Chile's Last Stop

Trip Start Sep 24, 2010
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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

By Eric.

Arica is our last stop in the beautiful country that is Chile. It is approximately 5 miles south of the Chilean border still nestled between the wild Chilean coast and the brutal Atacama desert.

Getting here from Iquique took another 5 hour bus trip, which we are pros at now. The bus took us through some windy desert mountain roads where we seemed to teeter on the edge of falling off a few times. I think that Kate was avoiding looking through the window as much as possible due to this. We arrived at a typical looking bus station out of town, of course, at some point mid to late afternoon.


We decided we would get out of the bus station, take a look at the lay of the land, and decide if we were gonna hoof it or take a taxi. Kate pointed out that one of the hostels that was gonna hire us to take over a while ago was not too, too far away. We slow-walked it there with everything, guided by our Lonely Planet map. Seemed like a nice enough place as we found out, but seemed kinda far from the center of town. I convinced Kate that though we were tired and wanted a place as soon as possible, that we would easily be able to find one once we got into the center. We got a general direction of where "center" was and we were lucky enough to find a bus labeled “center” and we were off-right after we squeezed ourselves and backpacks through the door.


           A few minutes later, we were in the middle of the grid of streets that make up Arica. We saw a few places, checked'em out and found nothing too special, consulted the book/map, rinse and repeat. After some thinking time and discussing (based on how tired and how bad of moods we wanted to be in) we decided on the Jardin de Sol (Garden of the Sun) hostel. I must say, it was a pretty nice place. Very nice staff, quaint common area, and a super nice communal kitchen was a sight for our sore eyes. We found home again.


            After putting all our stuff down, we went to find some food and drink and settle in. Luckily everything was pretty close and accomplishing this mission didn’t require too much expense of energy. We were happy.


            The next day, waves were on my mind. This place is world renowned for great waves. Even a World Championship event was held here in 2007, along with many other local and South American events. I was excited but wary. I had heard a lot about shallow rocks and urchins, and with the swell supposedly at about 8 to 10 feet those definitely play a major part in if surfing is fun or not.


            We got up after a fairly decent sleep and had our included breakfast of bread and coffee, packed up, and were ready to walk the town. The town had a pretty cool vibe. Kinda beachy and laid back, though as we would find there weren’t a whole lotta of people heading out to go for a swim or get a tan. It was pretty overcast and there were no obvious beaches that people go to, unlike Iquique where it was right there. After a few minutes of walking we noticed the famous hill with the giant Jesus statue that overlooks the town and one of the more popular surf breaks (El Gringo). After passing one of the oldest churches in Chile, designed by Gustav Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower (see video below) and soaking in the central square, we were off to the beach to do a surf check. Along the way a stray dog took a liking to us and decided that he was going to the beach with us. All in all, he probably spent a good 2 hours by our side. He was a good dog. We called him Pedro. I could see El Gringo approaching, which breaks off of a peninsula that juts out from the coastal road. On the other side of the road was the aforementioned hill and Jesus statue.


            We got to the end of the peninsula and after watching a few overhead waves suck off the shallow rock bottom and detonate into mountains of whitewater, in the back of my mind, I already knew I was not gonna rent a board and go out there. I was content enough to watch these beasts do their thing with no other takers around. Kate and I watched the ocean, walked on the rocks, found some shells, and decided to go back to town to get away from the wind and gloom that seemed to be hanging like a blanket over this area of the coast. Raw would be a good word to describe this stretch of coast.


            The two of us walked along the coast for awhile and then back into town. Though we had been walking for awhile and were in need of a break, I convinced Kate that we should find he foot path to the top of the El Morros (the hill with Jesus, pictured below) and get a nice view of everything before the afternoon slipped away. The start of the path wasn’t too hard to find, and we started our journey up and up. It was a short but very intense and steep hike, but once you saw the view from the top it was more than worth it. Absolutely beautiful would describe seeing the cluster of streets and houses nestled in between the vast ocean and deserty mountains. We split our time between walking around, reading about the statues, and simply staring out at the magnificent view.


            Our muscles were telling us it was time to get closer to the hostel so we could recharge. The trip down was definitely much easier. We stopped by the store and picked up some food and wine for the night. On the way home, we discussed that though while Arica was nice enough, we were both anxious to get to Peru. And so the decision was made…tomorrow we were off to Peru!

For more pictures and video, see below.

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