The driest city ever ... and not much else (Andy)

Trip Start Oct 04, 2009
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Trip End Nov 20, 2010


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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, July 11, 2010

Arica, Chile is popular for two things; a great surfing location and being the driest city on Earth.  Since we are visiting there during the winter we only had the opportunity to experience on of those things ... I'll give you a clue, I didn't go surfing.

Actually, July is some of the best surf in Arica.  Its just so violent and chilly that no one other than the professionals or lunatics do it very often.  We kept our distance from the surfing scene, to be completely honest I'm still intimidated after my El Salvador experience, and stuck to the more touristy parts of Arica; the seaport, the lookout and the mummy museum .... Arica doesn't have much going for it.  My advice, if you aren't planning on surfing and don't have some crazy obsession with sea lions then you can bypass Arica without much regret.

Luckily, I had with me someone who has a somewhat insane obsession with all animals, including sea lions.  After a week and a half apart, Lindsey and I reunited in Arica to continue our travels south to Buenos Aires.  I figured since we hadn't seen each other for a while I would get a bit more attention than Arica's main seaport stars the sea lions ... I was wrong.  In the two full days we were in Arica we made six different visits to the sea lions.  SIX!  These weren't magic sea lions that did tricks, they mostly just sat there.  But Lindsey was AMAZED by them.  If they yawned, or moved, or acted cute it would mean another 30 minutes staring at sea lions waiting for the next action.  Now I have to admit, it was pretty cool being able to get as close to these insanely massive creatures as we did and even if Lindsey hadn't been there I would have made multiple trips to see them but six was pushing it for me.

One of those six times happened to be during feeding time.  Unable to sell all of their fish, the port workers start tossing scraps overboard and the sea lions partake in their daily scheduled meal.  They have a bit of competition which you will see from the video.  Pelicans and seabirds attack the fish scraps the same time that the slow sea lions are making their way towards them.  In a fight the pelicans wouldnt stand a chance but with a bit more agility they can out manuevre the sea lions and get their pick of food.

In between our sea lion time we were able to see the famous mummy museum just outside of Arica where some of the oldest mummies in the world are kept.  The Chinchorro culture existed from 5,000 to 3,000 BC and mummified the remains of their dead thousands of years before the Egyptians.  They remained in Arica well intact due to the favorable weather conditions; namely no rain.  They were spooky to see as there was no discrimination in mummifying.  Even an unborn fetus was mummified.  But to think that you are looking at someone that leaved in 5,000 BC is extremely remarkable.

Other than that, Arica was a bit of a wash.  We spent a fair amount of time in the McDonalds soft serve line (i dont care what anyone says about McDonalds, i'd like to see you make me a soft serve ice cream that tastes half as good for double the price ... impossible) other than that, not much. The town seems to come and go with the weather so visiting it during the coldest part of the year was a bit of a mistake.  After that we are on to San Pedro de Atacama en route to Argentina!
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