arica is chile's northernmost town right on the border with peru. it's in the middle of the desert - not a deep red kind of desert, but a sandy, dirty, windy type of desert. unfortunately it's not that attractive, it's bloody hot, very expensive (I guess this is Chile now) and all together not the sort of place I feel like staying for long.
|The coastline around Arica|
It's fascinating to see how much more affluent people are here - just 20kms away from Peru. Clothes, cars, houses - all in general are flashier, bigger and not necessarily nicer. And people look Chilean, and definitely sound Chilean. I know, I am IN Chile, but I just marvel how different it is to Peru.
the bus connections here were typical of south america - 6.5hours from Arequipa to Tacna, then off the bus, find out where the other bus station is for international connections to Arica. Buy an exit ticket for the station. Start lining up in a very long queue for the bus. After 1 hour and about 7 people from the front of the queue, find out at there's no more buses leaving, then rush to taxis, discover that my exit ticket was for buses not taxis, get new exit ticket, hunt around for a free spot with about 50 others. Realise I'm 3 Peruvian Soles short of the fare, go in and change US dollars for Chilean Pesos, marvel at how low the rate is (it used to be 7 to 1 last year, now it's 4.5 to 1US now) finally get a taxi, ride for about 30kms with a driver that thinks
he's on an autobahn in Germany, therefore passing about 30 cars on the way to the border, wait in another line, jump out and start lining up for the peruvain exit border, jump back in the taxi, back out at the
chilean border this time with pack on for customs inspection, line up again, get my entry stamp, drive at a much more leisurely pace into arica, and finally meet Philipe at the bus station. (who had got the
times wrong and had been waiting for 5 hours. By the time I arrived? 11.30pm. can you believe the border is open that long!
|Finally about to leave Tacna - that's our taxi - 5 people plus 1 baby plus the driver - speeding about 150kmh towards the Peruvian border to jump the customs line|
tonight we are in a campground on the outskirts of Arica. there's a whole series of campgrounds sprouted out of the desert, and no, it's not like an oasis. unfortunately. more like dusty lots with some swimming
pools and bbqs. people don't come here to camp, rather to swim, eat, play and party! it's 10pm now, and we've got doof doof, latin, pop and drinking games going on about 20m away in the next campground. it's a
bit stuffy in the tent, so for meditation tonight I sat outside on the play equipment - using my riding pants as a cushion and sitting on my riding jacket. it was surprisingly comfortable and oddly serene to be
practicing love and compassion to all with the chants of 'down down down' drinking games in response. Every now and then there'd be louder screams, as I guess the power was going in and out. Matched with the
soft tiptoe steps of dogs wandering around doing their thing, and the odd dogfight, a standard night of meditation in a south american campground!
|Off to the campground - we're trying 2 up with both sets of luggage on the sidecar. A slightly ambitious but very reasonable idea|
tomorrow i hope we set off for Parque Nacional Lauca - it's hard to imagine that it's 150kms away, 20deg Celcius colder, raining with thunderstorms, and 3000m higher in altitude. we were meant to go today,
but after sleeping like logs until 10.30am (it might have had something to do with the pisco sours that we had last night at frank's place - where we stored our bikes) and Philipe nearly passing out from heat and
lack of food, we decided to relax here this afternoon.
|Set up at the campground|
it was the better choice. after having relaxed in our mess of stuff, we both now finally we feel like we're traveling again, rather than being overwhelmed with just being back. still there's questions and decisions
on the future route, but for now i'm just happy to smile and lie down to the chattering, beats and odd shouts from next door.
ps. music and party still going morning after - now 11.30 am and back onto latin music after some slower music during the middle of the night! they know how to party:)