Days 75 - 77: From Peru to Chile's Arica
Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
35Trip End Ongoing
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The trip consisted of an 8 hour bus ride south to the border town of Tacna; then handing our passports to a one of several drivers standing in front of the bus terminal as we jumped into his collectivo taxi with three other people for the drive to Arica, Chile. Crossing the border went more smoothly than we could have hoped for, with our driver taking care of most of the paperwork
With all the great reviews we had read online we knew the hostel we chose would be a good one, but we were surprised by how quiet and laid back it was. Most of the reviews raved about the BBQ's and constant parties, as well as what a wild man the hostel owner was. When we arrived the only person around was an employee half asleep in a hammock. He was great and extremely friendly as he welcomed us and took our bags, then showed us around and took us through the map of Arica. The quiet atmosphere made sense when he told us that his boss had gotten married the night before and that the hostel had been closed down to serve as the site of the wedding and post wedding party. I'm pretty sure that when we arrived at 5pm the owner and his new wife were still sleeping the party off. When we did meet him, he lived up to his reputation. A big gregarious Chilean with a booming voice who was quick to welcome us and confess that yes, he was now a married man, "proof that no one is perfect". He also filled the image of being a big kid the next morning, when we woke up and went downstairs to the courtyard for our breakfast that started at 10 am. It was a buffet breakfast fit for a 4 year old with cake, cookies, caramel to spread on your toast, chocolate bars, and a candy dish
After our month working at the orphanage, these few days in the small border town felt like a bit of a vacation rather than just another stop in our constant travels. We also met a great group of Americans who were on their way to Peru, doing close to the same route we were only backwards. We traded lots of tips and recommendations with them. As it turned out, Arica happened to be the perfect place for a vacation. It wasn't much more than a couple beautiful beaches with warm ocean waters and hot sun. We spent most of our first day relaxing on the beach before we went for a walk up the main drag and then to the lookout of El Morro. This hill that runs alongside the town was a military post during the war of the Pacific that had been converted into a memorial. It gave us an incredible view over the town, as well as the sunset over the ocean. We capped off the day walking back to our hostel with a small detour past San Marco de Arica church; a building that is interesting partly because it is a church made entirely of cast iron, but more so because of who designed it. The church was designed and built in Paris, France by Gustave Eiffel before being shipped to Arica to be assembled. One of the first buildings designed by the man who would go on to create the Eiffel Tower.
On our final day in Arica we went across town to Tutu beach, where Brian at our hostel said we could expect more of a party vibe. Tutu is smaller, but with a long finger of land protecting it from the beach break, and a long string of tiki bars and beachside restaurants. It is by far the busier of the town's two beaches. Looking down the shore all you could see were brightly coloured umbrellas where groups of Chileans were shading themselves from the hot sun
Originally our stop in Arica was really just a way to cut down on the cost of plane tickets, a flight to Santiago from within Chile costs much less than an international one from Peru. You also avoid the $200 airport tax that Canadians and Americans have to pay when flying into Santiago internationally. However, it turned out to be nicer than we ever expected. The three day vacation in the small beach town turned out to be exactly what we needed coming off our time in Arequipa. We left very happy and excited to spend New Year's Eve in the big city of Santiago, the next stop on our trip.