20 hours 30 minutes enroute.
Arica Travel Blog› entry 2 of 20 › view all entries
January 31st, 2007 – by: gopackjo
Yesterday afternoon was very nice. The weather in Lima was perfect, all the way up to 80 with light clouds. I checked out of the hotel around noon, and took a taxi to the center of the city.
The taxi cost about $2.50, and was hampered by some pretty fierce traffic the closer we got to downtown. The Plaza Mayor was completely blocked off, and I'm sure that had something to do with it. I was dropped off 2 blocks away, and headed in. The Plaza was a pretty typical Latin American plaza, but as the capital of Peru all of the government buildings were nearby or directly on the square.
The Government Palace was the focus as I arrived. There was a large band playing behind the fence of the building, and the police had everything blocked off within 75 feet of the fence as well.
Lima was hit by a 7.6 earthquake in 1974, and the damage is still evident. Many of the buildings have obviously new portions tacked on to the remaining structures haphazardly. Very interesting, but not very attractive. My least favorite, but most interesting, style of architecture was well represented. Baroque really was in fashion when the Spaniards built this place, and it looked like cherubs and angels had been thrown into every square inch of the places. Frightfully busy.
I had a great lunch of Ceviche which is a marinated seafood salad in which the citrus juice used, if effect, cooks the otherwise raw morsels. It was very tasty, although I have no idea what some of the critters were.
I was optimistic for the bus ride even though it was to be 18 hours, and I was forced to go 2nd class. The seats were comfy, and the old Peruvian woman next to me was small so things looked good. Then the movie started. I was upstairs in the absolute front of the bus, and out of postion to see any screen. But had a speaker positioned directly above my head. Little Man with no pix blasted at 11... Oh Boy! The A/C vents above my head were, for the most part, purely ornamental. So, even though it had cooled to a comfy 65 or so outside, it had climbed past 80 on the bus. We only stopped twice, and I relished the relative comfort of standing in a gravel parking lot for 5 minutes each time.
We also had a team of two drivers, and the initial driver was making time. Fast, safe and smooth, he was really putting the 2-story behemoth through it's paces in some beautiful country. Mostly along the Pacific, with a few forays inland a bit. With either the earplugs or the iPod muffling the blaring speaker noise it wasn't so bad, temperature aside. It even cooled off a bit at night in the bus and was very good.
When morning came the country we were making our way through had changed considerably. We were on the egde of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on Earth. It was featureless dirt and rock with a few pretty dunes of fine fluffy looking sand here and there. Every 50km or so the dullness was broken by a river from mountain rain that survived on the way down. There was lots of irrigation, and huge fields of rice paddies, cacti (prickly pear?), and grapes for the local brandy, Pisco. But these river valleys made it slow going. We had to make precarious descents and tricky climbs of at least 1,000 feet on each side.
The tricky roads, ugly landscape, and our fesh driver, conspired to make this portion of the ride interminably long. The new driver was crawling, even on the few long, straight pieces of road. Because of this we did arrive 2-1/2 hours late into Tacna. That's right 20.5 hours on a bus.
Tacna is the closest Peruvian town on the border with Chile, and the best way to get into Arica, Chile was to take a collectivo. Mine cost about $5.50 for the 75km trip. I was in an old Chevy Caprice with our Peruvian driver Fernando, three young Peruvians hitting the beach in Arica for a few days, and a Columbian backpacker. The line at customs was very long, and as it turns out that was just the first of three long lines. Altogether, it was very straightforward, but we came up one person short when the Columbian was turned back by Chilean authorities who denied him entrance. My spanish is by no means perfect (ha!), but I think they didn't like the look of him (long ponytail), and asked him to prove he had enough money for the trip.
Now I'm in the internet cafe next to the bus station and I have two hours before my next overnight bus leaves for San Pedro de Atacama. I already did the 'backpacker clean-up' in the pay restroom, so I think I'm ready to go. I do look forward to a nice cool hotel room tomorrow night, believe me!
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