Crossing From Peru into Chile
Arica Travel Blog› entry 39 of 84 › view all entries
Not long after leaving Arequipa the road descends quickly and you are soon in the middle of a landscape similar to what Mars must look like. There are large mountains covered in sand with red rocks protruding and just vast stretches of nothingness. The road proceeds south without many signs of civilization until the town of Moquegua, a bit east off the main road south towards Chile. Even there, the town is little more than a small patch of life. Continuing onward, the vast expanses of sandy desert are broken by a few oases here and there, which actually look quite dramatic, like veins of life in an otherwise dead landscape. There was a military base on the edge of a small oasis, probably a pretty miserable place to be stationed. After another hour of driving south the bus finally reached Tacna, the last outpost of Peruvian life on the way to Chile.
The present day border between Peru and Chile lies about 30 some kilometers south of Tacna and is literally an arbitrary line drawn in the sand with the blood of those who fought in the War of the Pacific and through later joint negotiations. From the deal, Peru definitely came out on the wrong side as Chile gained several areas rich in natural resources while Peru was stuck with the sandy wasteland around Tacna. There is still an active minefield near the border. Leaving from Tacna are numerous shared taxis for 20 soles, although they tried to scam me out of 10 soles by saying that I needed to pay for the tourist card to enter Chile but after I persistently told them that US citizens didn´t need to pay for it they finally conceded and said that I could pay later, which I never had to do.
As we neared the ocean, I thought that it had actually been almost two and a half months since I had seen the ocean. When we entered the city limits the ocean finally came into view and as our car got further into the city the tall sandy hill dropping steeply to the water on the south edge of the city came into view and made for a very nice backdrop the city. The hill forms the nothern terminus of string of hills and cliffs that reach down from the Andes and extend almost all the way to the Pacific Ocean.