Hola from Valparaiso! Before Valparaiso I was in Santiago...the 23 hours bus journey there was nowhere near as bad as it sounds! I had a proper bed seat and managed to get lots of sleep and still found time to watch some crap films! The views were nice too (when it wasn´t dark!) - desert, sea and then mountains! I found a really nice hostel and met some cool people. On my first night (I only planned to stay one night as I wasn´t too keen on spending much time in a big city, but it was much nicer than I expected!), we just stayed in and cooked a bbq on the terrace in the hostel. The next day I went for a walk in to the town centre, it was quite quiet as it was a Sunday but there were still quite a few people milling about, especially in Plaza de Armas where there was some sort of procession going on with all the emergency services. I watched that for a bit and then went to the mall to soak up some of the Christmasyness over here! I wasn´t feeling Christmasy at all until I came to Santiago but there´s a big xmas tree in the town centre and xmas music etc!
Yesterday I left Santiago and got the bus 1 hour north to Valparaiso, where I still am now. I was originally going to come alone but I managed to get a little group together and coax them away from Santiago! It´s such an ace town (apart from the millions of stray dogs!!) unlike anywhere I´ve been so far. All the buildings are really colourful and there are murals on a lot of them, its a graffiti artist´s heaven! It´s a very photogenic town (despite the grey sky!!). The town centre is by the port and then there are loads of little "cerros" set up in the hills (where our hostel is). There are steep steps of stairs to get up there, or you can take one of the lifts, and the views from the top are amazing across the town. We didn´t stay up there long though as we got sick of the locals telling us to watch our stuff...we´d heard it was a bit of a dodgy area, but when people are constantly coming up to you and telling you to be careful you start to get a bit worried! We spent most of yesterday eating and walking (much the same as today actually!). Today we went up to "La Sebastiana", the former house of poet Pablo Neruda - I want to live there! Such an ace house with a nautical feel to it and amazing views across the whole of Valparaiso. After that we went to the "Museo al cielo abierto" (open sky museum), which isn´t actually a museum at all, but an area of town with a collection of street murals by some of Chile´s best artists. I´m spending one more night here then my new American travel buddy and I are heading south to Pucon...xxx