Corrugated City

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

South of Valpo

Yesterday we took a trip to the towns along the coast south of Valpo. I hadn't been this way for almost 3 years. When the girlf was working for Banco de Chile, we used to go to the company's weekend getaway cabins in Algorrobo.

It's really amazing to see how much has changed in the area. The amount of investment in apartment blocks, 'condominios' (private communities) and new houses was a real suprise. Many of these towns used to be separate but they are now almost joined together. From Algorrobo all the way down to Cartagena, the boundaries between the little towns are becoming blurred.

Some of the projects are simply horrible, but there are a few that caught my eye as pretty decent examples of what can be done with a little effort. The best example was a group of 5 apartment blocks in Mirasol, just south of Algorrobo. Instead of building the generic DIY apartment blocks that blight much of the coast, the architects designed a Southern Spanish, Moorish complex. The result is really good. Unfortunately i couldn't get a single decent angle for a photo but trust me when i say it was pretty spectacular. next time i'm in the area i'll try to get some photos.

Anyway, the first place we visited yesterday was Quintay. Quintay is a small fishing village that really reminded me of some of the little villages in Devon and Cornwall. At least one side of it did. Just around the corner from the idyllic part of the village are 3 hideous tower blocks and many new houses in a private community. Some of the houses are quite nice and fit in ok but the apartment blocks simply ruin the natural look of the place. No thought was made to try to blend the apartments in. Shameful.

Quintay was once a whaling station. The industry shut down when Chile signed up to the 1967 moratorium on whaling. The station was open from around 1945 and in its best year managed to slaughter 1606 whales, including many Blue Whales. That's 5 or so whales a day. Horrible. The station is now open as a privately funded museum and is well worth the 500 pesos (US$1) entry fee. There are a few old photos on display and explanations of what went on but just walking around the place is the best way of understanding the pointless slaughter. All the photos below are of Quintay.

A bit of wildlife

After Quintay we headed down the coast through Tunquen, Algorrobo, El Quisco, Isla Negra and El Tabo before finally arriving in Cartagena.

I found Cartagena fascinating; it used to be a really rich seaside resort and it's easy to see why-the beach is beautiful and the coastline around spectacular. Some of the old architecture is amazing, lots of crumbling Victorian and Gothic mansions. For some reason, the town fell from grace. It's now commonly known as 'Rascagena', which translates roughly as "Chavtown" or "Townieville". Although it advertises itself as the most popular resorts for OAPs, Cartagena is now a cheap resort for the cap wearing lager louts of Chilean society. The beach apparently becomes a large refuse tip in summer as 1000s of delightful young people dump the wrappers of whatever they've drunk or eaten in the sand. Nice. Unfortunately i was too tired to be bothered to take any photos.

For a quick history lesson in Spanish about this place that "en los años 60 se fue al chancho" (went to the dogs) have a read of this article.

I prefer Maitencillo to any of the places we visited yesterday but i have to admit i was really surprised at the levels of investment and progress (depending on your point of view) in the area. If you're visiting Chile, it's worth hiring a car and visiting these places.

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