Arica (June 24, 2016)

We didn’t even spend a full day in this border city, but with all the strange occurrences, this place earned a blog post dedicated to itself.

First off, the border crossing. On the Peruvian side, we took a bus right to the border. The Chilean side, there were no taxies nor busses in sight when we cleared immigration. Instead we had a lovely view of a mine field. With no clear instruction where to go, we just followed the crowd down the only street to nowhere. With a 30-minute walk on a paved road through the desert, we finally hit the point where taxies were allowed to wait. By the cabs, there was a row of a few dozen parked semi-trucks, that seemed like they will never move from their spot again. During the stroll, I contemplated about all mines to the left and right of me, wondering when they got buried. Also, I was happy to be here in the morning daylight, since no street lights were installed and from the border we couldn’t tell how far we would have had to walk with only desert in view.

Arriving at the bus terminal, we missed the morning bus to our next destination and had to wait for the evening bus. A full day to kill in a city we had done no research on. The terminal ATM didn’t accept foreign credit cards, so hunting down a bank was first on our list. Having exchanged our remaining Peruvian soles with the cab driver, we had little Argentinian pesos in our pockets for potential emergencies.

Bird-view of Arica. Picture from Dona Matilda Hostel webpage.

Bird-view of Arica. Picture from Dona Matilda Hostel webpage.

Lunch time came, having more money, we went on a hunt for food. Food and transportation costs are more expensive in Chile. With the initial price shock settling, we picked a restaurant. Did I tell you that my travel buddy is vegetarian? Well, he is. We’ve encountered multiple subtle pushbacks on a continent where eating meat seems vital. All the restaurant dishes in this town seemed to contain meat, so we asked the male staff if there was a vegetarian dish. Not knowing the dish which he suggested, we asked to explain the dish, neither of us heard any type of meat in the Spanish description. When the plate came out, the biggest piece of chicken was served with a little salad…. This is not unusual that vegetarian in South America means no “carne” (cow or pork meat), but still allows for chicken or fish. If you are a vegetarian, be sure to triple check every single time, or the same might happen to you.

From the restaurant we headed to the beach. A view surfers were doing their thing, but other than that the area was quiet. We walked a long stretch and treated ourselves to delicious ice cream. Doing more circles, smelling weed every once in a while, dinner time has arrived. Walking around town, we already knew where we wanted to go and had an easy time with the vegetarian order.

Luckily we headed to the restaurant and the perfect timing. Three boys were setting up a romantic table surrounded with candles at the beach close to the restaurant. One of them was dressed nicer and his nervousness was obviously visible when he walked past us. Two boys finished setting up as the other was getting his girl. We assumed he was going to propose, even though we saw the two sit at the table, we didn’t stay long enough to watch their evening unfold.

Big waves at the beach. Sorry, this is the only picture I took in Arica. I snapped this photo to send to my mom on that day.

Big waves at the beach. Sorry, this is the only picture I took in Arica. I snapped this photo to send to my mom on that day.

Instead we decided to head back to the station to ensure to catch our bus in time. The station was packed with people everywhere when arrived an hour early. So we decided to wait outside instead, where we saw a shady gathering. A male figure got to the park, and many other males who’ve been waiting at the park excitingly rushed to the other guy. Everybody was crowding around a laptop. A person left, and grabbed something hidden inside a park art piece, and returned. The item was a DVD. From our observations, we jumped to a conclusion what we believed the item was. As soon as the guy left, everybody else left in different directions as well.

We went back inside the station, but got and ugly surprise when we tried to board. There was an hour time difference between the two border towns and we missed our bus! We didn’t think that there would be a time change and our cellphones didn’t adjust to the new time either. There was another bus that was going to our destination that evening, so we could still depart, but we lost $25, which for us is a days’ worth of travel money. Learning the hard way, we now ask people about the time when we get to a new destination.

Our first impression of Chile sure has been a strange one and we hoped that the rest of the country wouldn’t follow suit. Next stop is San Pedro, a desert town. There we will view beautiful salt lakes, but that’s for my next post. Stay tuned.

Cost breakdown of Arica in USD:

  • Transportation: $30.68
    • $5.06 (initial transportation to the city incl. bus and taxi)
    • $25.62 (missed bus)
  • Food: $9.35
  • Miscellaneous: $0.44 (bathroom usage)

Daily Average Cost: $40.47