Chile is very long and narrow. From north to south it stretches 2625 miles from desert to glaciers and includes thousands of miles of seacoast as well as mountains over 21,000 feet. Chile has the world's largest concentration of copper, which is it's major economic resource. The central zone is fertile and bountiful providing agricultural products which are their second major economic resource and our source of many "off season" fruits and vegetables. With its natural resources and energetic people, Chile has the strongest economy in all South America.
Yesterday we set out on a full-day tour of Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Chile’s largest seaport. Valparaiso is a chaotic maze of narrow alleys, steep staircases, and colorful funiculars that ramble up 17 surrounding cerros (hills). we rode one of these ascensores to catch a spectacular view from Happy Hill, a haven for artists and writers. We wandered past old mansions and modern street art. Then we hopped into colectivos (public ride-share taxis) to enjoy lunch with a local family in their home.
Today we started our day with a talk from a local woman who told us of her experiences during the Allende Years and the Pinochet Coup that took place between 1969 and 1973. Once a model for political stability in South America, the years that socialist president Salvador Allende was in power changed everything. Political disputes, social unrest, and the economic influence of President Richard Nixon culminated in a coup d'etat, ultimately resulting in Allende's death and Pinochet's rise to power.
Later this morning we visited San Cristobal Hill, which rises above and serves as the cities playground. Later we explored Santiago’s hub on foot, then gathered for a Farewell Lunch to toast to wonderful experiences and new friends. Most of us will proceed to Easter Island for the post trip, but 5 of our fellow travelers leave this evening to return home.
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