Run for the border

Trip Start Jan 23, 2008
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Trip End May 23, 2008


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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

After reading up on the border crossing from Peru into Chile, we pretty nervous about the various options (bus, collectivo, private taxi). At the end of the day, the whole experience was about as strange as we expected, but much easier.

Sure enough, when we arrived in Tacna, Peru there were guys meeting the buses looking for passengers to take across the border in their collectivos. And sure enough their cars were big old Fords and Chevys from the 80s and 90s. And sure enough, they wanted to pack at least 5 passengers into the car before they would leave.

And as crazy as the whole system seemed, there were dozens and dozens of other folks doing it this way so we figured it must work. So we bargained for a good price (that included leaving with only 4 of us since there was no more room for luggage anyway), checked out the car, documented the drivers name and license number, and decided that it was the best way to go.

So after filling out some immigration forms and tying the trunk closed, we sped off into the gathering dusk toward the border with a Chilean couple and a mega-value pack of Peruvian toilet paper.

Somehow there were 20 times more people at the Chilean border than the Peruvian border, so we did have to stand in line for about 30 minutes there. After an entire day on a bus, we were perfectly happy to stand and take in the scene of the crisp evening. We were the only gringos we saw, and certainly about the only people without a 64-pack of toilet paper. Im telling you, Chile could drum up some cash if they imposed a toilet paper duty.

As we entered Arica, Peru the differences between the countries was quickly evident. We sped along a well-lit, divided highway, complete with clear paint and embedded reflective lane markers. There were new, suburban-style condo complexes going up as we entered town. And, in an ironic turn of progress and prosperity, people seemed to smoke A LOT more than in Peru. (Hang in there, Peru. Youll outlive em! But beware your TP supply.)

The bus terminal was pretty standard issue for South America, but the Pisco Sours at the upstairs restaurant were NOT standard issue. Some of the best we have sampled!

All in all, from the ease of the collectivo process to the awesome Pisco Sour, it was a pleasantly surprising experience.
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