Pacific Ocean Beaches
in Valparaiso, Chile on 24th March, 2013


We spent our last night in Argentina eating steaks and ribs at another restaurant with outdoor seating. They had an fire pit indoors where they cooked up the meats on offer. I thought the steak I bought was amazing, I posted a pic of it on Facebook and titled it "Argentine open-heart surgery". Unfortunately, Triin felt sick shortly after eating half of her rack of ribs.

There were 100-odd bikers down the street from the restaurant. For three evenings it had been so noisy outside our room we could hardly sleep. Throughout the night we could hear motors idling and revving and this kept us awake for a fourth consecutive night. At 6:45am we headed to the bus station to catch our bus back into Chile.

Around 10:45am we reached the Argentine/Chilean frontier. Triin was leaving the queue to sit down outside, running off to the toilet and holding her stomach and squatting while we were in both the line to leave Argentina and to enter Chile. Our bus driver pointed Triin out to a Chilean police officer walking around. He came to ask what was happening. I pulled out my iPhone and showed him a photo of Triin with her meal from the night before.

The Argentine border guard was pretty quick with Triin's passport and lightning quick with mine. But when we got to the Chilean border guard things changed. He took ten minutes, two other colleagues and the internet to find out what an 'Estonia' was and then took another ten minutes to be convinced my passport wasn't forged.

Both of our passports were passed around, folded closed and tapped against a desk while the guard thought to himself. The guard debated with a colleague and a supervisor about both of our cases. For two agonising minutes the guard examined the front cover of my passport looking for any signs of tampering. Its events like this that cause me to feel nervous and fearful whenever I pass through a frontier. I wish border controls didn't exist.

After we were stamped into Chile we were brought with the rest of the passengers from our bus to be inspected as a group by customs officers in a separated room. A dog went for Triin's bag and she had to show customs officers the contents of what she had inside. We then had everything x-rayed.

In total it took two hours to get through the border and there wasn't a single relaxing minute of it. Just two hours of being polite, careful with our words and trying to hold our nerves together. I found the Russian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese borders a walk in the park by comparison.

With all that said I've seen South American friends rock up at Stansted Airport with a filing cabinet worth of documentation and probably go through worse. I remember the economist printed a photo of a piece of graffiti, it showed Paddington bear with his suitcase and the headline "migration isn't a crime". It's funny how so many frontier procedures make innocent passengers feel like they are doing something wrong.

Our bus arrived in Santiago two hours late. We had a connecting bus which we missed. I went to the bus company and they issued new tickets for a later bus free of charge. By 6pm we were in Valparaiso.

I've never seen a city like this before. It's got an interesting topography, almost every building has elaborate graffiti sprayed on it and it had a strong character that I found lacking in Santiago. People dress in a more individualistic fashion and there seems to be more young people around.

Our hotel room had a window facing the street which was a steep, cobblestone road that cars sped down throughout the night. At midnight it was so loud I went downstairs to get us another room but no one was working. I had another night of disturbed sleep for the fifth night in a row.

In the morning I wrote into google translate on my phone: "My room is very loud. Cars drive by all the time. I did not sleep last night. Can I have a quieter room?" and showed a member of staff the message in Spanish. They allocated a much quieter room.

We left the hotel around 11am and took an elevator car down the hill. We came across a street parade with a samba school mixed in with a protest being escorted through the street by the police. Sometimes a great photo just walks up to me :)

We took an overland metro to what we thought was a station next to a beach. There was a singer on the train which did a really good song in English and then a second in Spanish along our trip. When we got to Viña del Mar station we found it was nowhere near the beach and had a ten-block walk to get there. But the walk was interesting in itself.

We had a small lunch next to the beach and then I took some pics of Triin walking in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

In the mid-afternoon we caught a taxi back to our hotel. I left Triin reading away on the Internet and walked around our neighbourhood snapping pics.

Our hotel was on a hilltop and we caught an incredible sunset from the patio lookout in the evening. The beaches, huge clusters of houses and beautiful clouds were covered in a red and pink hue from the sunset. Hopefully there will be many more of these amazing sunsets we'll experience together.

We shared a single portion of dinner downstairs in the evening. It was a pesto pasta dish, salad and three soups of ice cream each for dessert. It was one of the better meals we had in Chile that we didn't cook ourselves.

I started to feel a bit excited again during our bus ride back to Santiago. The sun was shining down on the mountains and vineyards and the next major section of our trip is upon us. A lot of security concerns I had about South America turned out to be nothing but falling prey to scare mongering.

A lot of people come to this part of South America to booze up on world-class wine. I drank a bottle of Chilean wine and ended up having nightmares. The cheap, local beer they sell in the supermarkets here on the other hand is fantastic. I hardly drink anymore so when I do drink one of the 1L, thousand-peso beers, I get a great beer buzz.

I'm starting to feel like a professional mover. Every other day we're moving between locations and I'm carrying both of our 22kg bags and my backpack up and down all the stairs. It's a trade off between seeing as much as we can, snapping as many pics as I can and actually trying to do nothing and relax our minds. I'm probably doing more on this trip than I would do in London. I'm kinda looking forward to the day when I have nothing more planned in the near future, can finally unpack my bags, sleep in and have most days include wondering around the Old Town of Tallinn and knocking out a bit of code.

I also have to mention how nice a lot of hotel owners have been during this trip. Not many could speak English but they were polite and patient walking me through instructions and paperwork in Spanish.


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