Caribbean to Peru and Northern Chile-Arica
We spent two weeks on an Island in the Caribbean, where a majority of US citizens have never dared embark. We passed our days snorkeling in crystal blue water, diving down on sunken ships, smoking cigars, drinking cheap rum and playing endless games of gin rummy as the rain fell around us. A more descriptive blog post will have to wait for a new political era!So on to our next destination…. A quick stopover in Miraflores,
Peru before we crossed the border to Arica, Chile. But first we had a 3 hour layover in Bogota, Colombia. This was one of the newest and nicest airports we had seen. They had wifi and all the shopping you could dream of throughout. It was a 3 hour flight to Lima, Peru arriving at 11pm. Our original flight to Tacna the following day was supposed to be at 1pm, but got changed to 11am, making our overnight stay in Miraflores minimal for sleeping. As we waited for our luggage at baggage claim, only Abe’s bag arrived. Once the conveyor stopped moving, I knew I was leaving empty handed. I found an English speaking attendant that had me fill out a form. As of now, they had no idea where my luggage went to or if it could be found. We went through customs quickly and made our way outside to the taxi line. I was beyond devastated that my luggage had been lost, but couldn’t help enjoy not having to lug it around. Abe met a girl negotiating a taxi to Miraflores. So he asked if she wanted to share one. She went and got her boyfriend and the 4 of us squeezed in. Luckily, Abe had left his surfboard in Mexico with his parents and I was sans luggage, so for once it was a pretty easy fit.
We were dropped back off at our family-in-laws condo on the ocean cliff of Miraflores. This time we already had the key, so finding someone to let us in wasn’t a problem. Abe packed up the surfboards and stuff he had left behind back in December and we crawled in bed around 2am. Back up at 8am, eyes half open, I rolled Abe’s bag and he carried his surfboards back down to the alley and onto the street to wave down a taxi back to the airport. It took about six unfriendly drivers until one finally gave us a reasonable price and off we went, stopping at a gas station of course along the way.
The flight to Tacna, Peru, (the furthest city south before crossing over to Northern Chile) was a quick hour flight. I checked in with the desk attendants to see if they knew anything about my luggage, but it was still MIA. Our trusty Lonely Planet guide said we would negotiate a cheaper price to cross the border just outside the walls of the airport. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Taxi’s outside the walls would only take you to the town center and every taxi inside the airport parking lot charged the same amount. We paid around the equivalent of 120 soles, ($40 USD) 1/2 in Peruvian soles and 1/2 in Chilean Pesos to go through the border crossing and arrive at our hostel in Arica 2 hours later. It was well worth it. The driver helped us go through immigration, which was quick and easy.
Lets get one thing straight , Northern Chile feels like the moon! It is one of the driest places in the world and the desert falls into the cold dark water of the pacific. Arica is not a beautiful city, it boasts a major industrial port and is flanked by large sand dunes, but if you look close there’s charm to be found. I booked us at Mirador El Buey Surf Hostel, a nicer hostel overlooking the ocean and main wave. We planned on moving to Arica Surf Hostel after about 5 nights since we had friends that raved about it. But after seeing where it was located, we decided to stay put! On our first morning, I received the best surprise- my luggage! So we unpacked and stayed for 11 nights. This was the longest we stayed anywhere in South America. The first 5 nights we stayed in a private room on the first floor. The downfall was that the receptionist was right outside and a Spanish guy was living there. He treated it like he owned the place sitting in front of the tv in his boxers all day smoking cigarettes. So we moved up to the 2nd floor apartment and we’re in hog heaven. You can watch the surf breaks from the deck and enjoy ocean sunset drinks every night. We had the whole apartment to ourselves for the most part, except for every couple days other travelers would join us for a night or two. There’s a great beach (for Chile) in front to lay out on as well. The hostel has fast wifi, so we took the time to catch up on our blog and chill out. Abe would surf daily and I would run along the boardwalk. I decorated the apartment with balloons for Abe’s 35th birthday, cooked some Completos (Hot dogs w/ the works) for lunch and a pasta dinner. And of course enjoyed a few bottles of Chilean wine on the deck. Each floor had a great kitchen, so we cooked almost every meal at the hostel. We paid around $50 USD/night for both of us.
There are buses that run every 5 minutes to/from town (only 2km- or 20 minute walk; also easy to get a bus to/from the bus station even with lots of luggage and surf boards-just get off at La Lisera Beach, short walk up residential street and to the left). This made it easy to get to the main part of the city for groceries, bars and people watching. The city isn’t much of a tourist attraction, except for the surf, the museo de los morros and for the locals of neighboring towns. The museo sits atop the large sand dune on the south side of town and has a paved trail from the city to the top. Once there you get amazing views of the city of Arica, the Pacific and the desert. There is also a huge statue of Jesus with open arms and the military museum. Arica is in a non-tax zone, so Chileans and Peruvians come here for discounted shopping! The Santa Isabela grocery store (best one) is at the top of the main pedestrian-only street and has everything you need. We definitely recommend this as a hostel to stay in if you find yourself in the industrial city of Arica!
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