Vida Huancaína

Our adventure in the Andes


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Cousin Adventures: Lima

We just had our first visitor here in Peru–my lovely cousin!  We planned a two-week itinerary on what we jokingly call the “gringo trail.” It hit all of the big sights, while also strategically increasing in altitude along the way to allow for ample time to adjust as we climbed higher into the Andes. The plan was to start in Lima (the capitol city), then fly to Arequipa (the “White City”), then fly to Cusco (the jumping off point for Machu Picchu), then finally fly to Puno (on the shores of Lake Titicaca).  Despite all of our best efforts, our plans were thwarted on many fronts: my cousin’s arrival to Lima was delayed a full day due to a medical emergency on one of her flights, then 2 of the 3 of us were struck down in Arequipa with what we later referred to as the “stomach plague,” and then our flight from Cusco to Puno was cancelled without warning.  Long story short, we didn’t make it to all the planned sights and actually ended up rebooking our tickets to end the trip a few days earlier than originally planned.  Yet, despite all of the hiccups along the way, we did manage to see some beautiful places and make some great memories!

So, let’s start with Lima!  It’s the middle of the hot and muggy summer season in the capitol city, a nice respite for both our American visitor, as well as for us Huancayo-dwellers who are in the middle of the rainy/winter season (it’s still crazy to me how two places only 123 miles/197 km apart, as the crow flies, can be experiencing opposite seasons at the same time!). We started and ended our tour in Lima, taking in some of the museums and local must-sees, as well as eating some of the delicious local cuisine.  Chris and I had been waiting to visit some of these locations until we had visitors, so they were new for us as well! No tour would be complete without walking down the malecón (boardwalk) in the Miraflores district. The view of the expansive ocean, as well as the gardens lining the walkway, make it a must-see location.  We made a particular point one our first day together to walk the malecón, where we stopped at Parque del Amor (Park of Love) to take in the mosaics with romantic quotations woven into them. Then we taxied over to the Barranco neighborhood in the afternoon to have our first ceviche together at Canta Rana, walked across the famed puente de suspiros (bridge of whispers), spent some time relaxing in the air-conditioned Barranco Beer Company, and then finished up our first day at La 73 to introduce my cousin to her first pisco sour!  It was quite a packed first day in Peru, and I was so busy visiting that I didn’t get very many photos!

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paragliders over the malecón

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cousins at parque del amor!

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tu de este lado y yo del otro como dos remos / you on this side and me on the other like two oars

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pisco sours! cheers!

On our way back through Lima at the end of the trip, we hit up some sights further downtown.  Our first stop of the morning was Museo Larco, which houses a large collection of pottery, jewelry and textiles from indigenous groups all over Peru spanning nearly 5,000 years.  The artifacts were collected by Rafael Larco, who founded the museum and is also considered to be the father of Peruvian archaeology. My favorite part of the permanent exhibit was the textiles, particularly the display of different knitting and weaving tools.  Did you know that cotton was domesticated in Peru some 4,500 years ago and was used to make textiles?  I always think of camelid fibers when I think of Peru, but I guess I should also include cotton! The collection also includes two quipus, which are thought to be the Inca’s method of recording countable information since they did not have a written language (though we still don’t know how to read the quipus).

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Museo Larco

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gold and garment displays

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clockwise from top left: remnants of a textile; a quipu; a textile made from cotton and camelid fibers; and knitting and weaving tools

left: pottery from Moche/Huari epoch 800-1300 AD / right: maternal representations

left: pottery from Moche/Huari epoch 800-1300 AD / right: representations of motherhood

Rounding out our time in Lima, we stopped by the Plaza de Armas, the central plaza, to take in the Spanish colonial architecture, the Cathedral, and the government buildings that surround the square.  Then we walked over to Hotel Maury, famous for being the inventor of the pisco sour!  The pisco sours weren’t as good as those we have tried at other locations in Lima and throughout Peru, but the atmosphere was lovely with a dark wooden bar and large modern paintings depicting colonial ladies and gents.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

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Plaza selfie!

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bar at Hotel Maury

Though our time was shorter than anticipated in Lima, I think we were able to hit up quite a few of the must-see spots and soak up some culture!

Up next on the “gringo trail,” the “White City” of Arequipa!

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Huancahuasi

Huancahuasi is our new favorite restaurant in Huancayo!  It’s a restaurante turístico (tourist restaurant) that serves up delicious local and regional dishes and drinks, with a backdrop of truly huancan (Huancayan) decor.

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a very traditional decoration, braided corn hanging from the ceilings

corn with husks braided together, a very traditional decoration, hanging from the ceilings…and a not so traditional Santa dressed in local clothing 🙂

We have been back three times since we discovered the restaurant in December, have tried many different things on the menu, and have loved them all.  Our favorites include the rocoto relleno (kind of like a stuffed bell pepper, but the rocoto pepper is native to this area of the world (and decidedly spicer) and is stuffed with ground beef and spices and covered with Andean cheese), quinoa tamale (a traditional tamale, but the masa (dough) is mixed with quinoa), and conejo picante (spicey rabbit).

To wash it down, Huancahuasi has a variety of drinks like chica morada (a sweet juice made from purple corn) and chica de jora (a fermented corn drink). They also serve up cocktails with regional influences, like a coca pisco sour (your traditional Peruvian pisco sour with a bit of coca leaf tea infused into it).  Yummy.

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rocoto relleno with accordion potatoes

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arroz con pato (rice with duck) and a pitcher of chica de jora in the background

We recommend going on a Saturday or Sunday when there are even more choices on the menu, including the super delicious regional specialty pachamanca (we made one with our host family in the backyard last year during Semana Santa).  We’re going to try to go to Huancahuasi as many times as possible to try as many dishes as possible before we leave!

Now we’re off for a couple weeks to travel around Peru, and we plan to try as many regional specialties as possible!  Check back in a couple weeks for the full report.


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Chile yarn love

If Peru is the place for alpaca yarn lovers, then Chile is the place for wool yarn lovers.

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Much of the land in Patagonia, Chiloé, and Los Lagos district has been turned into pasture land for grazing.  The sheep are predominantly Merinos, but there are also Corriedales, as well as mixes that have been interbred to produce softer fleeces.

We had the opportunity to visit a ranch in Patagonia called Estancia del Zorro, where they raise Corriedales over acres and acres of beautiful land.  They were just getting ready to shear the sheep for the summer and they took us for a quick tour of their barn.

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Estancia del Zorro

beautiful grazing land...wouldn't you like to be a sheep with that view all day?

beautiful grazing land…wouldn’t you like to be a sheep with that view all day?

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shearing barn

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shearing pens inside the barn

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shearing machinery

I was lucky enough to pick up some yarn in nearly every place we stopped during our time in Chile.  In Valparaiso, I got some lovely deep purple wool yarn in a worsted weight (that brightly variegated yarn is an alpaca/cotton mix).  Then in Chiloé, I got some lovely brown and cream colored wool yarn in a worsted weight with a contrasting lace weight yarn wrapped around it.  Finally, in Los Lagos region, I got some of the ubiquitous variegated wool yarn that they sell in all sorts of crazy colors.

While I plan to give most of the yarn away as gifts, I am going to keep the Chiloé yarn and I plan to make myself a cozy shawl or wrap.  I’m thinking of making myself a Romney Kerchief by Jared Flood at Brooklyn Tweed.

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Valparaiso yarns

Los Lagos yarn

Los Lagos yarn

Chiloé yarn

Chiloé yarn

And, to leave this post on a super happy note, please enjoy this gratuitously cute video of a teeny tiny black sheep.  🙂


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Los Lagos

We wrapped up our Chilean adventure exploring the Los Lagos district.  Not only is the area home to many beautiful lakes, but it is also home to breathtakingly beautiful volcanoes. We traveled around quite a bit, visiting the towns that border Lake Llanquihue, the 3rd largest lake in South America.

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The region was settled primarily by Germans in the 1850s as part of colonization scheme by the Chilean government and is now home to many cute towns filled with wooden homes built in traditional German style.  Also, if Patagonia were the land of the lupines, this would be the land of hydrangeas.  They were planted everywhere!  In gardens, on the side of the road, in all different colors.

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needlepoint in both German and Spanish in one of the hostals we stayed at

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German-esque architecture in Puerto Varas

wooden church in Puerto Varas

Iglesia Sagrado Corazón, done in the style of a church from the Black Forest of Germany

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some of the many, many hydrangeas

more beautiful hydrangeas

more beautiful hydrangeas

We started in Puerto Varas, which is your quintessential resort and adventure sports town.  There are lots of high end shops (even a Patagonia!) and hotels and restaurants (we even ate at one that Anthony Bourdain had been to).  It was nice to have access to these kinds of things (especially because I was in need of a new raincoat as my old one had started to absorb rather than repel water), but it was a little too busy for us.  Though it does have some beautiful views of the conical, snow-capped Volcano Osorno, as well as Volcano Calbuco and Mt. Tronador.

Volcano Osorno

Volcano Osorno

We used Puerto Varas as our central location during our time in the region, leaving our heavy bags at a hotel there and taking just a few items in our backpacks as we headed around the lake to a smaller town called Puerto Octay.  The story goes that a German trader named Ochs used to live there and people would come to town asking, “Ochs hay ___ ?” (Ochs, do you have ___ ? Fill in the blank with flour, sugar, etc.)  And over the years it slowly morphed into Octay.  Cute story, but the town itself really doesn’t have much going for it.  What you’re there for is being a little bit more off the beaten path and for being close to outdoor adventures.

Puerto Octay

Puerto Octay

In Puerto Octay we stayed at an adorable little hostal called Zapato Amarillo (Yellow Shoe), which is about 10 minutes outside of town by car.  Nestled in among fields of grazing cows and sheep, the hostal has both a shared dormitory room and private cabins.  We opted for a private space, that even came with its own wood-burning stove!  The hostal also serves breakfast and dinner, so you don’t have to worry about getting to and from town later in the evening.  The grounds are beautifully landscaped with lavender, hydrangeas, and various fruit trees and the owners are super nice and helpful.  We highly recommend staying there!

Zapato Amarillo

Zapato Amarillo

inside our room with a cozy fireplace

inside our room with a cozy fireplace

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sunset view of Volcano Osorno from the room

sunset view of Volcano Osorno from the room

On our last day in Puerto Octay, we packed up our backpacks and took a taxi to the trailhead of Paso Desolación (Desolation Pass) in Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales to hike around the base of Volcano Osorno!  The 13 km/8 mile trail takes you across the lava fields at the base of the volcano, down to a lookout of an alpine lake called Todos los Santos, and then finally down to a town called Petrohue.

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the volcanic rock trail leading around the base of Osorno

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Lake Todos los Santos

Lake Todos los Santos

Petrohue means “where the mosquitoes are” in the local language.  I think maybe they mistranslated the name and it should mean something like, “where the horseflies are.” The little buggers were EVERYWHERE, all over us, biting us, and circling us like prey the entire hike.  So much so that we didn’t ever want to stop for more than a couple minutes at a time.  The sun was also beating down on us something fierce and burning our ears and necks despite the 50 SPF sunscreen we had slathered on.  Though it was really cool to see the volcano up close, had we really known what we were getting into, I don’t think we would’ve done it.  At least not in the month of January when the horseflies are so bad. Take the below photo, for example.  See that humungous horsefly smack in the middle of the picture?

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All in all the region was a beautiful place to visit. The lakes and the volcanoes are absolutely stunning. Just maybe go before or after the horsefly season.  🙂


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Chiloé

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palafitos in Chiloé

The third stop on our Chilean adventure was the archipelago of Chiloé.  Just a short ferry ride from the mainland, the islands of Chiloé are home to many unique and beautiful things.  It’s well known for its wooden-shingled buildings, and for its homes that have been built jutting out over the water on wooden stilts called palafitos.  Many of these palafitos have been converted into hotels and shops.  We stayed in one and it was a wonderful experience with beautiful views extending across the water of the bay.  A lovely spot to sip some wine and take in the late summer sunset.

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There are also many churches dotting the islands that sport the traditional wooden shingles, many of which are painted in vibrant colors.  The church on the main plaza in Castro, one of the largest cities of the archipelago, is bright yellow with lavender and pink accents.

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Seafood is one of the main cuisines on Chiloé and they have some really delicious local dishes.  The most talked about dish is called curanto, which is a mix of shell fish, chicken, sausage, and potatoes, all cooked together on top of hot stones in a hole dug into the ground (very similar to the pachamanca of the Peruvian Andes).  We tried curanto at a place in the city of Ancud called Kuranton, which has the cutest decorations inside (check out the cute little lady knitting in her rocking chair! … side note: wool yarn and knitting is everywhere in this part of the world, more on that later on).  The mussels and clams in the dish were bigger than any Chris and I had ever seen before.  It was a delicious meal, though next time I think we’d split one!

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Another traditional dish is conger eel soup.  Chris tried it at a little place called Nueva Galicia in Castro. I have to admit conger eel doesn’t sound too appetizing, but the broth in the soup was soooo yummy.  I tried a little less traditional King crab lasagna, which was also super delicious.  Oh, and I tried a rose hip pisco sour for good measure.  Yum.

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And, saving the best part of Chiloé for last, the PENGUINS.  In Parque Nacional de Chiloé there are two types of penguins, Magellanic and Humboldt, that live together on rocky islands just off the beach.  We trekked out to the park (aka took two local buses with irregular schedules, missed the second one and had to wait 2 hours, and then had to walk 2 km from where the bus dropped us off to get to the park…) and stayed the night at a cute little place called Penguinland that has individual cabins on a bluff overlooking the park.  You can walk down to the beach from the cabins and hire a little boat to take you out to see the penguins up close. Unfortunately the day we went was windy and raining, so we opted to just look at the penguins from the beach with binoculars and try our best to take a few photos with our camera’s zoom extended all the way. We could see the penguins, who were all brown and muddy from climbing up onto the islands, dive into the water, swim around, and then jump back out of the water all clean and proper again in their little tuxedos.  (And, on a random note, there were also vultures on the beach…never seen that before!)

cabin at Penguinland!

cabin at Penguinland!

view from inside the cabin

view from inside the cabin

wiew from the bluff overlooking the National Park

view from the bluff overlooking the National Park

penguins, this way!

penguins, this way!

see the vulture?

see the vulture?

taking in the penguins

taking in the penguins

PENGUINS!!

PENGUINS!!

Watching the penguins from afar wasn’t as satisfying as we’d hoped, but luckily it wasn’t our last penguin sighting!  On the ferry on the way back to the mainland we saw these little heads popping up out of the water just off to the side of the boat.  At first we thought they were just sea lions, but upon closer inspection they were PENGUINS!  And then one popped up right next to the ferry!  It was so fun to see the penguins up close, just doing their thing.  We also lots of sea birds flying just above the water’s surface or fishing in the water.  Such a cool experience.

on the ferry

on the ferry

pelicans

pelicans

penguins!!

penguins!!

right up next to the ferry

penguin right up next to the ferry!

We definitely recommend a trip to see Chiloé. Cool architecture, yummy seafood, and penguins, who could ask for more?


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Patagonia

The second stop on our Chilean adventure was Patagonia.  It is easily one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I have ever been.  Every direction you look is filled with something breathtaking.  A snow capped mountain peak.  A forest of trees covered with hanging moss.  A clear, cyan alpine lake.  A field of flowering lupines.  Photos don’t even come close to doing it justice.

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view from the lodge

We had the pleasure of spending a whole week in Coyhaique over the Christmas holiday with family.  While the main draw to the location is the fly fishing (there are numerous rivers and lakes with brown and rainbow trout, as well as salmon), Chris and I spent most of our time hiking a variety of trails and climbing cerros (hills).  We did so many hikes and saw so many incredible things, including a condor who flew right over us!

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lake with water so clear you can see each little reed

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condor!

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the lakes come in all shades of blue and turquoise

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beautiful little plants manage to hold on and grow in the toughest conditions

Lupines

lupines

Cerro Castillo

Cerro Castillo

Valley below Cerro Castillo

valley below Cerro Castillo

Lupines and retama lining a river

lupines and retama lining a river

Our favorite hike, and the hardest one we did, was Cerro Cinchao.  We ascended over 1,000 meters through some of the most amazing forests I’ve ever seen and exited the tree-line to clumps of snow dotting the pathway.  We then scurried up a small skree field and summited the cerro.  The winds were whipping around us something fierce, but the views were absolutely amazing and totally worth having to hold your hat on your head with one hand while leaning with your entire weight into the wind to continue forward.

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the green moss hanging on the trees is called barba vieja (old beard)

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mossy rock wall

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bits of snow hiding among the trees

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just out of the tree line

view from the summit

view from the summit

We also did some more low-key, non-hiking outings, like driving to see the nearby fjords at Chacabuco and visiting some of the many, many beautiful alpine lakes.  The most spectacular lake was Lake General Carreras, the second largest in South America and the most amazing cyan color.

fjords

fjords at Chacabuco

more fjords

more fjords

waterways extending inland from the fjords

waterways extending inland from the fjords

Lake General Carreras

Lake General Carreras

Patagonia holds such a special place in our hearts after this trip.  We have so many wonderful memories of spending time together with family in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I have a feeling we’ll be back one day.


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Valparaiso

Our first stop during our Chilean journey was the port town of Valparaiso.  Located about 2 hours by bus from Santiago, the drive there takes you through an amazing change in landscape from the arid, hot Santiago, then down into lush valleys full of crops, and then finally you reach the coastline and the colorful city of Valparaiso.

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The city is built clinging to the hillsides surrounding the port. Most of the homes are painted in bright colors like yellow, pink, and blue. We stayed at a charming little bed and breakfast called the Yellow House that is perched just above the port with sweeping views of the city and ocean.  (If you ever stay there, ask for the Oceano room.  The bathroom is teeny tiny, but the views are so worth it!)

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The Yellow House

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Daytime view from the Oceano room

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Nighttime view from the Oceano room

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Beautiful window painting in the breakfast room

The hills are steep and the city has built several funiculars (though the locals also call them ascensors or elevators) to carry people up the steep incline for a small fee.  Most of the funiculars are out of an other era, made of wood with a maximum capacity only 4 or 6 people at a time.

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Entrance to the funicular behind a cute cafe

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The view from inside the car up to the top

Each hill has its own name and particular neighborhood vibe.  We explored a few of them, including the more frequented Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción.  The city is a haven for artists and Cerro Concepción is known for its graffiti, which is more like murals than words scrawled across buildings.

View from the top of Cerro Alegre

View from the top of Cerro Alegre

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There are also lots of little galleries and shops tucked in among the houses.  We happened upon one called Casa Maia that sells sustainable art and, most importantly for me, YARN!  Inspired by the brightly colored city, I picked up some wacky variegated alpaca/cotton blend yarn in a bulky weight, as well as a more demure (and probably more practical) dark purple wool in a worsted weight.  I don’t have plans for either of the yarns yet, but I am very excited to see what projects I can think up!

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The main cuisine in Valparaiso is seafood and we had an excellent meal our first night at a place called Porto Viejo.  Do not let the plastic-covered tables fool you, the food there is bountiful and delicious.  We had parmesan baked scallops, camarones pil-pil (a traditional Chilean style shrimp with garlic sauce), and salmon.  And we had our first bottle (of what turned to be many) of Chilean wine.  Chilean wine is so delicious and so inexpensive.  Our bottle cost something in the range of $6…at a restaurant no less!  Our favorite grape of all is Carménère, so soft and smooth and delicious at nearly every price point that we tried.

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And, not to be forgotten by us beer-lovers, there is also a brewery in town!  It’s called Altamira and is located at the bottom of the Cerro Reina Victoria funicular.  We got a tasting sampler and, while none of the brews particularly blew our minds, it was definitely a delicious departure from what we can get in Peru!

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Valparaiso is a quirky and eclectic city.  You don’t need more than a day or two to really wander around and get a feel for the neighborhoods.  Bring a good pair of walking shoes and expect your legs to be burning after an afternoon of exploring the hills!