The border is an imaginary line, isn't it?

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
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Trip End Apr 08, 2008


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Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

Time to head to Chile....which means a day of travel....and then there's the pizza I ate at about 10 PM that has been stuck in my esophagus all night. Plus the quandary as to the bus schedule.  So after a sleepless and sick night, it's off to the bus station by 6:30 so we can catch the imaginary 7AM bus.  Which in actuality means we arrive at the station at 6:30,  buy tickets for the 1030 bus and turn right around, drive back to the hostel,  and hang out for another 3 hours.  OK by me since the insecurity of my stomach makes a bus ride this early a formidable concept.   My bus anxiety goes back to a ride between Pamplona and Barcelona....7 hours on a bus after eating too wide a variety of delicacies in Pamplona and my stomach ridding itself of them as completely as possible the whole way.  So whenever I get in a bus feeling slightly nauseous now, I experience this consuming paranoia that can trip me right in to a replay of that experience. 
 
But today is not the day for that apparently.  I eat nothing and politely refuse the crème filled Twinkie and bubble gum soda that's offered to me.  The video could be delightfully distracting but would be even better if there were some subtitles.  At least it's not a Kung fu video like the last ride.  Here we have Nicholas Cage speaking Spanish in City of Angels.  But we arrive without incident...the drive is through the desert of southern Peru.  Huge Andes-sized mountains except they are without vegetation and without moisture.  And even without these humanizing factors, there are little huts stuck into crevices in the dry sandiness...I don't know how one would survive under these conditions. 
 
We spend 5 hours driving in it to Tacna and then its time to cross the border in to Chile.  The way it works is you hire a car to drive you between Tacna, Peru and Arica, Chile. But I feel like I'm traveling with Cheech and Chong in this low slung vehicle with the stick on the column, doors that mostly close,  and an engine reverb that's blocks out any possibility of conversation.  We've got 4 people in the back, the three of us in front and Jesus on the dashboard.  And our driver is this young guy who doesn't speak English and yet we've handed him our passports and other entrance papers which is never a good idea.  But this is a faith-based situation and it all happens fast and then we're on the road to the border.
 
All good until it's time to get out of Peru...where's the little paper I got when my plane landed in Peru a month or so ago?  No idea.   I search my luggage...I'm sure I discarded it...one less scrap of paper to carry around...but I can't leave the country without it...got to buy another one...a ridiculous bureaucratic necessity.  I give the border guy my opinion on that little piece of paper but he really doesn't understand anyway or at least pretends not to.  I get my paper replacement and now it's time to enter Chile.  A whole different sort of challenge.  I guess there are three things we have to get across the border...our bodies, our luggage, and our car...and they all have to be done separately.  And there are hordes of people pushing and shoving, trying to do the same thing.  The line snakes around upon itself...people keep section hopping, cutting in front of others inciting near hysteria, you really can't tell the flow of the line or even it's destination.  So we stick with the people from the back seat...they seem to have a clearer idea of the process.   Meantime our luggage is in a pile somewhere and our driver - where is he? - has our documents. 
 
We wait, the sturdy little old lady behind me consistently shoving me from behind....the lady on my side is carrying a little 1 yr old. Whose drool is landing on my shoulder....and then there are the total meltdowns when people try to cut...only the border patrol can handle that stuff.  Toilet paper seems to be a very popular item to carry across the border...there is a noticeably large number of people carrying mega-roll packages....Peruvian toilet paper must be superior to Chilean.  We go with the flow but the craziness takes about 2 hours and a lot of simply enjoying the moment. 
 
And finally we get our bodies through, our luggage through - just barely because Lisa was trying to smuggle in 3 limes - the car gets sniffed out by the drug dog and we eventually see our driver on the other side of the barricade.   We pile in for the 30 minute drive to our destination...the ocean is to our right, the desert is to our left and Chile is dead ahead. 
 
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