The road was beautifully twisty as we climbed toward the border, which was just to the far side of the Andes. Driving past rocky peaks and ski resorts made us feel like we were back in Colorado, and other than the unpredictable wind it was a great ride; and probably never got below 45 degrees - even with snow all around. I guess Aussies just think anything below 68 degrees is cold!
At the 14th border of the trip we found something I had given up on seeing in my lifetime. At first I thought I was hallucinating because of the altitude, but, no, it was real. A SIGN EXPLAINING THE ORDER OF OPERATIONS AT THE BORDER! This 6' by 8' sheet of metal answered a prayer I had made (mostly with foul oaths) as I scrambled around every border in Central and South America with two hands full of crumpled paperwork in search of various, dubious, "officials." It may have only cost them $200 to make, but to me it was the holy grail. So simple, so beautiful; I couldn't tear my eyes away. It was only in Spanish, but I can't really fault them for that.
Anyway, we breezed through the border with little issue, until stop #4 - "Control Fitozoosanitario" and Jill's contraband banana. (a "contrabandnana", if you will) They asked if we had any fruits or vegetables - as our visa applications indicated that we did not -but under the scathing scrutiny of the banana-sniffing dog I cracked...and admitted that we were in possession of exactly one Argentine banana - or 1/2 kilo of "Argentine gold" as they call it on the streets. The agent rolled his eyes and sighed in appreciation of my belated honesty, and led me into a special room to fill out paperwork declaring our previously-undeclared banana. I then filled out a full page document detailing the banana, myself, our trip, etc. When I handed the sheet to the agent I held out my other hand to receive my newly-declared banana - but there had been a serious misunderstanding. He wagged his finger at me, and then looked me straight in the eye as he chucked the banana in the trash. OK. So, I was in a remote government office somewhere high in the Chilean Andes having a tense exchange regarding a document legalizing the disposal of a piece of fruit. High Adventure! and, Declare Your Bananas! So after that AND the border sign I was pretty impressed with Chile - a country must really have things pretty well sorted out to have the money to pay for banana-sniffing dogs, border signs, and uniformed, stern and professional banana-trashers. Onward! Banana-less.
Either Chileans don't like mountains or vice-versa, because the Andes called it quits about 50 feet out of the border station. It's hard to see in the photo, but these are the 13 switchbacks in a row as you enter Chile. 12,000 feet to 10,000 feet in one mile as the crow files. Within ten miles it was green and beautiful again, and within an hour we were down to 3,000 feet or so. Sadly, with the time (not to mention nutritional value) lost in the banana incident, we couldn't make it to Valparaiso that night. But we did make it here:
|Please note the heavenly sun ray at the upper right lighting our path|
We cruised around town to check things out a little, and then drove up Cerro Conception to find a place to stay. La Masion du Filou was not particularly eye-catching from the exterior, but bay views, theme-park like hallway decorations and the hospitality of the owner, Fabien, made it one of the highlights of the trip.
|I walked out onto our balcony and felt a sudden urge to chug Port, chain smoke and write pithy, introspective novels on a typewriter.|
|They protested for better educational opportunities, we ate ice cream WHILE drinking beer. Why isn't our college free?!|
|If Jill and I ever disappear without a trace, this little house would be a good place to look...|
|Graffiti is not a crime in "Valpo" This is a city sponsored art and music festival featuring local street artists|