- Day 29 -
After a quick change over from our twin single room to a more comfortable ensuite double in the Casa Kultour, we headed down the hill via our Southwalk made ascensor and caught a local bus for a day-trip to Valparaiso’s prettier seaside sister, Vina del Mar; the garden city. Although we’d caught a glimpse of the Pacific at the port yesterday, I was keen to complete our coast to coast voyage with a swim in the ocean, although I can’t claim I completed any strokes.
Our genial host at the Casa Kultour had told us there was a great exhibition on Easter island in Vina, and as the mysterious Chilean island is surprisingly still some six hours by flight away, we thought this might be the closest we ever come. Housed in an old colonial building, the natural history museum sports a 10 ft Moai statue, one of only two not on Easter island; the other as with many “recovered” antiquities is in the British Musuem and is even larger. Standing guard outside, it’s wide forehead and nose shade its uncarved eyes, which solemnly survey the small block of surrounding gardens. Though the museum is well designed to investigate, we were incredibly grateful to Diego, a young English speaking student who worked there and offered up a free tour of the Easter island section that was only in Spanish. He brought the exhibition to life, explaining the meaning of the carvings and how incredible it was that the largest Moai, weighing many tonnes, were constructed of two types of volcanic rock, carved and then hauled into place to protect the island from evil. It was from within though that the islanders’ civilisation was toppled. The increasing decadence of the ruling kings led to their undoing, with many Maoi statues overturned or destroyed by a people fearing starvation on the inhospitable island.
Museums always build up a hunger in me and so we were also glad of a recommendation for empanadas, conveniently located on our stroll to the beach. These were much more like Cornish pasties than others in South America, and although the spiced chicken with chilli (confusingly called aiji in Chile) was delicious, I nearly cauterised my tongue and singed my flipflopped feet on the piping hot sauce. Striding down the promenade and dodging the crashing swell against the protective boulders, we reached Vina’s attractive main beach, completely occupied with families on the sand. Large signs strangely indicated no swimming and then we realised why - the swell further up had not dissipated and enormous waves lept up 12ft close to shore, dumping on the sand with a tremendous crash, annihilating anything in their path. A few kids towards the decaying pier braved it, playing dare on how deeply they would go, but soon enough jet skiing life guards deeper out shouted them back on megaphones before zipping off with a pack of dogs pursuing, parallel on the beach.
Sporting a topped up tan and ignoring the less flattering reviews on TripAdvisor, we hit Allegretto, a snug little pizzeria a lazy stroll from the hostel. Served up on a wooden platter and washed down with a full bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, the delicious thin crust pizza with ample toppings of salami, garlic, olives and fresh avocado proved a simple but tasty treat for our penultimate South American cena.
- By Ian -