Into Chile via Arica

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, September 29, 2008

As we had spent a lot more time in Peru than we had planned, we decided, rather than take the bus (7 hours through the Atacama dessert and then spending the night in the Peruvian border town of Tacna before crossing the border), to grab a flight.

The flight, with Sky Airways was cheap and took us straight to Chile's northernmost city of Arica a town sandwiched between the Atacama dessert and the Pacific.  The Atacama is, apparently the driest place on the planet and Arica gets 360 days of sunshine and clear blue skies each year.  We must have arrived on one of the five cloudy days as it was completely overcast!

We drove the few miles into the town through the desert sands and some of the biggest sand dunes I have seen outside of the Sahara.  As we drove past we could see some para-gliders, jumping off the top and some 4WD vehicles hurtling down the dunes.

We arrived at Happy Days our hostel for the next couple of nights, settle in, and immediately bump into Ross, a guy from Colorado whom we had met in Puno.  Yet again its a small world.  We head off to the supermarket in search of our first taste of the excellent (and ridiculously cheap) Chilean wine and something to cook for dinner that night in the hostel kitchen.

We meet a wide range of other travelers in the kitchen that night, apart from Ross there are a Scottish couple from Melrose doing the same sort of trip as us, a pair of very outgoing American missionaries who have spent the last three years in Bolivia and an Canadian/New Zealand couple also traveling the world.  We all swap experiences and as we are all going in different directions, pick up a lot of useful tips on where to go and how to get there.

The next day,  after being woken by the sound of the band from the school next door, we walk the 2/3 kilometres into Arica city centre to book our onward flights to Santiago and to have a first look around the Chilean shops and restaurants and of course the town in general.  The first thing we notice is how much better the stock and produce is here compared to Peru.  There is obviously big difference in the state of their respective economies etc. We book our flights to Santiago on Sky and head down to the harbour to a fish restaurant we have heard about.

The food in the restaurant is every bit as good as was claimed.  The fish was absolutely fantastic.  As fresh as it gets and massive portions, but then we are sitting out looking over the Pacific Ocean just a few metres away! The restaurant is right on the harbour and as we have lunch we sit and watch the  Sea Lions playing in the water right in front of us and the Pelicans swooping down to catch fish from the sea.  All against a backdrop of container ships coming into port and the fish boats returning with their catches.

We have decided that, as time is running short, to fore-go the undoubtedly excellent sights of Northern Chile to head on down to Valparaiso, a place I have always wanted to see since learning about it in Geography lessons, I think at about the age of 12! Our air tickets take us to Santiago, via Iquique and Antofagasta.  We fly down along the coast, sandwiched, for the main part, between the Pacific and the Andes.  This is certainly the most spectacular scenery we have seen in any flight we have taken.  We had requested seat on the left, so had uninterrupted views across the Atacama (desert) to the  Andes (mountains) almost the whole way. Only from the air is it possible to get any idea of the sheer size of this mountain range.  They seem to go on for ever!
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