Tacna, Peru and Arica, Chile

Trip Start Dec 14, 2005
Trip End Mar 31, 2006

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I never expected this region (southern Peru) to have so much īnothingī on the journey. A lot of it reminded me of Australia and its vast expanses of not a lot between places of interest (or places of no interest!). There is still mountains and ranges of sorts but no trees and, for the most of it, not even a little weed here and there. The moon landscape would describe a lot of it on this 5 hour journey. Nevertheless it was beautiful enough in its own right. For an hour or so and then it was shut-eye time. But no sleep still!
We arrived in Tacna at lunchtime and were hounded (as was every other tourist) by taxi drivers offering to take us over the Chile border to Arica (northern Chile). I had read so much about the dodgy services and offerings over here I assumed the bus would be better if not a little slower. After fending off about 20 of them we decided to have a long lunch and consider our best options. After asking around we were duly informed that the taxis were actually the best form of crossing notwithstanding how dodgy the whole thing looked. But, you should have seen the buses! They were shcoking and cramped and ready to break down at any moment. We decided to go in a taxi but only one through an office within the main bus terminal. We tried to pick a less dodgy looking one than the ones offering their services outside.
Away we went, about 3pm, in some strange looking but very large car (car enthusiasts will be pissed off I didnīt pay attention to the make - it was probably a classic!). After about 30 minutes we hit the border. Out of the car we got. My limited spanish was being tested understanding what was going on. 5 minutes out of the car for aparently nothing and we were allowed back in again. Didnīt even check the bags. Idiots!
Off we went. A whole 100 metres down the road. Here I learned we only passed through Peruīs last stand. Now we were to see the Chile side. More work and checking here I bet. Not! Again, 5 minutes out of the car for minimal reason before being allowed back in. What was this? Candid Camera???
A further 300 metres down the road and this time we stopped at a large checkpoint. This one at least looked serious. I still donīt know why there was 3 of them. I am told there is many more between here and Santiago. This time we had to get our passports stamped. My situation was difficult (as always for me:-) As I had been in Peru longer than 90 days I had to pay a fee. Of course! What else? US$1 per day. Canīt pay here though. Have to walk way over there to that thing that looks like a bank. Yeah, there is a 10 minute non-efficient return trip process! Fee paid. Drugs no-where to be seen. I got my stamp like everyone else and was alowed on Chilean soil. Woohoo!
Off we went to Arica (northern Chile) a township of about 200,000 or so on the beach. It is Chileīs most northern town.
I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the town looked in the vast nothing that was all around us. The town could be described as fairly modern with a Chilean feel to it (well it wasnīt Peru!). It even has a McDonalds here to keep the gringos happy:-)
We spent the early evening wandering around, taking in the sights on offer before settling into a restaurant for a meal. The service was non-existent so we left. Maybe they didnīt like gringos? Maybe they were just too busy. Nevertheless, the next place was nice. The main shopping mall here is quite long indeed and was filled with people milling around. There was a nightclub or two on offer but we really couldnīt be stuffed, gee these bus rides take your energy away from you even though you donīt do anything on them!
Waking up Tuesday morning we did a little shopping before preparing ourselves for a 20 hour bus-ride, yes 20 hours, to La Serena (half way up/down Chile on the western edge - that would be the beach!).
We boarded the bus at 12.30 and were only 10 minutes late in departing. Slightly better than Peruīs record!
It was a nice bus - a Semi-cama (half bed bus) and the seats recline quite a way (though not as good as the bus-cama I had from Arequipa to Cuzco a few weeks back). It was comfortable enough not to be a pain in the ass. There wasnīt many people on the bus. The view was similar to that of the day before, quite baron and eery in parts. Nevertheless, when nightfall comes, who would know in any event right?
Iīll leave this update short. I canīt be stuffed writing more at the moment.
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