance with the Spaniard was unfortunately forbidden, so they too decided to jump off another rock however the princess’ waterfall is both peaceful and tranquil, a strong contrast to the Indian’s.  Whether or not the legend is true, this romantic tale is certainly entertaining and I really enjoyed my visit to the waterfalls.  We continued our journey through the “Tunel de los raices”, which up until recently was Latin America’s longest tunnel until we reached an area called Lonquimay. 
Although about 90% of Chile’s population is of European descent, Chile does have an indigenous people who are called the Mapuche. “Mapuche” which means “people of the land” are famous for their long and hard battle against the Spanish Conquistadores in particular Pedro Valdivia, who led the conquest against the Mapuche . For many generations, the Mapuche have struggled to keep hold of their land which they consider vital to their rural way of life. The Mapuche conflict continues up until this day and with Chile’s current right wing government eager to use its land in the most financially productive way, the relationship between the state and the Mapuche is far from harmonious.  The Mapuche feel that there land is unjustly being taken away from them and that the government is consequently failing to recognize their rights as citizens. This has lead to car burning and various protests, while Chile was celebrating its 200 year anniversary since Independence last September the Mapuche were performing hunger strikes, evidently not all the population were in a period of festivity.
 The reason I mention the Mapuche is because this particular region is home to many of Chile’s indigenous people.  Walking along the Reserva nacional Malalcahuello, I managed to get a glimpse of both an old fashioned and relatively more modern Mapuche home.  Having done some research on the Mapuche people, part of me was eager to talk to them and discuss their current situation.  Whether it was fate or not, the family was not home, but perhaps it was better that way, after all I think more than anything the Mapuche’s strongest desire is to be left in peace, not all are necessarily political minded.
Ascending the hill by car, we finally reached the top of the reserve where we enjoyed spectacular views of the Lonquimay volcano, a magnificent snow capped volcano. Surrounded by nature in all its most wonderful forms it became apparent how very different the south is to the barren desert of northern Chile. I know I have already mentioned how varied Chile is in terms of geography but I really must stress that Chile is so unique in this aspect.  Standing at a hill top in southern Chile encircled by greenery, it was almost impossible to believe that I was still in the same country. In contrast to the north, the southern countryside has a distinct European feel, most probably due to a relatively strong German influence which has had an impact on southern architecture.
The following day, Carolina and I made a day trip to Temuco, a commercial town nearby where we enjoyed a few hours shopping and a visit to an art gallery. Our journey by train was particularly enjoyable; the train as a form of transport is quite a rarity in South America, it seems that most trains here carry goods rather than people, most Latins prefer to take the bus which they consider more reliable. Travelling along the southern countryside, the passing images composed of mountains, volcanoes and country life all made a beautiful impression on me.  
Before leaving, Carolina’s father insisted that I joined their family camping trip to a place called Lago Lanalhue, ( Lanalhue Lake) to the east of Victoria. Along the way we passed the town of Puren where we visited “el Fuerte de Puren” a Mapuche fortress hidden deep the forest which was used to fight against the Spanish Conquistadores. This was particularly special for me as at the time I was reading Isabelle Allende’s novel “Inés of my Soul” which recounts the conquest of Chile from the eyes of Inez Suarez, one of the first Spanish women to live in Chile. The books makes a reference to this particular fort and I found it a very rewarding experience when what you are seeing reflects what you are reading; it really brings history to life in the most remarkable way.
 Lake Lanalhue was very beautiful and tranquil camping spot set against the backdrop of the mountains. For the first time since arriving in Chile I was able to enjoy fresh milk, something I had badly missed in Antofagasta! We quickly set up our “fuegon” ( camp fire) and in typical Chilean style, enjoyed a delicious asado (bbq).The next day was spent relaxing, reading, swimming  and simply enjoying each other’s company. Unfortunately as the afternoon went on the weather took a bad spell, faced by strong rain and wind, we decided to head back to Victoria. The following evening, the family kindly prepared me a depedida dinner, a special meal to say goodbye and that bring me to my final point which is to point out how wonderful the southern people are.
 I have been told by northern Chileans that the people of the south are famous for their warm, generous and friendly nature and nothing could be more accurate. Carolina’s relatives welcomed me like family, thanks to them I have come back with many wonderful memories of my trip down to the charming south.

Carolina's home

Indian's Waterfall

Volcano Lonquimay

Old fashioned Mapuche Home

Carolina's family

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

San Pedro de Atacama

Last weekend I travelled about 305km north of Antofagasta to a small rural village named San Pedro de Atacama located in Chile’s II region. Numerous colleagues and friends had spoken highly of San Pedro’s rustic charm and stunning landscapes, so I was eager to explore this tourist hot spot myself. 
Arriving at San Pedro at night, it was immediately apparent that it was a very different settlement to Antofagasta; the small town is much more Spanish- Indian looking as it was the former centre of the Atacama (Pre-Columbian) culture. The town’s architecture is very attractive, with its low set buildings made of stone, mud and wood, as you walk along San Pedro’s dusty and shady streets you can appreciate the town’s distinct history and heritage. It is a very special town as it is described as the archeological capital of Chile, filled with immense geographical variety and beauty. As I walked along the streets hearing English, French and German being spoken, it soon became evident that San Pedro is a very popular tourist destination.
Despite spending only the weekend in San Pedro we still managed to fill a lot in, on the first day we took a tour to “Laguna Cejar”, with a 40% salt content, the lagoon produces a floating effect similar to the Dead Sea. With an amazing backdrop including the Andes and numerous volcanoes (such as Licancabur, Lascar and Corona) swimming in the lagoon was a unique and breathtaking experience.  To get rid of all the salt stuck to our bodies, out next stop was a fresh water lagoon, where you had to either dive or jump a significant distance into the water. Although some group members (including myself!) were a little reluctant to take the plunge so to speak, we soon all plucked up the courage and really enjoyed ourselves! Our next stop was Laguna Tebinquinche, one of my favourite spots, a beautiful salt plain which you can walk across. Being the final stop of the day, the group enjoyed a Pisco sour (Chilean cocktail) together while watching el atardecer (sunset).
The next day was an extremely early start, 4am to be exact! This was because our first stop was “Los Geisers del Tatio”, the largest geysers(hot springs) in the world. The best water manifestations are seen before sunrise and at an altitude of 4200 meters, the temperature was  below freezing, minus five degrees centigrade.  To warm up, we enjoyed a cup of hot coffee and breakfast while watching the geysers generate steam, they also produced a strong odor of sulphur. Set against the barren hills of the dessert, the outpouring of steam by the geysers was particularly striking.
Feeling very cold, we were delighted to find out our next step was a 38 degree thermal pool! This was a very luxurious and invigorating experience, and was particular popular among the tourists. 
We then travelled to a little indigenous village with a beautiful blue and white church at the top of a hill. A community of perhaps only 20 houses surrounded by the hills of the dessert, this town relies heavily on tourists coming to buy handicrafts. With its very few houses and nearby fields filled with grazing lamas and alpacas, there is a great sense of serenity there.
We were then fortunate enough to witness a group of flamingos on one of the many salt lakes. This region is popular with this type of bird as they come to the salt lakes to find food.  
Our final adventure was a desert walk where we saw giant cacti and waterfalls; this was a wonderful experience as it highlighted the immense geographical diversity of this region. 

 Walking along, we realized that in just one morning we had experienced such a range of temperatures and scenery. With its volcanoes, San Pedro is an area of great mineral wealth and it is for this reason that it boasts such breathtaking and contrasting views.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

La Capital, La costa y las Celebraciones especiales ( The Capital, The Coast and Special Celebrations)

To celebrate my twenty-first birthday I travelled nearly 700 miles south to the capital of Chile, Santiago. Although I had arrived in Santiago Airport when I came to Chile in August I did not have time to explore the city so this was my real experience of el capital. Having been living in the Atacama Desert for the past two and a half months I had grown accustomed to the brown, dusty and barren landscape of Antofagasta. They say that Chile, the long, thin country is a country of contrasts and with the few trips that I have made; I can already confirm this belief. Strolling along Santiago’s wide boulevards, surrounded by nature I realised how much I had missed being amongst greenery, something that Antofagasta unfortunately lacks.
I came to Santiago to celebrate my birthday with Gerrie and Ania, my two very good friends from Bath University. On my first evening we hopped on the metro and ventured to a famous bar called “La Piojera” a symbol of “el pueblo” (the people) and el “espíritu republicano” (Republican spirit).  The speciality of this rugged yet cheerful establishment is the notorious “terremoto”, a drink named “the earthquake”. This is a drink made entirely of white wine called “Vino Pipeno” embellished with a scoop of pinapple ice cream on top. All I can say is that is “¡no se llama el terremoto para nada! (It’s not called an “earthquake” for nothing!) It is extremely strong, but everyone should give it a try, it is part of the culture after all!  The next day was my birthday, we enjoyed a spot of sightseeing in the afternoon, browsing around the “Plaza de armas” (Square of armoury) the Cathedral and the various art stalls around the square. Then in the evening, we celebrated in “discoteca caramel” where we danced to night away, boogying to mix of old school pop, including my personal favourite, the Spice Girls and of course South America’s beloved “Reggaeton” (latin urban music).  
During my trip to Santiago my friends and I made an evening visit to “Cerro San Cristobal” with the objective to watch the sun set. With a 22 meter statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at its peak, San Cristobal Hill is a beautiful tourist attraction offering splendid views of the capital.  It is also a park, filled with flowers and candles creating a very tranquil and reflective atmosphere there is also a small chapel where we saw a young couple being wed. To ascend the mountain it is most common to use the funicular which we did, and after watching a stunning sunset while drinking mote (a typical syrupy Chilean drink) we were ready to go back down the mountain. But being typically Chilean, we had lost track of time while enjoying our exquisite sunset and we soon realised that the funicular had stopped running which meant we had to walk down this 880 meter hill which took us over an hour and a half in the dark! Being in the Halloween spirit we decided to pass the time recounting spooky tales in the dark which I half loved/ hated! Nevertheless we made it to the bottom of the hill in one piece and I’m sure we will all be more careful to keep track of time!
The next day, Gerrie, Ania and I decided to make a day trip to Valparaiso, a historical sea port and stunning city just a few hours bus ride from Santiago. After reading Isabelle Allende’s novel “Daughter of Fortune” which is set in Valparaiso and recently watching a ballet and music performance in Antofagasta called “Valpariaso Waltz”, I was eager to see this artistic and bohemian city for myself.  The ballet performance was particularly intriguing as it recounted the passionate and tragic love tales between sailors and inhabitants of this old and magical city.  Valparaiso made a real impression on me, filled with colour and vibrancy; it is nicknamed the “Jewel of the Pacific”. This World Heritage Site is often described as Chile’s cultural centre, a statement which is not hard to believe. With its jumbled arrangement of pastel houses all built on top of one another the city is filled with immense charm.  Valparaiso is a city of art and creativity, I have never witnessed so much art in one place before, and nearly every wall has been covered in some sort of bright and dazzling design or has a quotation by a famous artist, for example Federico Garica Lorca.  Moreover, Valparaiso is home to “La Sebastiana,” Pablo Neruda’s home by the coast which is now a museum open to the public. Valparaiso is just one of those places which inspire creativity; just going there makes you want to become an artist!
My few days down south to Santiago and Valparaiso were very memorable for me, not only because I was able to celebrate my 21st birthday with two very close friends but also because it was my first experience of the country apart from Antofagasta which made me realise how varied Chile is, in terms of both geography and at times culture. This trip has inspired me to carry on with my travels and to make the most of what Chile has to offer.