Saturday 3rd October 2015
I woke up around 5am and the first thing I did was to check out tips online about the border crossing between Peru and Chile. Sometimes, border crossing can be tricky, sometimes stressful. Better know which scams to avoid, if there is any! I found this really good detailed explanation of what to do and what not to do here:
On my arrival in Arequipa, I had found this blog also giving details about the journey from Arequipa to Arica:
Border Crossing: Tacna, Peru to Arica, Chile
On it, the guy had put a screenshot of the bus timetables of the buses going from Arequipa to Tacna which is the last city of Peru before to cross the border. It had made me realise that Flores was the bus company with the biggest number of buses. Even if the timetable was not accurate anymore two years after he had published that article, going to the Flores bus terminal would probably be a good idea.
I said a last good bye to the Misti and thought of course that…I WISH I HAD MORE TIME!!! 😀
I jumped into a taxi and went to the Flores bus terminal. I was there at 6.40am. There was a bus leaving for Tacna at…6.45am so I bought a ticket at this counter.
Before I knew it, I was on the bus to Tacna!
Here is a map.
At the beginning of the journey, we passed this valley full of scattered houses in the middle of a desert, such a strange atmosphere.
Probably some mining going on.
Beautiful dry deserty landscape though.
Of course, I had forgotten to plan some food for the journey. Luckily, there is always some people coming into the bus at some of the stops we do to sell some food for really cheap. I got this awesome banana pancake with ice sugar.
The road we were on.
When there is water, there is life and things grow. Such a contrast here with the surrounding desert.
Those sandy dunes were very pretty though.
We passed the fruit check just before to get to Mosquega.
What I like is that you can learn all the names of the fruits in Spanish just by looking at the list of all the forbidden fruits, not just learning them but also realising the number of fruits you…never heard of!!! Also, interestingly, you are allowed to take bananas with you! I love bananas for journeys, they are handy. But you can also take through the border pineapples, coconuts, melons, kiwis and granadillas. No idea what tumbo costeno, noni and sandilla are!
The bag`s check.
Why are they so careful? It is explained on this sign. In the past, some insects went through and contaminated lots of the local fruits. By not letting most fruits go through, they avoid that. Like in Australia or many other places in the world doing the same.
We passed this toll.
Did a stop-over in Mosquega where some people disembarked.
Our bus continued towards Tacna, still a very sandy landscape. It is so interesting to see that the very north of Peru and the very south of Peru are so dry and full of sand dunes and barely inhabited. That`s not the image I had of Peru at all before to come here, I didn`t imagine that!
I was getting hungry and luckily at some refuelling stop, a guy came in and started shouting “Choclo y Queso! Choclo y Queso!”. I had no idea what choclo was but then I saw his bag and realised it was corn. So I bought corn and cheese and this was my lunch. The corn beans were so big compared to small corn beans I am used to see. The corn was really hot, almost burning, and it did go well with the local salty cheese which was melting on it. Those corn beans were so huge they were really feeding. Delicious bus lunch. 🙂
At some point we passed this factory producing milk products.
What was really interesting was to see the employees queuing. It was Saturday 3rd October, so they were probably waiting to get their pay for the month of September. Old fashion way, in cash, in an envelop or in hands, queuing like people used to queue in Western Europe. My mind wandered…Who were these people? How did they live? How much were they earning? Would that be enough to carry them to the end of the month? Were they working and living in conditions similar to the ones in factories at the beginning of the century in France? So many unanswered questions. Yes, true, I could stop the bus right here and go explore. That would be a very interesting photo documentary. But not this time, this time I am just a traveller, a tourist, passing by, enjoying beautiful landscapes and hikes and journeys. I do get tempted sometimes though to just stop and change the angle of this trip but I also feel like I would need way more time than just a week. I would want to spend a few weeks with them to learn more and make sure I cover this topic accurately. Another time…
We arrived in Tacna.
Picked up our belongings in the local terminal. For some, it is just a backpack. For others, it is way more than that, like for these women, probably lots of plants collected, hard work, that they come to sell from their village to a big city.
As I had learned in the TripAdvisor tip about this border crossing, I did not get a local taxi directly out of the street but walked to the international terminal instead.
Here is the terminal.
There I paid 1 sole of departure tax or something, not even sure what this really is ahah. On the red sign is written in white “Cuanto tratas bien al turista, tratas bien al Peru.” It was cool to see that. Yep, indeed, as in so many countries, tourism brings money and creates jobs, the safer the country is the more tourists come, the better for it.
I felt like taking a local bus rather than taking a taxi. Where do I take the bus from Arica to Chile? Ah ok, there.
Getting to the bus. There were lots of people queuing for that yellow bus, but the green one on the left was departing earlier so I got into that one.
There was actually one seat left! As in most local buses I took in this trip, I was the only westerner which suited me perfectly. The woman in pink is going through the alley to sell drinks and snacks.
I started filling this white form which was the customs declaration for the Chile border entry to declare that I was not bringing in 4 computers or 10,000 USD in cash.
Everyone in the bus was busy filling that form. We also had a small pink form to fill but forgot to take a shot of it. Oh and did you notice that guy with tons of toilet paper rolls on his lap? Apparently, there are way cheaper in Peru than in Chile, so people come to Peru to do their shopping of…toilet rolls!!! So funny.
Still this sandy landscape with a few stone houses scattered.
Arriving at the international border crossing, where first we need to go to the counter to get out of Peru and then later to the counter to get in Chile.
Queuing to get to the counter to get out of Peru. I realised that I had lost the little exit paper. Oops. When I got to the counter, I told her and she said I had to go in front to pay a fine of 15 soles. The bus driver took me there and was shouting at me like your dad would shout at you when you have just done something silly. He was telling me that I was not the only one travelling on this bus, that I was going to make everyone late, that it was not very responsible of me. I said “Whoo whoo, tranquillo hey! I didn`t know I had lost it, sorry, if they were putting a sticker in the passport this would not happen, this is not modern, not my fault, so stop shouting!” It was a funny conversation though. So anyway, I paid those 15 soles penalty fee, got my exit stamp in the passport, got back into the bus which had been waiting less than 5 minutes more anyway. Voila.
Next we got to the border entry of Chile.
Got the entry stamp in passport and the little paper I better not loose this time, and then took all our belongings through the luggage check and gave them the white customs declaration paper.
And here we were in Chile!
Lots of truck full of petrol going from Chile to Peru.
Got to Arica.
Arrived at the international bus terminal where many people had bags full of stuff, ready to cross the border and go sell something or maybe they had just arrived from Peru too.
People queuing to get on the bus to Peru.
The bus I was on from Tacna to Arica.
I had no Chilean money so changed 50 soles for about 10,000 Chilean Pesos at the counter.
Then I took a taxi to the Sunny Days hostel. That was stupid as it was literally 10 minutes walk from the terminal, but this I had not looked at. It was 5.50pm local time, which is 2 hours more than in Arequipa where it was 3.30pm. Nuts!!!
Ross was waiting for me, he is a kiwi guy who has been living for 15 years with his wife in Chile. His hostel was the best I have seen so far, as advertised at the door, it was a home away from home. You entered in a corridor and were facing first lots of teddy bears and soft toys sitting on a sofa. Turning left, you would have a collection of bottles of any kind to your left and another collection to your right. You arrived in a covered patio where there were sofas, tables, walls full of postcards and 2 fridges full of magnets. Magnets!!! I had a flashback!! I suddenly remembered that Josh, a Canadian guy I had volunteered with in Casa Elemento had told me about Ross, the kiwi guy fond of magnets to who you should always bring a magnet of your travels. Damn it, I had one I had bought in San Francisco at Ghirardelli of a little cup saying I love chocolate, it would have perfectly ended on this fridge but I had shipped it back with 1.5 kilos of useless stuff from Bogota. Anyway…That place!!!! So awesome!!! Anyone travelling South America should stop over there for a night at least to suddenly sigh of relief: “Ahhhh” and sit there and feel home. What an amazing amazing hostel. Here is the website. And people, please, stop booking on booking.com or expedia.com. Having worked for a year and half in the industry, the fact is they take 20% commission on the hotel room price. If you want to sleep there, just get in touch with Ross by email directly, he will reply to you really quickly. I make all my bookings in South America by dropping an email to the hostel where I intend to sleep, usually the night before. Old fashion way, but just so much fairer for the hostel itself, as all the money I pay in cash on arrival goes directly to their pocket. Just saying…
I dropped my backpack in a dorm of 4 beds in the next patio. Then Ross pulled out a chair, gave me a drink and a little piece of homemade cake and we started chatting about Australia, New Zealand, Chile, his life, life. Although quickly I asked him, hey do you know if I can surf here, or is it too late? He jumped from his seat and walked out of the house across the small street and knocked on the door of his neighbour. “Hey Jojo, how are the waves? This young lady is keen on going surfing.” And Jojo said “Small waves, all right, get into your swimming suit and we go.” I was so excited. Within a few minutes, I was ready. He gave me a full wetsuit to try on which worked. He waxed the 2 boards, 2 very long boards of 9″ roughly. In our wetsuits, bare feet, the board under the arm, we walked about 10 minutes to the beach. I used to do that when I was surfing a few summers in Lacanau in France. With Edwin, Dominic and Christophe, and other keen surfers, we would walk from the hostel to the beach and go “check the waves” in the early morning and then if they looked good enough, we would go back to the hostel, get into our wetsuit, grab our boards and off we were in the water within 10 minutes. It was magical. So being in Arica doing the same thing reminded me of that time.
We got into the water which was not cold at all, maybe 23-25 degrees? We paddled out on our long board. Now, I had never really surfed a long board. Jojo was giving me tips. Stop putting your feet in the air, stick them to the board. You are too far away on your board, lie down closer to the nose. I did that but when I took a wave, the nose went straight in the water and I did a gentle washing machine. But then he explained to me, no no, you need to play with your upper body. When the waves take you too much down, you lift it so you don`t sink, when it is not powerful enough, it will help you go down way better. And keep your feet at the back on the board, stop putting them in the air! Alright, alright, got to to do that, and took a few really cool long waves. That`s it I thought, when I get back to Australia, I am selling my 7″3 and I am buying a long board!! Especially as the waves in Currumbin and Coolangatta where we surf the most often are small waves like these ones, it does make much more sense to use a long board to catch way more waves. Yep, Torsti, Paulo, Raja and Brano, my most recurrent surf buddies in Brisbane, long board it is! Let`s do it! 🙂
The very magical thing while surfing in Arica was that there were tons of sea turtles all around us. Hundreds of them. I had gone over seeing sea turtles when snorkelling and diving the Galapagos, but I had never surfed with sea turtles and it was an awesome experience. We stayed almost until sunset and then got out of the water, walked back to Jojo`s house. I dropped the wetsuit, the board, walked across to Sunny Days, had a warm shower.
Ran into a guy called Paul who was preparing a risotto. We chatted and he invited me to share his dinner, I said ok, but let me go grab some fruits to make a desert then. I went out, grabbed fruits, withdrew money, stopped over at Jojo to pay for the surf session, and then made the fruit salad. I had dinner with Paul, Melissa and Burton. Paul was from Holland and an artist. He was passionate about snails and in particular the slime of snails. He has been exposed in many places actually, check out his website here, really interesting things: http://www.paulgeelen.nl/
Burton was from New Zealand and was travelling for 2 years already, didn`t have a blog though.
Melissa was from Canada and was travelling alone like each of us. She had just started a 7-week trip and has an awesome blog which is very witty and funny here, I actually love reading it already! http://knowlesnotes.wordpress.com/
I recommend reading in particular her articles about Arica, a city that I didn`t see at all, if you are interested in Arica, where she shows photos of the fishermen`s wharf and market, sea lions and pelicans. Very awesome shots and article!
More about Arica on the blog of Paul and Manue here:
NOTE: I am editing this article a year later (12th Nov 2016) after being contacted by Daphne, a traveller who just went through the border crossing. I enjoyed reading her own crossing of the border here. One more post to read for you, reader! Get in touch if you enjoyed reading this blog post! 😀 http://www.daphneklee.com/border-crossing-from-arequipa-peru-to-arica-chile/
The next day, off to Putre to meet the parents and go on a week road-trip with them from Putre to Bolivia and down to San Pedro de Atacama, through one of the most beautiful and wild landscape of this Earth, the biggest salt flats of the world, the Salar de Uyuni and see its surroundings!! Yeah!