This story is an excerpt from Ed’s book, A Casual Traveler
The ride from Santiago to Valparaiso was uneventful in comparison to some of my Asian bus adventures. I had planned to ride the Train del Vino while in Santiago, but it only ran on Saturdays. I arrived on a Monday, and didn’t want to stay in town that long.
I’m a true wino at heart, and also planned on touring some Chilean wineries, but as fate would have it, I had to settle for doing my tasting in restaurants. To put it simply, I found Santiago was just too big and busy and noisy, and just not where I wanted to be at that point in my South American adventure.
Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed by the colonial architecture, and I know the city has many things to offer, but I just wasn’t in the big city mood. I needed something smaller, and more laid back. Valparaiso turned out to be just the place.
On the bus, I sat beside a local guy, who appeared to be around my age. We struggled to communicate in broken English and Spanish. I gathered that he was retired from the Chilean navy, and proud of his prior service. He was married, with children, and he lived in Valparaiso.
He was curious about my plans and exact destination, but we couldn’t place it on the city map. He used his cell phone, and called someone to Google the street I was looking for. I had previously selected a couple of hotels, up in the hills above town, that were in my guidebook. The retired navy man seemed obliged to get me there. Silence eventually crept over both of us, and we nodded off for a bit.
The city of Valparaiso took advantage of its position on the Pacific Ocean, by becoming a major shipping port. In it’s heyday, before the opening of the Panama Canal, it was an important stopover for ships on their way around the bottom tip of South America.