Ah, I’m a millionaire once again. Feels good except when the dinner bill tops 20,000 Chilean pesos ($1,427 usd = 1,000,000 Chilean pesos), or the taxi fare from the bus terminal to the hotel is in excess of 2,000 Chilean pesos ($2 usd and change). It’s all relative isn’t it? Doing the math in your head is a little problematic until you get the hang of it. Chile is a new country, and its quirks and differences will become self-evident as time unwinds.
The border crossing, from Peru into Chile, went very smooth. Ever since we tried crossing into Bolivia from Puno, Peru we’ve had a dark cloud hanging overhead. Bolivia never did happen (they just didn’t want us) as I’ve mentioned before, so we ended up backtracking to Cusco and Arequipa. High season started in Cusco and we were lucky to get a room (as basic as it was). We got a small room with some locals, very cold and dank (and primitive).
The weather in Cusco had changed for the worse since our visit two weeks before; very cold, overcast, rainy, and it even hailed. After three nights in Cusco (recovering from our bus trip from Puno) we departed for Arequipa (another eleven hours by bus). Exhausted, we arrived early in the morning and CRASHED again in our hostel. Thankfully, we had finally dropped some altitude (7,500 feet from highs of 13,000 to 14,000 feet), and it was sunny and warmer.
Yesterday we left the hostel at 6:30 a.m. to grab a bus to Tacna, Peru (on the border with Chile). We arrived in plenty of time, but the bus didn’t (it was delayed for some reason). Ah, that dark cloud again was dogging our heels. Patience and flexibility required. With fingers crossed we finally boarded our bus for the six-hour ride (piece of cake) to Tacna on the border. We arrived late in the afternoon, about an hour behind schedule.
We shouldered our packs and walked from the National terminal (our arrival terminal) to the International terminal across the street (our new departure terminal). With our caveman Spanish we managed to get tickets (12 Peruvian soles, about $3.50 usd) for the next bus to Arica, Chile (about one and a half hours including the border crossing). Off we went once again (having changed our Peruvian soles into Chilean pesos).
The border crossing was easy. Off the bus at the Peruvian side to get our exit stamp. Back on the bus until we came to the Chilean side. Off the bus, shouldered our packs and had them inspected, got our entry stamps (90-day tourist visa) for Chile, reloaded our packs (and ourselves) back on the bus and headed to Arica. By this time it was getting very late in the afternoon, and the sun was going down as we arrived.
Grabbing a taxi at the terminal we headed to our hotel (Hotel Las Palmas) which is very nice, but out of our typical budget range. Instead of paying $5 to $10 usd pp Las Palmas is costing us $20 usd pp (we haven’t paid this much for hotel since Boquete, Panama). However, it’s very nice and a good place to regroup after couple of tough weeks. We’ve booked a total of seven nights here in Arica, and it’s right on the Pacific Ocean (sea level and warm).
After a great dinner last night (hamburgers and beer) for the aforementioned 20,000 Chilean pesos, we went to bed early (Chilean time is one hour ahead of Peruvian time). We are back in the land of good (to excellent) beef after almost five years, and have scored a few good (American-style) hamburgers—tipico (typical) food can be good and inexpensive, but sometimes while travelling you just need a good American-style food fix.
Today will be about exploration. It’s always fun to checkout a new place. We’ll try to find the waterfront, but I’m not sure if there are any beaches (maybe). I did see a lot of large ships (tankers and freighters) in the harbor when we arrived, but that usually implies an industrial rather than recreational waterfront. We’ll also checkout some local tipico eateries as an alternative to the budget-busting Americano meal we had last night.
Another task is to find electrical plug adapters for our hotel (they don’t provide them). Chile has weird-ass, round 3-prong sockets not compatible with U.S. appliances. We had an International adapter (purchased from REI), but it blew up (amid a mass of sparks) in Huaraz, Peru at a hostel (with faulty electrical). Hotel reception pointed us in the right direction for a hardware store close by, so we’ll see if our luck holds. Photos of Arica soon.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller