Valparaiso

Valparaiso

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Well, our suspicions that Coquimbo, our next scheduled port of call might be in question were confirmed when the Captain announced that not only it but all other ocean-facing ports along this coast were closed to all sea traffic on account of the swell.  As a result, we’d sail right on by and though we were disappointed to miss our tour of the Elqui valley and the pisco distillery, there wasn’t anything we could do.  The Captain, bless him, had tried all possibilities including early arrival into Valaparaiso, but sea conditions were just making his life pretty challenging all round.  As a result, we were relieved to open the curtains this morning and see this view!

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Even so, it wasn’t a given that we’d be able to dock here and even though we made it, it appears that other services such as refuelling and loading provisions were in question, too.

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None of that was worrying us this morning, though.  We were happy to be here and spent a few minutes remembering our last visit, with my parents twelve years ago.  These steep hillsides with the funiculars were what I remembered best of all and those hadn’t changed one bit.

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Our table with a view was waiting for us when we went for breakfast and we watched as the ship in front of us was off loaded of a cargo of steel rods.  It was moving even more than we were and seemed very insecure.

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The seamen from Mariner were putting more ropes in place than I’ve ever seen and when we’d finished our breakfast and were ready to go, they were still adding more.

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We headed down to the theatre and collected our tickets for today’s tour.  The destinations service has been particularly efficient so far this cruise and there has been an air of calm and cooperation at every departure.  We like that!

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We were soon on our coach and heading off with Veronika, who spoke excellent English and gave us a great background to Chile and its inhabitants.

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First stop, Vina del Mar, the smart, upscale beachside neighbourhood to the north of Valparaiso. 

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Now this stop was an added bonus really, for we hadn’t paid much attention to our programme for the day.  The small Fonck Museum had begun as a private collection but the main focus of our visit was to learn a little more about Easter Island.  It was a bit of a mental leap – we’ve never been there, had not expected this at all so hadn’t given it any thought whatsoever, but the local guide was interesting and it was good to find out some more about this mysterious island dependency of Chile.

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There were other exhibits which interested me such as the silver jewellery and so on, but one small item in a case piqued my interest in particular and I need to find out more.

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Polynesian maps.

I am fascinated by non-verbal representations of information, such as the quipu in Peru and, here, this map.  Horizontal pieces are the currents, vertical pieces represent the tides, the large shells the islands and the small shells the stars.  By such simple means did Polynesian sailors chart their knowledge of the area in which they lived and travelled.  How clever is that?

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Anyway, determining to learn more about them, I left that idea percolating through the grey matter and whilst my hero dashed down the street to the ATM, I contented myself with a few cute bowls and a mummy.

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Another mummy from the Atacama desert. 

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On our way back towards Vaparaiso and crossing this bridge in Vina del Mar, I was struck how much it reminded me of San Sebastian, except the Chileans had dammed up the river at the seaward end to stop the waves crashing up into town.

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We were heading up into the hills to the Casablanca valley, one of several valleys where the main wine growing areas are situated.  We drove mostly along modern motorways, but stopped at the tollbooth and felt sad about the litter which is to be seen all over the place here.

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Our destination was Vina Idomita, set high on a hillside above vineyards.

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Veronika introduced us to another guide whose commentary needed every bit of concentration to follow.  She gave us a good introduction to the business before taking us inside to see the nitty gritty.

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Except there wasn’t really anything to see. 

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Never mind, there were some interesting silhouettes through the window!

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A little further on, we were taken into the cellar where the better quality wines are aged.  I was finding it especially difficult to hear the commentary, so contented myself with taking photos.

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This was an interesting shelf.  I did wonder if they’d miss a bottle, but then thought the dust would be a giveaway.

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From there, we went outside for the fun bit.  First, a Sauvignon Blanc

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Then a pinot noir

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finally a Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere blend.

Yummy.  All three.  But now, we were feeling peckish!

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Lunch was mentioned, so we lost no time in getting back on the road through the vineyards to our next stop.

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Estancia El Cuadro was a fine estate set in beautiful scenery and we learned that it’s a favourite place for weddings and similar events.

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We learned that we were going to have an aperitif and watch a demonstration by some Chilean cowboys – or Huasos – before lunch, though.

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Our fourth glass of wine awaited us…

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and a rather enormous empanada, the size of a Cornish Pasty.  Very tasty, but very hot too.

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Meanwhile, the huaso got dressed, explaining every piece of his costume.  Look at those spurs!

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Once suitably attired, he climbed on board his patient horse and gave a demonstration of his riding skills.

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At one point, a couple of his colleagues joined him and they showed us how two huasos could corral a cow in a rodeo situation.  The cow was compliant and had clearly done all of this a few times before!

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All ended happily, we watched a couple of dances before moving along to the Estancia proper and enjoying lunch at last.  It must have been 3pm by then.

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On the wall of the Estancia was this remarkable piece of creative macrame.  I just had to post it for my crafty chums to admire, too.

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With a last look at those beautiful vineyards, it was time to head back to the port.  There might have been the quiet sound of a siesta on the way back…

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Bernardo, our driver, took us on a small tour of the centre of Valparaiso on the way back.  It being Saturday afternoon, it was buzzing.

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But once we got there, it was ever so good to be home.

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We could watch the party from the comfort of our own verandah as we got ready to meet friends for dinner tonight.  What a great day we had!

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