New Year warm-up

Trip Start Nov 07, 2008
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Trip End Mar 03, 2009


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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, December 27, 2008

  I moved quickly from Mendoza on boxing day, going back through the painful 3 hours customs procedure at the Chilean border and popped into Valparaiso for a few days. It was very nice to go to a city that was very distinctive and quite clearly Chilean, as opposed to cities such as La Serena and Mendoza which could very well be anywhere in Europe (except England as the temperature was above 10 degrees). It is built on about 40 hills in a very scattered and haphazard way and there are numerous ascensors, or semi-vertical monorail devices, which take you up and down the hills if you don't fancy the walk. I, on the other hand, obviously did as I found my hostel right at the very top of one of the 'cerros' which made for lots of exercise.
 
  I went down to the harbour, as it is principally a port town, and took a boat out into the bay with so many other people crammed into the same boat that i'm sure it wasn't seaworthy (but then there's no arguing with 1 pound for the trip!). It was a great way to see the city's layout and also the huge container ships and docking devices they have around. There were also plenty of seals floating around the bay (still alive, despite the oil) which was good to see. I went over to nearby Viņa del mar for a day on the beach which was good but other than that it was a pretty average stay with little to report.

Except....

I wandered out of my hostel perfectly innocently on my way to get out some dinero when I noticed the streets were lined with rather more people than usual. This led to me hanging around for a few minutes and I only ended up in the middle of some huge festival they hold every year to celebrate some sort of cultural thing. But there was nothing cultural about the audience for it as they didn't hesitate to crack open the beers and throw confetti and spray foam and generally cover everyone in any kind of rubbish they could find. The parade itself was amazing. It took a whole hour to go fully past where I was standing and there were drumming troupes, brass bands, dancers, people on stilts, huge figurines, converted fire engines with bands playing on top and massive speakers on the side (the whole crowd seemed to know all of the songs as well). I then decided to follow the crowd (literally) and stuck about to see what the hell was happening. I then found myself in the thick of a crowd of about 30,000 people in front of a huge concert stage they had set up in the middle of one of the town's squares and had the dubious privilege of seeing one of Chile's foremost reggaeton (a truly disatrous mix of hip-hop and salsa) groups. The crowd loved it though and it was being televised to the whole country. I, on the other hand, still didn't know what was actually happening but it was still fun to see and made up for the fact I couldn't be there for their big new year celebration. Which was why I took myself over to Santiago to try and find a good alternative.
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