Neruda, Tortuga and Valparaiso.

For a very large city Santiago was fairly easy to explore on foot and by taxi. The conical hill of San Cristobal provides panoramic views of the city, and close up views of the colossal statue of the Virgin (an important Christian religious symbol). We ate (very well) at Como Agua para Chocolate(note the brass bed used as a table, bottom left, below) and bought stamps at what is probably the most impressive post office in South America (bottom, centre, below). The philatelic museum in the post office had a huge collection of stamps from all over the world.

We also visited La Chascona the Santiago home of Neruda.

In the last few days we have visited three homes that used to belong to Pablo Neruda, one in Santiago, one in Isla Negra and one in Valparaiso. All three were fascinating. Pablo Neruda, as you doubtless recall, was the pen name of the Chilean writer and communist politician Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential poets of the 20th century (a Nobel prize winner) and probably the most widely read poet since William Shakespeare.

His houses are designed and decorated in what might be called a nautical eclectic style, with many carved bowsprits, hundreds of coloured bottles, collections of quirky collectibles and several bars (per house). All in exquisite taste, both Neruda's and his many artist friends. It is slightly odd that Neruda seems to have become a "brand" that is marketed via the visual impact of his houses, when his main artistic contribution was poetry and his political orientation was communist. We were told that most visitors to his houses were foreigners (i.e. not Chilean).

On our way from Isla Negra towards Valparaiso we passed thru the small town of Algarrobo where we were flagged down by a very excited man in a van. My immediate reaction was wondering if I had scraped his car or run over his dog. I locked the door before pulling over.

Hans turned out to be pleased to see us because he was a great Unimog fan. He had been chasing us since we drove past his restaurant. We were immediately invited back to park at his home, meet his family, and inspect his Unimog campervan (called Tortuga).

Hans, his wife, son and daughter-in-law were all introduced and a very enjoyable time was had. Thank you.

Tortuga had originally been shipped from Europe to the USA and driven down to Chile some years ago. (Tortuga was built by Langer & Bock in Germany and is one of a small number of Unimog campervans with a raising roof.)

Hans' family run a number of enterprises in Algarrobo including the splendid Casa del Cerro restaurant and a fashion boutique (bottom right, above). Highly recommended. (If you are driving a Unimog, park outside the restaurant and count to ten.)

A part of Valparaiso is a World Heritage site, with lots of corrugated iron buildings painted in bright colours. Because parts of the city are very steep there are lots of (15?) funicular railways, originally for local use, now more of a tourist attraction. Some of the outdoor art is impressive.

It was not easy to find anywhere to park a campervan in Valparaiso. There do not seem to be any official campsites and the heart of the town is so crowded that there is little chance of wild camping.

So we tried the adjoining town of Vina de Mar and found a good "wild" camp in the public parking lot of the Sheraton Miramar Hotel, right on the beach.

The car park attendant seems quite happy for us to park several nights here at a cost of around $10USA per 24 hours. There is no security (the car park is not fenced) but the area feels very safe. S33.023543 W71.569103.

Stephen Stewart.

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