February 1, 2022. 68°F/20°C
Valparaíso/Santiago was my favourite port of call on our 2019 cruise because of its connection to Pablo Neruda, perhaps my very favourite poet. Santiago2019
This time, our focus can be something different, so we chose 2 different tours, one for each of our days here.
But first, a bit about how hard Viking worked to get us into this port. Chile is VERY serious about trying to mitigate the spread of Covid. To that end, they’re not welcoming tourists without having them first jump through a lot of hoops.
(As an aside, Chile has the highest vaccination rate of any Latin American country, at 90%, and is the first South American country to be offering a fourth vaccine dose to its populace.)
Two weeks ago, we began the process of getting our Chilean vaccine passports. Ted and I were among the few for whom that online process worked smoothly. As late as this morning, Viking staff were still working with passengers who have re-submitted documentation several times and still not been approved. We’re very grateful that Canada adopted the QR code certificates; those made it much easier for us as they seemed to be compatible with Chile’s process. I expect we’ll be happy to have them again when we reach Europe, which has adopted QR codes for their vaccine passes.
A couple of days ago, we received a second document via email from the Chilean government: a C19 form, which is our digital certificate for entry to Chile. Everyone was also asked to go personally to one of the ship’s Guest Services desks to fill out a Health Declaration Affadavit and an Agricultural Declaration Affadavit. All 3 of these documents must accompany us when we leave the ship, along with the QR code vaccine passports on our mobile devices. Viking printed all the necessary papers for us, and delivered them to our rooms along with a checklist of everything we need to carry.
But that’s not all! We each need to carry a copy of yesterday’s onboard PCR test’s negative result (remember, Viking tests us daily).
So we’re ready. But… the most important part of this entire process is that Chile would only accept a 100% “clean” ship, i.e. no Covid cases. For all the grumbling about the “inconvenience“ of masks, distancing, and testing, it is only through Viking’s diligence in insisting that everyone follow their protocols that we’re able to disembark today.
Right now, we are the ONLY “clean” cruise ship sailing with passengers aboard (there are a few with crew only) … maybe in the world. Certainly there is no one on the CDC’s list who can match us. Kudos to Viking!!
We arrived early morning to a port partially shrouded in mist, but nonetheless we could see that although we’re the only cruise ship here, there were lots of freighters as well as Chilean naval ships. Many of the freighters are waiting out their mandatory quarantine periods in the harbour’s waters before being allowed into port.
Because the entire city is shaped like an amphitheatre, its hills curving around the port, we felt like our ship was surrounded by thousands of brightly coloured buildings, reaching in tiers from the sea to the hilltops.
It is interesting by day and stunning by night.
Our tour today was the included overview of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.
What we didn’t know before today was just how very diverse this port city is. Precisely because it was an important location for commerce, shortly after the Spaniards discovered it (legend has, by accident when one of their ships ran aground here and had to stay 3 months while repairs were done) the British, the Germans, the French, and the Italians came. The British brought banking. The Germans established the fire department (the firetrucks still say FEUERWEHR on their fronts, the German word for fire brigade). Today there are still foreign-language schools for the English, French, German, Italian, and Greek communities. Ted and I both felt, after today’s tour, that this is a city in which we could comfortably spend a winter.
The first part of our tour took us to Viña del Mar, the “fashionable” part of Valparaíso, with its yacht clubs, casino, and resorts. Located here, too, is the floral clock created to celebrate the 1962 World Cup, and which is a functional clock as well as being beautiful. It reminded us of the very similar floral clock at the Adam Beck Generating Station in Niagara Falls Canada!
En route, we noticed a couple of things we’ve come to expect in Central and South American countries: graffiti/street art, and street vendors.
Our main destination in Viña del Mar was the Fonck Museum, a small Archeology & history museum with exhibits on local culture, including a Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Moai statue. The statue is a real one; Rapa Nui has been a Chilean territory since 1888, with its citizens granted full Chilean citizenship in 1966. Unlike Moai “stolen” from the island, like the one in the British Museum, the statue at the Fonck was moved with permission, although it “suffers” from being too far from the ocean, which a Moai needs to overlook.
While quite small, the museum held a wonderful overview of the indigenous cultures of Chile, with artifacts that highlighted the difference between coastal peoples and those living east of the mountains that divide this narrow country almost in half. Coastal artifacts show erosion by salt air and water; those from inland retain vibrant colours from being preserved in almost desert-like conditions.
After leaving the Viña del Mar area, we toured a couple of the hillsides as well as the commercial centre of Valparaíso.
Chile, like California, is prone to earthquakes, but building codes ensure that homes and offices don’t collapse. The biggest danger is from fire, since it is a challenge to get firetrucks up the steep narrow roadways.
At one point, the city had 72 funiculars to take people up and down the hills – each with a parallel set of stairs, which would certainly give anyone a cardiac workout! Only 16 of the funiculars are still in operation.
Tonight, Viking arranged a local cultural experience for us – a “Destination Performance” – bringing Folk Ballet Sin Frontera on board to present their dance show “Chile from South to North”. Some of the 3/4 rhythms with accordion made me think of polkas, but the traditional dance from Rapa Nui, with the dancers clad in feathers, was definitely the show-stopper.
Tomorrow we venture to Chile’s capital city Santiago for a full day excursion featuring a city tour, lunch, and visit to a handicraft market. I love being in port!
By the way, we were not asked for ANY of our paperwork today … but we COULD have been. We’ll be carrying all of it, as well as our most recent PCR test results, again tomorrow.