Week 3: Spanish Lessons & Valparaiso

The week off to another  rocky start with me loosing a full bag of laundry. I amazingly managed to loose it on a bus (don’t ask). I am down to my last bra, pair of socks and a handful of clothes, not at all surprising. Things started to pick up with me getting a job in a local cafe. Payment is in coffee so it’s a sweet deal for everyone involved. The POA is to work here for the week while I’m learning Spanish. Oscar, the head chef was initially confused when I rocked up but by the end of the day he was delira with the extra set of hands and kept slipping olives into my pockets as he way of thanks.

Myself and Oscar running the show at cafe Amorillo Valparaiso

Even Spanish classes have improved. Julie calls me sweet baby girl and kisses me all the time ( if only she knew). Classes are exhausting but so worthwhile I can at least string a few sentences together.

I’ve been in the hostel almost 3 weeks so it’s becoming very like home and getting more difficult to leave. One of my solid pals is Rodrigo. He’s a funny fish but the type of fish you like. He is Chilain with absolutely no English . His job is apparently selling avocados and jay cloths on the black market ( who knows?). Anyway he helps me with my Spanish, does the dishes and will occasionally throw me a steak and some yogurts. It must be quite a fruitful operation he is running (if you will ptp). We had swordfish last night which I bought on the street. It was $3,000 pesos for 2 huge fillets (same price as a beer). Not exactly your typical backpacker grub. Unfortunately, it turned out Rodigo was actually a terrible fish. He got really aggressive/abusive with me one of the nights while I was asleep and we subsequently had to call the guards and it was Hasta Luego to Rodrigo.

Mirko who works in the hostel  brought a few of us up into the hills at night for drinks (definitely not advisable on your own). There are spectacular panorama views. Mauricio (another funny fish) from Argentina proclaimed it was the best night of his life. The night ended with Mauritio preforming some Opera. An uncomfortable yet hilarious experience. Mirko is a DJ and rapper so it was quite the contrast! The funny fish has been flocking in their droves a German girl refused to stay in a dorm with just guys as she felt uncomfortable. I took one for the team and gave her my bed, a room full of p’s whats not to love? The symphony of snoring soon transcended the room………HORRENDOUS. In fairness to the funny German girl she was right not to go into the room as it turned out Rodrigo was in the dorm.

Maca is Valaparaiso’s most famous trumpet player. She approached me after my your so vain performance asking me if I want toed see off the beaten track Valparaiso.  She soon came to the conclusion that I am like Eguene from Hey Arnold. She’s amazed how I loose everything (already on third set of hostel keys).  In fairness, probably not an inaccurate comparison. After school one day she took me to her home town. Such an authentic experience. The people here are some of the nicest I’ve ever met.

Maca Valparaiso’s best trumpet player

Another day, we went to Vina Del Mar which is described as Valparaiso’s glamorous sister. It’s 15 minutes by bus. They are worlds apart but Vina has some nice beaches where I had my first  dip in the sea. This place was badly damaged by a tsunami in 2015. Even when I was swimming the waves were insane and I only found out afterwards your not allowed swim there and I can see why. After some ginger and lemon ice creams Maca brought me to the port where we were lucky to catch the seals and seagulls having their dinner. AMAZING! Maca is so kind and has even taken an interest into the  lowpro gig and is making traditional Chilain food from scratch for one of the videos. Her salsa band were playing on Friday night so a gang of us went.  Definitely one of my highlights so far.

Going for a casual swim and bumping into this gentlemen
Beautiful birds are everywhere

The randomness continues, I was invited over to this old lad Alfredo’s house (long story). He  offered me free accommodation and Spanish lessons in his house.  I refused the above but  compromised with tea/cake his in house. The wife was far from impressed and Alfredo turned out to be a complete odd ball. I couldn’t get out any of there quicker.  Alfredo is already looking up flights to Ireland. Luckily I won’t be home so Úna and Dom can deal with that one. Dom is an expert in this department so I have no doubt Alfredo will be well fed with some bread and jam.

As I’ve mentioned before Valparaiso is a complete dream of a place but like anywhere in the world can be dangerous. Unfortunately, I had an extremely terrifying experience one sunny afternoon. I decided to explore some of the narrow hills to take some photos. Out of the blue two men ran towards me with knives screaming for my camera and pulling it from my neck.  You never know how you are going to react in these situations. My instinct was to  scream and sprint and I did; up a really steep hill and with camera around my neck. I tried to find my panic whistle while running (obviously in hindsight the panic whistle was unnecessary). Luckily there was a Man who heard the screaming and ended up scaring off the robbers. I was obviously extremely shook after the whole experience and ended up staying in a grocery shop for about half an hour. Trying to explain the whole situation in Spanish was quite taxing (impossible). I’m sure I made no sense. I re enacted the scene using spoons from their kitchen. They eventually understood and kindly walked me home that afternoon. I was afraid the men would be waiting at the bottom of the hill. This incident  happened only 5 minutes from our hostel. I subsequently found out that it was on of Valparaiso’s most dangerous streets and is a common occurrence. Everyone warns you to be careful with you belongings but you never actually think it will happen to you. I was extremely lucky. It’s definitely taken me a while to get over it but has taught me to be more careful and that I’m not in Dublin anymore.

Exploring here just before the scene of the crime

Maca my trumpet friend has since equipped me with pepper spray and a pocket knife! It’s just clear than even in day light how careful you have to be here.  Between Rodrigo and the robbers it’s been a slightly traumatizing week but situations like this keep you on your toes and remind you of all the kind people out there.

Let’s hope next week is a little less eventful!

City of colour
This little fella followed me home after the attempted robbery! Couldn’t’ have asked for better company
Having some shut eye
Valpariaiso; This really reminds me of Howth
There are 5 stray dogs for every person in Valparaiso. They are absolutely everywhere

Week 2: Valparaiso & Spanish Classes

The sleep situation is fairly grim here. I haven’t really slept in 3 days (not that that’s unusual for me).  Sharing a dorm with Cian from Laois, the amazing Portuguese Pedro and Susie who has just arrived.  Cian’s snoring is so outrageous it’s impressive. He gets away with it because he is absolutely hilarious and a legend. He even gets away with slagging my hairy legs. He was shocked at the state of them and described me as a ‘rugged beast’ which I will take as a complement!!

Cian, Ester, Milko and Pedro

Myself, Nenny (our German pal), Joe and Susie did a really cool Grafitti Walking Tour with a chap called Ed. This place is famous with Artists all over the world and there is some seriously impressive street art wherever you turn. We lost two soldiers during the tour; Susie and Joe so myself and Nenny treated ourselves to the cities best Empanadas afterwards (Casa de la Empanada Portena)  and bought gigantic bottles of Chillian wine!Probably the best thing I’ve eaten since arriving! Empanadas are absolutely everyone and the cheapest food option.

Susie looking really impressed with the artwork
One of the many hills in Valparaiso
View from the top of the funicular

Disaster struck fairly early on in the trip when I lost my debit card. From speaking to other travelers most people bring at least 3 cards with them. I thought one would suffice considering how careful I am with my belongings! I did however bring 2 panic whistles, 2 first aid kits, tooth brush covers and a sleeping bag liner for a sleeping bag I don’t own !(priorities). I  ended up leaving the debit card in the supermarket but didn’t cop it until 2 days later. Amazingly when I went down to the supermarket it had been handed in. Pedro played a blinder and did all the translating for me. I was blessed as I was down to my last peso! I continue to live up to my woeful track record with finances! Úna quick on the mark got a credit card couriered to Santiago! (he’s currently en route so fingers crossed he arrives asap). To celebrate the finding of the card we decided to all hit the tiles. It soon escalated with my  new found love for Pisco Sours. I ended up hijacking the stage for a compulsory performance of ‘Your So Vain’. The Chilean’s went with it and even through my a few  off key backing cords. This was followed by an Irish dancing session to some traditional Chilean music. Quite the spectacle!

The next day I was up at the crack of dawn (as per, due to Storm Cian).  I hired Pedro for some private Spanish lessons.  Although he was a good prof It was decided that professional help was needed. I decided to sign up for a weeks lessons. I love Valparaiso so much I would happily stay for weeks. My other roomie Ester is from Barcelona and doesn’t really speak English. It’s so funny we spend so much time together and she generally just laughs at my Spanish attempts but we get on great.  It’s all hands on deck with the Spanish attempts. I’m desperate to learn. The french is creeping in more and more and obviously the couple focal! It didn’t realise how essential it was to speak Spanish here hardly anyone has English.

Myself and Prof Pedro

Myself and Susie had a fab 3 days together and I’m so glad our trips coincided.  Susie is coming to the end of her 6 months of travelling and gave me so many tips. We spent our time eating, laughing and pottering between the numerous wine bars. We couldn’t’ have been luckier with our hostel friends. We even managed to squeeze in a lowpro video which was professionally produced by Cian and Pedro ( my in house low pro advisers).

Myself and Susie sitting on a piano stairs

I ended up getting severely lost in the city having dropped Nenny to to the bus stop. They call it a small San Franciso the hills are endless. It was scorching. I had decided to let Pedro mind all of my money and phone (post debit card disaster). I had no idea where we lived and obviously couldn’t remember the name of the hostel. I ended up stuck in the middle of a  large protest. I was so dehydrated and hungry I ended up having a   ‘brief ‘ nap on a bench, probably not the wisest idea in a fairly dodgy lane!  Anyway hours later I scrambled home, nothing a few Cervazas didn’t cure. Lesson learned always bring dolla bills and know where you live!

Getting lost in the markets

With Cian and Susie gone another gang of Irish arrived so the party continued. We drank ginormous bottles of red wine ($3/bottle). We went out for some Pisco and live trumpet music absolutely amazing!

A dog that followed us for 3 hours on our Graffiti Tour
A Man just randomly doing a puppet show in his garden

I took a 2 hour bus to explore Isla Negre a small coastal town nearby. Apparently there is some famous poet called Neruda that everyone’s mad about and he build a house here which is pretty cool. I just chilled on the rocks and watched the insanely big waves and read my book I am Pilgrim (thanks for the recommendation Cillian).

Isla Negre: The waves are so insane here your not allowed swim

Full of optimism for my Spanish lessons I even wore some makeup and got dressed up  (backpacker standard).  I arrived, and soon realized I was the only student in the beginner class.  First lesson was extremely full on.  As most of you know I have a tendencies to have a little shut eye during meetings and classes. My first day was no exception. I fell asleep as Julie (my teacher) was writing on the board we are in this teeny room and it’s 3 hour straight of Spanish. She laughed about it and taught me know to say I’m nackered ‘Yo Tengo mucha cansado’. Classes are at 9am-12.15 for 5 days costing 118,00$ peso. I have to reign it on the vino tinto the night before and I genuinely think it would be a form of torture to endure Julie’s Spanish class hungover. It’s great that i’m getting 1 on 1 tuition but it’s fairly heavy stuff.

Just another 4 lessons to go…………..

Week 1: Santiago & Valparaiso

I eventually arrived in Santiago 40 hours after leaving Home Farm Road having taken the scenic route via Canada. For some reason I thought the flight was at 6 pm but it was 2 pm, made the flight by the skin of my teeth. I secretly wanted to cause some fuss before leaving.
Initial vibes in Santiago were a little grotty. Obviously in an attempt to keep the dolla bills healthy I decided to walk from bus stop to the hostel (over an hour). Backpack already proving painful!
Most of the guide books tell you Santiago isn’t up to much and not to stay longer than two days. Bella Vista is a trendy backpacker area with great nightlife. It’s also pretty dangerous. As I was walking home one day two guys were just snorting cocaine on the streets I was taking pictures of  one of them with my really ‘discrete’ camera! I moved swiftly on, not wanting to be a witness in crime.
I was put in touch with Niall (friend of a friend) an Irish guy  working here as a brand ambassador for Jameson. We went to the coolest coffee shop (Wonderland) I actually ended up leaving my hostel and stayed there for the night.  It’s in an area called Lastarria (so much nicer than Bellavista, really cool and quirky vibes here defo recommend).
Niall got me an invite to a whiskey tasting at an art gallery that night.  It was on the 11th floor of a building with amazing panoramic views of the city. I pre warned him I was going to look a bit rough and probably wasn’t the typical clientele. I was right; I looked grim everybody was super glam and there was no bar only tasters of Jameson (I could have done with the bottle).The cherry on the cake I spoke no Spanish and no one spoke English. After looking like a predator for most of the night I eventually found a really nice French guy who I clung too inappropriately all night. The crowd were v cool two of Micheal Jackson’s back up dancers were there and did a performance absolutely amazing experience.
Local vendors at Mercado Central
During the day I visited Mercado Central  a really famous fish market but extremely dodgy also. All of the vendors have their fish on display and you can eat from a number of different stalls.
I ended up chatting to this Chilean dentist, Gilbert who has been coming to this place for the past 30 years. It goes without saying my first mate of the trip was 60 years old and slightly creepy.  He swears by the Caldillo de Congrio (Eel Soup made with potato and stock) is the best in the country. It looked mauldy but tasted decent as long as you avoided the eel’s guts. In fairness it was a step up from the usual Chilean fare of deep fat fired foods, burgers and hot dogs. So far the grub hasn’t been mighty.
Caldillo de Congrio (Eel Soup made with potato and stock)
One of the fish mongers from the market
This man was being escorted out after robbing someone at the fish market.
I decided on my last day to go to Chile’s equivilant of Taste of Dublin. Amazing food, booze and music and a cracker of a day. I blew all my budget there. Chile is expensive so I am allowing myself 60$/day (ish). That night dinner was pretty bleek it consisted of banana and bread I bought off this woman on the street (turns out it was cannabis bread I was so hungry so I ate it anyway and it was acutally delish v good combo with the banana).
Moscow Mules at Taste of Chile
 Next stop Valpariso. Only an 1 1/2 hours away from Santiago this place is the real ma-coy. Charming character, amazing street art and quaint little coffee shops. You can just get lost in this place. It’s a photographers dream!
Stayed in a fab hostel called Hostal Casa Verde Limo. Meeting Susie later so the plan is to stay for a while and learn some Espanol!
 Street art in the Unesco Heritage Site of Valparaiso
Street Doors
Hard at work