. Every hill had either a huge crucifix, a statue of Jesus or a mobile phone mast on top of it. We were sat next to 3 nuns, one of them every so often would pull out a bottle of coke and drink from it (to our amusement) I just wondered what they thought of the hardcore action films about war, murder and death that were being put on! We wound alongside the Andes (they didnt have paraphanalia on top of them) as we slept off our hangover. Wednesday morning brought sand and the reality that we might actually leave this bus - yeah comfy seats are one thing but I swear I was beginning to get bed sores. The sand started out flat and went on for miles in every direction no trees, no bushes, no people.
Suddenly we looked out and we were on the side of a very steep valley of sand, maybe it was more solid than it look but to me it just looked like soft sand. in the bottom of the valley shrubs and bushes grew where the water collects and huge car size boulders littered the side of it. We only passed one vehicle that had tumbled down the side - I think it was a truck. There werent any other vehicles on the road apart from buses and trucks. Small farms of olives sprung up and around them little towns. The we turned the corner to see a huge coca cola sign etched into the side of the rock and I knew we were nearly in Arica. 29 hours after we left Santiago and about 2000km later we had arrived and what did we do...booked another long distance bus ticket out of there for 48 hours time! we were taken by free taxi to a very basic hostel in the centre of the city - our windowless shoebox is $16 (US) a night but the bed is comfy and we get a ham sandwich and coffee for our free breakfast. We went out to explore, Arica has a nice vibe to it. We made it out at about 8pm and loads of people were on the streets walking around or selling things - everything from wooly hats to cigarettes, bags of olives to plasters (yep the ones for a cut finger!). Sadly there is a McDonalds and a Blockbuster video store that just goes to show their progress and there are coca cola signs everywhere. I dont know what I was expecting but its definately a lot more developed than anywhere in Asia. We ate some lovely fried fish and rice and crashed out. Today we explored properly and had a look at the little Iglesia San Marcos church that was designed by Mr Eiffel - of the tower fame. We also climbed up El Morro de Arica (a big hill with Jesus on top) and watched at noon as the sun burnt away the clouds and smog and we could look out across the sea and the city.
More excitingly we could take clothes off! We have been cold for months now...since Asia and to be able to walk around in a t shirt was amazing! I dont think its going to last long though, we leave for Peru tomorrow!
So 26 hours turned into 29 hours but it wasnt as bad as it couldve been. The seats were really comfy and they played movies to distract us until midnight. We got on the bus at 11am and excitedly peered out of the window as we left the city to see steep mountains and hills covered in scrubby little bushes, horses and donkeys pulling carts and little sleepy towns with a lot of people standing around