We saw the oldest mummy in the world!

Trip Start Mar 16, 2010
Trip End Sep 11, 2010

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Friday, April 30, 2010

After a couple of busy days of travel we decided to treat ourselves to a day of relaxing. Our hostel in Arica came with a private bathroom and cable TV in each room. Therefore we took advantage of having this luxury and watched a couple of typical ┤trashy American shows┤and caught up on some world news utilising the fantastic internet. Later that evening we decided to get out of the hostel and went for a walk into the town center. Out hostal was in a very good position - only one block away from the main street, most of which was pedestrianised. It turned out to be a special weekend in Chile - Labour day was on the Saturday and so the main street was packed with people, and to add to the carnival like atmosphere there was a parade with dancers and musicians in traditional dress.

We consulted the se˝orita as to what the local beaches were like and which she would recommend to us. We asked for advice because in and around Arica there was several beaches, and we wanted to know which were suitable for swimming. The main beach in Arica is the long Chinchorro which although is good both both swimming and surfing isn┤t the prettiest and is usually packed with locals. In the end we decided to walk up the coast to the beaches El Laucho y La Lisera. There are both located just out of town, about a 30 minute coastal walk south. We enjoyed the spray of the crashing waves against the portside and fine weather was enjoyed by both. (It must be said however that a lack of sunscreen led to a bit of redness!) We walked past the first beach, El Laucho, but as the tide was in there wasn┤t a lot of actual sand to settle down onto. We continued on walking south and passed the ┤posh┤ Arica hotel ending up at La Lisera beach. This was a horseshoe shaped beach, the sea gently lapping at the shore due to the protective barrier of rocks surrounding the bay. This beach wasz obviously popular with the locals, as sounds of screaming kids running into and out of the cold water reached our ears. However, although this may paint a pretty picture and at first glance it was, upon closer inspection the water had a film of scum on the surface. We both took one look at each other and silently decided to carry on around the corner to see if there was any other options. We ended up at a small beach, which was part of La Lisera, but away from the main part. We stayed there reading and listening to the crashing sound of the waves for at least an hour and a half. After we had had enough we decided to walk back to El Laucho for a drink and a few games of beach tennis to fill out the day. After walking back to Hostal Jardin del Sol we ate a small bowl of Risotto that Leanne had painstakingly made using the microwave (you had to pay for gas and being the stingy travelers we have become did not want to pay!) . We then went for an evening walk and scouted out a nice establishment to pass the night away. It┤s name was Schoppdog where one could purchase either a normal jug of beer or ┤the rocket┤. A cylinder shaped container with a tap to pour the beer, it also contains a cooling system to keep the beer cold - always an essential! If you go from Sunday to Wednesday you get both ┤┤La Jarre or Pitcher┤┤ and ┤┤the rocket┤┤ for half price.

Last but not least, Museo Arquelogico San Miguel de Azapa. A 12km ride in a colectivo (yellow cab in Arica), which costs about 700/800 pesos p.p. A short journey which is definitely worth the effort. One cannot pass on seeing an 8,000 year old mummy - the oldest mummy in the world. Our ride in the colectivo was made even more enjoyable by a gigantic sandwich from Roly (18 de Septiembre) costing only GBP 2 each. Our arrival at a fairly low-key site was most enjoyable due to the low prices and an uncrowded museum.

We are not going to explain all there is to see at the museum as whole books have been written on the subject - we neither can┤t remember nor do we have the time t write at full length. The museum does brilliantly to track the history of the Andean people from 6,000 BC with its Chinchorro mummies up until nearly the present day with the section on the olive trade in Chile.

The first section containing the Chinchorro mummies explains that the first Andean people - most likely originally from Asia were coastal people7finshermen. The Chinchorro mummies are buried with remnants of whale rib bone and other great sea killings. The mummies wrapped in a mud paste were nearly perfectly preserved due to the dry and arid climate they were found in - the Atacama desert is the driest desert on earth! The museum laid out in a chronological fashion the races of the Andean people. Next came the Tiwuanaca people dating from 500AD onwards. This tribal indigenous peoples has developed the initial tools made by the Chinchorro people into real weapons and tools. Mostly a combination of the wood and bone or flint. Later on in the Tiwuanaca rule was the artesan revolution with weaving first becoming common practice. Subsequently, the Incas who are the most renown didn┤t actually improve tools, weapons, artesan tools and in fact took forced control of the Tiwuanacas and formed a dictatorship. It wasn┤t until the European settlers in 1530 that brought the first meaningful advace with iron and steel making its inception in south America. Coincidentally the European settlers also brought with them a Spanish flu and wiped out the entire Inca population - their immune systems were not equipped to deal with this new virus.

An interesting point/fact was the changing positions which the mummies were laid in. First was the lying position, then a huddled sitting position then due to the Europeans it returned back to the lying position. Our 30 cabinet tour was well worth the colectivo taxi and trip out. We would recommend it to anybody in the Arica region.

A good day was had by both and our night out was spent at Maracuya, a v nice restaurant on the coast in the direction of La Lisera. Exquisite cusine, a fish specialist. Nice wine too with a welcome drink/ aperitif offered. We would recommend it to anyone, the hostel recommended it to us and now we are passing on the message. Mains range from 4-600 chilenos.

Off to Arica we went on our longest bus ride in Chile! Only 11 hours though...

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