Surviving earthquakes and theft in Valparaiso

If it feels like a while since I last up-dated my blog that's because it is. In Valparaiso I came down with the same cold David had had in Salta. It was inevitable really.  This must be the first holiday in twenty years I haven't carted cold and flu tablets around the world with me. It has been a long time since we got sick on holidays and I figured what was the point. I won't leave them at home again for a while.

Strangely, in a country where so many people speak beautiful English, not a single one of the pharmacists we tried spoke any at all. While it is lots of fun to practice Spanish in casual conversations I was feeling sick and miserable and not at all in the mood to struggle with the language. We got there in the end though, partly thanks to David's insistence that we keep trying pharmacies until we found one I could communicate with.

We have a room with a beautiful view. It is small, neat and outrageously priced but it sits on the side of a hill looking out across the colourful urban tangle of Valparaiso to the ocean beyond - just perfect for morning excursions and restful afternoons. On the third night of our stay I was woken by what I thought was a sudden, severe storm.  The windows shook as if they were about to be blown inwards and shattered, the building moaned and swayed. Then after 15 seconds or so it stopped as if nothing had happened.

There had been an 8.2 magnitude eathquake off the coast of Chile the night before we arrived. I have never felt an earthquake before but I couldn't see how this could be anything other than another quake. David slept through the whole thing. He was completely uninterested in my earthquake theory.

"Go back to sleep." he said.

I lay awake for a while listening for signs of evacuation or panic. When there were none I took David's advice.

In the morning I asked the hotel staff and - yes they had felt it too.

"It was quite strong", the nice man behind the desk said.

Some of the other guests had been walking back from dinner and felt the road move beneath them - now that would have been scary.

The day after the earthquake we went for a drive to Viña del Mar. Viña is just north of Valparaiso. The towns have grown into each other so that there is no clear boundary between the two, but where Valparaiso has charm and quiet dignity Viña has none. Rampant development and commercialism has been allowed to destroy what must once have been a lovely seaside town.

This is where all the big hotels have staked their claims but why anyone would ever want to stay here is beyond me. There are long beaches with dirty sand, tacky souvenir stalls, the usual assortment of touts setting out to part tourists from their money - and thieves. We parked next to the beach, locked the car and were gone for less than ten minutes, only to discover on our return that the driver's side lock had been forced and the car cleaned out. Fortunately we lost little of value. A backpack, a cap, a pair of sunglasses and a wind-cheater jacket but, as anyone who has ever been targeted by thieves will know, the feeling is not a lot of fun.

For a review of the hotel we stayed in in Valparaiso - click here

The view from our room.

Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar

Not everything was awful in Viña


  1. Hmm...the earth moved for you but not for David???

  2. Hi Ferdy,

    The owner of the hotel we were staying in said it had been standing since the 1880s and had survived several large earthquakes. I know what you mean though - I wouldn't like to live there all the time. Ironically she said the greatest danger living on the hills was not earthquakes or landslides but fire. The hills are very steep and the houses cling perilously to their sides, very like Hong Kong Island but a lot less stable looking. The roads are so narrow and twisting that once a fire starts it is difficult to put out. Fire engines can't get to many of the areas and as far as we could see there didn't appear to be any fire hydrants.



    p.s Next time the earth moves D says he definitely won't sleep through it - lol.