Monday, April 20, 2009

Valdivia, Chile

From Chiloé, we took a bus up to the college/beer/waterfront town of Valdivia. Valdivia is a pretty town a few miles upriver from the Pacific. It has been in existence since the mid-1500's. In the 1800's, a number of German settlers came to Valdivia, and started a beer brewery that eventually evolved into a national industry. They still make some great beer in Valdivia.

Valivia is also a college town--lots of young people there. This seems to have help keep the prices down, as we found lots of places to eat and stay, and reasonable hostal prices and restaurant prices.

The center of tourism in Valdivia is the lovely riverfront. The town has beautiful walkways along the water, a very nice open-air fish and veggie market, and an artisan market, all on the water.

The first day we were there, with fantastic weather, we booked a 'dinner cruise' on one of the boats along the waterfront. With a little negotiating, we got the 14,000 peso price down to 12,000 pesos per person (about $20 USD). This included 6 hour boat trip, a sit-down lunch, a free Pisco Sour, and afternoon snacks, as well as guided stops at 2 of the old forts downriver.

Our Boat, the Reina Sophia

Our trip ended up being quite the unplanned adventure. First, it started out badly... departing an hour late, with no steward service while we were onboard waiting, no explanation of what was going on. It turns out that the guide that was supposed to be on board had gotten into an accident in the taxi on the way to the boat. He was probably also the person who was supposed to be serving us drinks while we sat and waited!

Dave Examining Cannons at the Fort

Then, after visiting the first fort, as we pulled away, the engine stopped. After drifting for a few minutes, we found out that the water pump had failed. They told us that one of the other boats would come and take us off. Eventually, the big catamaran doing the same kind of tour just ahead of us, came back and took all 20 or so passengers off our smaller vessel. They were very gracious and treated us very well. It was much nicer inside and seemed like a much more organized operation. Next time we'd take the catamaran.

The Rescue Catamaran

On the following day, another gorgeous day, we did a bunch of things:

1. Visited the Valdivia Yacht Club to see the American boat we had seen from our river cruise. We met Mark and Brandy from s/v Restless and had a good chat about their recent visit from Ecuador to Easter Island and then down to Chile.

s/v Restless at the Valdivia Yacht Club

2. Shopped in the open air market (smoked fish, paperback books in English, raisins)

3. Went to the Museo Histórico y Antropológico Maurice van de Maele, where we saw furniture, maps, clothing, and other artifacts from the early days of Valdivia. Probably the coolest thing was an old restored carriage.

4. Sat and watched the 'Lobos Marinos' (Sea Wolves, aka Sea Lions) play 'king of the mountain' on a couple of floating docks in the river.

5. Strolled the waterfront, people watching and sea lion watching.

6. Ate (twice) at one of the restaurants above the Artisan Market.

7. Watched a bunch of college kids celebrate victory in a televised soccer match. They ran through town making noise and carrying flags. The local police zoomed up in a few minutes on small street cycles, to just monitor the commotion.

8. Packed up our backpacks, ready for an early departure for the 7 hour trip to Bariloche, Argentina, in the morning.

It was a nice relaxing day.

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