No Clever Title... It's too dry here

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
Trip End Mar 23, 2013

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Flag of Chile  , California,
Sunday, February 17, 2013

We're now in the driest desert in the world. The Atacama desert receives only a couple of millimetres of rain per year. It is right on the ocean but it is a vast expanse of dry dusty nothingness. Outside of the trees and bits of grass that have been planted in the town of Arica, there is not a bit of vegetation growing, not even a cactus. In the late 1800's there was a big fight for Arica with Peru. Chile won the fight when the army surprised the Peruvians in their sleep...not much of a fight. Since then, the area has been part of Chile. I guess the Chileans wanted an area to contrast the lush greenery of the south.

We were driven to the middle of nowhere, about a half hour out of town, where a university professor decided to erect four huge concrete "statues": a man, a woman, the universe, and a uterus. Our bus was greeted by a small band of musicians and dancers in traditional "bird" costumes. We walked through the trash covered desert for a closer look at these concrete "statues", trying to figure out which one was which. All this excitement was followed by juice and a snack. The juice was quince and had been boiled down to a thick liquid. The sandwich was a paste made from chicken and olives, left in the hot desert to warm before being served to us... in a word...yuck. Fortunately our snack included a couple of cookies and a bottle of water.

The Geoglyphs were next. These are large pictures made by placing stones in a pattern, on the sides of mountains.They are very very old and now maintained and restored by the university as a part of the culture. They were created to guide travellers in search of the coast...water. The glyphs depicting animals, most often llamas, usually face the ocean. There is one modern one of the Coca-cola logo. So here we were in this small, extremely dusty parking area, barely big enough for a bus, but there was still room enough for a small stand selling Chilean wine.

Next stop was the Archealogical Museum. It houses amazingly well preserved mummies and artifacts that pre date Egyptian mummies. We were told that the dry, salty soil and the elaborate embalming methods are to thank for the preservation of these historical treasures. Unfortunately the rooms are very very small and every tour stops there so the place is teeming with tourists...not really pleasant.

The town of Arica was next on the tour. We visited the church, which seems to be a required stop in every town in this part of the world. This church is made of metal, except for the door, which is wood. Originally commissioned for a town in Peru, It was built at Eiffel's workshop in France, shipped to South America, re-routed and assembled in Arica. After the church stop, we said goodbye to the tour guide and went around on our own.

The main shopping street in Arica is a pedestrian mall that starts out with a craft market and McDonalds and goes for a half dozen blocks towards the mountains. It was Sunday so almost everything was closed. We bought more sunscreen at the pharmacia and were served by a very pleasant man who spoke English very well. We thought we would like to sample the local cuisine but because most places were closed, our only choices were pizza or hot dogs so we passed.

After walking up and down the street we veered left and walked along the coast for a bit, turned around and headed back to the ship.

Annette & Peter
What do you call a ship twitching at the bottom of the ocean?
A nervous wreck
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