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Posts Tagged ‘Port’

A day in Valparaíso

January 23rd, 2016 No comments

Today is a bit of a rest day, due to the long day yesterday. Steven has gone back to his house for a little while and I have decided to do a bit of walking around on my own for the first time since arriving. I didn’t stray too far from the apartment as I have the only key but I reloaded my payment card for the Metro, did some walking around the local area and I am now in Parque Forrestal eating some lovely ice cream from Emporio La Rosa and thinking about the really fun day yesterday in Valparaíso. My plan after here is to walk back to the apartment, look at the craft market near Cerro Santa Lucía to see if I can pick up some souvenirs, and buy some more fruit from one of the street sellers.

Emporio La Rosa

Emporio La Rosa

The coach journey yesterday was fairly painless, much to my surprise. I am tall person and in the majority of public transport in The UK I never have enough leg room, regularly having to sit sideways in seats or endure the backs of seats smashing into my knees, but this was not a problem in Chile. The coach that we took was very comfortable, had plenty of leg room, and made the journey to Valparaíso enjoyable. Even though we only travelled 90 minutes outside of Santiago it was nice to see more of Chile and the scenery, although not as breath-taking as what I saw from the plane, was really nice.

Chilean Scenery

Scenery on the way to Valparaíso

Chilean Scenery

Some more Chilean scenery

Valparaíso was a nice town to visit. The main bus station is a little way outside of the main area of the city so you either have to catch a trolley bus or walk, but either are good options. We decided to have some breakfast in a food court above a market very close to the bus station before walking into the historical areas.

The walk into the main part of the city takes you past a lot of industrial units, so I really wouldn’t recommend it at night time, but it gives an insight into the origins of the city. Dating back to colonial times Valparaíso has always been an important port and industrial centre, although this has somewhat declined in recent decades which is why the Chilean Parliament was moved here some time ago in an effort to promote regeneration. Although even in the industrial areas something that is very apparent is that the city is full of street art. I will call it street art as opposed to graffiti because this genuinely is art as opposed to the random mess that can be found sprayed around European cities.

Valparaíso food market

The food market in Valparaíso

Walking around Valparaíso

Walking towards the centre of Valparaíso.

Valparaíso

A plaza in Valparaíso

Valparaíso street art

Art is everywhere in Valparaíso

One thing that proved very helpful in Valparaíso is that there is a company called “Tours for Tips”, and they run two different tours of the city in both English and Spanish. As the name suggests you can give them what you want, based on how you found the experience, but most people gave in the region of 10000 pesos (approximately 10 pounds) each. I believe that they also operate in Santiago but I won’t need to use them there.

We decided to go on the afternoon tour, but there was still some time before it started and so we decided to go on a boat tour of the harbour. There are a few companies that provide this service and they all depart from Muelle Prat, very close to Plaza Soto Mayor. Live commentary is provided only in Spanish but from the boats you are able to see the city from a very different perspective as you are told about the history of the city, have landmarks pointed out, are told about the Chilean Parliament and shown the Navy ships in the harbour. It was definitely worth doing, but the only problem was the leg room in each row was probably 15cm less than what I needed to be able to sit comfortably and as a result I was in some serious pain by the time we returned to dry land due to my knees being badly crushed by the seat in front. The average person would most likely find the leg room adequate.

Valparaíso port

Valparaíso port

Valparaíso by sea

Valparaíso as seen from the boat tour

Valparaíso boat tour

On board the boat

Chilean Navy Ships

Ships of the Chilean Navy

Cargo port in Chile

Valparaíso cargo port

There was time for some souvenir shopping and a cold drink in Starbucks before it was time to head for our walking tour. No booking is required for the tour, just wait next to the Monumento a Los Heroes de Iquique at the prescribed time and keep an eye out for people dressed up in red and white striped tops which make them look like Wally (Waldo for any Americans reading this). They will divide the groups up accordingly depending on how many people require each language and you will then head off in different directions. Our tour guide was a very knowledgeable young lady who had recently returned to Chile after some years living in Spain, as was obvious from her accent even before she told us.

The walking tour lasted a few hours and took us up into the UNESCO World Heritage area which is extensively covered in street art. After riding the funicular up the hill you are told a lot about the history of the area and how the people pushed for UNESCO recognition in order to preserve the character of the area but how this has backfired. I won’t go into too much detail as you should go on the tour yourself, but to cut a long story short the UNESCO recognition requires that any building work be done in the original style using original materials. This has helped to maintain the unique character of the area but has resulted in building work being prohibitively expensive for many people. We also saw an example of the damage it can do to the area – there is an area which burnt down some years ago but where the owners have been unable to rebuild due to the cost of original materials and as a result the area has been left as a wasteland.

Overall the walking tour was very enjoyable. We saw lots of nice sights, saw some great art, were introduced to local delicacies during a rest stop half way through, and heard a lot about the history of the area. The only part that I thought was unnecessary was the final stop of the tour, at Tours for Tips HQ, where they do a presentation to try to sell you other tours and try to bribe you to sign up with homemade spirits. There is no obligation to sign up, and for us it would have been pointless as we were only in the city for the day, so we just tipped our guide and left.

Queen Victoria Funicular, Valparaíso

The Funicular, named after Queen Victoria.

Valparaíso

A view of the hills behind Valparaíso

Valparaiso coastline

Looking towards the Pacific Ocean

Valparaíso street art

More street art

There were still a couple of hours remaining before our coach back to Santiago but by this time our feet were hurting, so we decided to catch the trolley bus back towards the main bus station and to try to find something to eat. Even though it was not very late we had trouble finding anywhere that was still open so, after taking some photos of the Chilean Parliament, we made our way to a shopping centre in order to grab some food for the apartment and have some snacks in the food court.

Trolley Bus

A Valparaíso trolley bus

Chilean Parliament

The Chilean Parliament building

The remainder of the day was fairly uneventful, except for seeing a street musician dressed up with a scary mask. Apparently he is well known in Chile, or at the very least infamous, so he was interesting to see. The coach ride back to Santiago was smooth and after eating the empanadas we bought in Valparaíso we had an early night in order to not be exhausted today.

Valparaíso musician

The scary musician

I am not sure what we will be doing later today when I meet back up with Steven but it is likely that we will just take it easy. We have done a lot of walking over the last few days so it will be nice to take a break from it and have an early night in order to conserve our energy. Tomorrow we travel to Viña del Mar and as we will be out of the city for the whole day it is likely that we will end up exhausted again.

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Exploring Pripyat

June 20th, 2013 No comments

Before heading to breakfast this morning there was time to pet the hotel cat while waiting for our guide and minibus to arrive from outside the zone. He seemed to love the company so I guess there aren’t many visitors to the hotel although from the feel of various cuts and lumps that we noticed while petting him he didn’t seem too well which was a shame.

Breakfast was two courses and you’ll never guess what the first one consisted of. That’s right… cucumber! The second course was just as unusual and consisted of cold pasta, a cold fried egg and a lukewarm burger but I guess it’s part of the whole Chernobyl experience even though I hate cucumber. There was some paperwork that needed taking care of so we relaxed for a bit outside the canteen before making our way further into the zone.

Cat :)

The Chernobyl Hotel resident cat

Breakfast at Chernobyl

Breakfast in the canteen

There are several checkpoints within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The first is at the outer perimeter which is 30km away from the plant itself and is where you have all your permits checked before being allowed on to Chernobyl town where our hotel is. The outer perimeter is also where the most sensitive scanners are that make sure you aren’t radioactive upon leaving the zone. The next checkpoint is 10km away from the plant and while the scanners aren’t as sensitive on the way out you need extra permission to enter this part of the zone and resettlement is totally prohibited. There is one final checkpoint that you must pass before entering the abandoned city of Pripyat and it was here where we spent most of today.

Our first stop was in what was one of the squares within Pripyat which is now completely overgrown to the point that you can’t even see the road or lamp posts around the edge until you’re right next to them. Around the square were military dorms and you couldn’t see those until you were right next to them either but when we arrived at the main door we were surprised by our guide by being told that we would be allowed inside the buildings at Pripyat if we wanted to. Of course we all accepted but I’m guessing as we signed papers to say we weren’t allowed in, and we were told yesterday that entry into the buildings of Pripyat was prohibited, then while officially it’s only discouraged to enter the buildings if anything did happen and we got injured then it would be our own fault.

Lenin

Lenin inside the dorn

Military bath

A bath inside the military dorm

Changing room

Changing room inside the military dorm

Walking around Pripyat

Walking around Pripyat

We spent some time walking around the first floor of the military dorms and it was a very eerie sensation considering we were the only people there but 30 years ago there would have been hundreds of people at any one time. All of the bedrooms were empty, except for a few small items such as brushes and a chair, although the shower rooms still had baths and all of the fixtures. The highlight of this particular building was finding a room which had a portrait of Lenin on the wall which was at one point a meeting room. There wasn’t as much to see here compared to other buildings later in the day but all of us on this trip are keen photographers so we still spent quite a lot of time taking photos – not so much of the ruined state of the buildings but about how life just stopped and moved on one day.

Walking down the road from the dorms we passed a few apartment buildings and stores before arriving at the Pripyat Hospital. We weren’t allowed too far into the building as it was fairly dangerous according to our guide but we were able to walk around long enough to find the doctor on call list, a couple of ward rooms and an examination suite that had the remains of X-ray machines among other things. I got the feeling very early on that one day exploring Pripyat would not be enough as I could easily have spent an hour or so exploring the hospital.

Pripyat Hospital

The notice board at the hospital in Pripyat

Pripyat Hospital

Walking around the hospital

Medical equipment

Medial equipment inside the hospital

Pripyat Hospital

A chair and gas tank surrounded by debris

After the hospital we spent some time exploring the Pripyat River Port before walking down the road to another square which was hardly recognisable with all of the trees that have taken hold since the disaster. Pripyat was a planned city and was made up of several districts all around the main parade ground – each district had a square, stores, recreation areas, a school and a square but as we found out while walking around the city only the bigger buildings have survived so far and some of them are in bad shape as we found out in this square. One of the buildings that we saw was a concert hall and we were able to enter as far as the main auditorium where there were seats, or what was left of them, and a stage which still had the original piano on it. The stage itself was in very bad shape and we were a little foolish to walk across it but we got some great photos.

Vending Machines

Water Vending Machines at the River Port

Me in Pripyat

Me at the Pripyat River Port

Waiting area

The waiting area at the River Port

An overgrown square

This used to be a big open square

Pripyat theatre

The outside of a theatre in Pripyat

Pripyat Theatre

On stage in the theatre

We walked past a secondary school that had collapsed in the middle, allowing us to see into the classrooms on the top floor, before making our way around to the main parade ground in Pripyat. This is an area that you see in many photos and contains a hotel, the offices of the atomic energy department, a theatre, supermarket, restaurant and more. It was the only square that was still recognisable as it was so big in its day that trees haven’t had a chance to reclaim it yet. While in the square our guide showed us a photo of the main road leaving the square, Lenin Street, which was once four lanes wide and is now unrecognisable as a road.

Collapsed school

A doorway in the collapsed school

A collapsed school

A collapsed school

The hotel was the first place we explored around the square. It had been stripped pretty completely but you could still make out the reception area, restaurant and store rooms. We didn’t spend much time here as there wasn’t much to see so we headed straight along the square to the supermarket. It wasn’t safe to go upstairs but we spent some time exploring the ground floor of the building which still contained all of the original refrigeration units along with shopping trolleys. At the far side of the ground floor loads of beds had been set out which looked confusing but our guide explained these were available on the first floor of the supermarket but that after the disaster looters had moved them downstairs to use the area as a base for stealing what they could find.

Abandoned hotel in Pripyat

The main square in Pripyat had a big hotel

Abandoned hotel

Inside the hotel

Before...

Lenin Street before the disaster

.... and after

Lenin Street now

Supermarket in Pripyat

Inside the Supermarket

We entered the backstage area of the theatre and saw some materials which were being prepared for the May Day parade that year. One of the most striking stories to come from the disaster is how while the area near Chernobyl was being evacuated the rest of the Soviet Union just got in with their business. It was 36 hours after the disaster before the Soviets admitted there was a problem and started evacuating citizens near the zone but even while they were doing this they denied the disaster was serious – it was only when the radiation was detected in Sweden that they even acknowledged to the outside world anything had happened. During the time the citizens were being evacuated, and being exposed to huge levels of radiation, just up the road in Kiev the May Day parade happened as planned even though they were close enough to get exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.

After leaving the square we had a chance to explore the famous theme park which was due to open the day after Pripyat was evacuated. Most of the articles about Pripyat that I have read featured photos of the theme park and I was excited to finally see it. In the park there were several rides, a Ferris Wheel and a dodgem arena. We spent maybe 20 minutes exploring the area and it was great to wander around in a nice open space which was still clear of trees… although by now the temperature had risen above comfortable temperatures so while the main photo savvy people in our group finished taking photos of the Ferris Wheel I hid in the shade of the ticket office. I was very impressed with the time we spent in the theme park, however, but we would soon be lead to another entertainment facility that was even grander.

Pripyat Fairground

The famous Ferris Wheel

Dodgem time

Abandoned Dodgems!

The Pripyat Stadium was just around the corner from the Theme Park but once again you couldn’t see it for trees. Our guide told us all about the stadium and how it was used to train athletes, in addition to holding meetings of its own, but it was only when we reached the stands that we realised we had walked through a collapsed section of the stands and across the field without noticing. Our guide said we would have 5-10 minutes to explore the area so I decided to walk into the building to get a sense of the original enormity of the site by walking up to the top level of the stands before emerging to look over the field. It took some time to find my way – I got lost a few times, found the toilets, motor room, several long corridors, the commentary boxes and then had to climb over a wall but eventually I found my way to the back of the seating area where at one point thousands of people would have sat to watch sports.

The sports field was so unrecognisable even when sitting down for a few minutes taking in the view but it was at this point when I realised how a trip to Pripyat isn’t about death it’s about life. We were visiting places that once thrived and were crawling with people and even though the human population has moved on the earth is still thriving. There are trees where 30 years ago there was a big open space and even though we didn’t see any wildlife there are loads of animals in the area including wild horses and wolves. I have witnessed the power of nature on several occasions – I have seen an avalanche, skied over the remains of another even larger avalanche, felt a magnitude 6 earthquake, seen a tornado and I also happened to fly over Iran a few years ago when they had those bad nationwide floods but all of those were about what the power of nature can do to us. A visit to Pripyat is the reverse and shows you that no matter what we try to do to the planet, and no matter how important you think human life is to the planet, things seem to work better without us. Of course I had known this for years but it’s very humbling when that reality hits you in a situation like this.

Pripyat Stadium

This is a view of the Pripyat Stadium grounds

Pripyat Stadium

The stands at Pripyat Stadium

Pripyat Stadium stands

Looking out over the track and field

Relaxing at Pripyat Stadium

Relaxing in Pripyat at the stadium. Disclaimer – do not sit down in Pripyat it is against the advisory notice.

I was sad to leave the stadium as we met up with our minibus and I thought that the trip was over but we were told there were still a couple more sights to see. The first was one which I had looked forward to since seeing photos of the first Regent trip here a few years ago – the sports centre that included the main swimming pool. We spent some time exploring the area although we had to stick together and be quiet and I got the feeling that this was one building we definitely weren’t supposed to be in. In addition to the swimming pool area we saw a motor room, basketball court and gymnastics arena but the batteries in my camera ran out at this point so I wasn’t able to get too many photos.

Swimming Pool

The famous abandoned swimming pool

Basketball Court

The leisure centre also had a Basketball court

After returning to the minibus and putting new batteries in my camera we were taken to what ended up being by far the highlight of my visit to Pripyat – the secondary school that you see in many photos of the area that has a huge pile of gas masks in one of the rooms. Our guide showed us up to the first floor before giving us 15 minutes to explore at our leisure as long as we stayed on that floor. What made it the highlight for me is how most things there had been left exactly as they were before the city was evacuated. The hotel had been stripped, the dorms had been completely emptied and the supermarket had been looted but the school was still full of items. The entire corridor was littered with books where they had been tipped off the shelves by the decontamination team but walking around the rooms I discovered geometry text books, paintings that students had created, postcards, a model of The Kremlin and even a science room still with experiments out on the table and test questions written up on the board. I genuinely believe that I could have spent half a day exploring this building so it’s a shame we didn’t have an extra day in the zone to be able to take in things at our own pace.

The Kremlin

A model of The Kremlin

Geometry time

A Geometry text book

Science Lab

A science classroom at the abandoned school

Abandoned corridor

A corridor in the abandoned school

Painting

I wonder what the teen who painted this is doing now!

School dinners anybody?

A very old looking cooker in the school kitchen

After meeting back up with the rest of the group again we were shown town to the ground floor where the kitchens still had plates in the sinks, there were bike wheels in vices where they were being repaired and even the huge pile of gas masks which I mentioned previously. We asked our guide about these and she said these were all made available for the children but they evacuated Pripyat in such a hurry once the order was given that they were never used.

Our final stop in Pripyat was the old Bus Station where workers at the plant, and residents at the city, would have been able to board buses to Kiev and other towns / cities in the region. We only spent 5 minutes here but we took some great photos, including the below photo of me in the ticket office, and I also now finally know what the mechanics of a locker look like due to one of them being broken open.

Me at the bus station

Me in the ticket office or Pripyat Bus Station

The time had finally come to leave Pripyat and head back towards Kiev. There would be a chance to stop for one final late lunch at the canteen first but unfortunately we were told that we would be unable to visit the resettlers houses inside the zone as we had taken too long in Pripyat. This was a shame as it would have been nice to see the residents who have come back to the exclusion zone to live but it would have been a set up meeting so I not sorry about missing that opportunity to be able to explore the building which, officially, are completely off limits. We would have missed so much by not exploring the buildings that seeing the resettlers would not have made up for.

Cucumber... again

Two different types of cucumber to start lunch

Main Course time

Main course… it was mainly barley!

After passing the first radiation checkpoint and making our way back to Chernobyl town we had lunch which consisted of two courses. The first one, you guessed it, had cucumber in it but this time not just one type of cucumber it had two – sliced cucumber with cucumber fritters. The second course was much more pleasant as you can see from the photos below, however it was soon time to leave the zone for good. We made our way back out the main road, were scanned again at the outer checkpoint, before saying goodbye to our guide. She was an amazing guide and showed us far more of Pripyat than I ever hoped to see so I’m incredibly pleased with her service.

When we arrived back in Kiev it was already early evening so after checking into our rooms and having a well-earned shower we met in the hotel bar to discuss dinner plans. The unanimous decision was to go back to the Bavarian restaurant from the other night as those of us that went had been talking about it so much the others wanted to try it.

Over dinner there was a little bit of a disagreement with one of the group in relation to missing the resetllers. I agree with that it would have been nice to have seen them but on any trip that’s into the unknown you can’t expect things to go exactly to plan. Our plan, according to the brochure, said that we weren’t going to be able to go into the buildings and even missing out the resettlers the trip still went more to plan than any trip to Africa that I have done. The disagreement didn’t spoil dinner, however, and I’m glad we came back here. I highly recommend the restaurant to anybody that visits Kiev. I can’t remember the name of the street but once again if you go along Khreshchatyk Street from the Lenin statue in the direction of Independence Square you’ll come across the political protest tents on the left. Go past those and it’s the first road on the left where the tents end, a few doors up just past the bar.

Back in Kiev

Back in Kiev

The night finished with watching a pyromaniac display with the group, before exploring on my own again for a little bit, but I’m now back in my room and completely exhausted. I have a feeling that I will sleep well tonight after what has been a very long and exhausting but extremely worthwhile couple of days visiting Chernobyl. We still have one more day left and have arranged to start it by visiting a shooting range which should prove very interesting!

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