Taste of Chile

Arica Travel Blog

 › entry 26 of 26 › view all entries
Night bus time! 

As I wait for the bus to arrive, all I'm thinking to myself is, "Please, please don't let the passenger beside me be a woman carrying two kids". 

Kids, after all, ride free on their parent's lap in Peru and Bolivia, and I've seen some sizeable kids get free rides.  The miracle, however, is how the parents' legs don't fall asleep carrying their hefty little ones.

This is Chile though, so I'm hoping the rules are different.  Thankfully though, all I get is a creepy dude glued to his iPod.  I think he hates me.

A hard day of sandboarding combined with a comfortable bus actually zonks me out completely for the 11-hour night bus to Arica, Chile.
  I don't even get up for a washroom break, and before I know it, I awake to a city that's miles away (contextually and literally) from where I've come from.

At this point, I'm somehow joined by two Brazilian sisters who I think are cool because:

1) They are Brazilian sisters
2) They are South Americans travelling in South America, a rarity
2) They are backpacking Brazilians travelling through cold weather, a rarity
3) They are travelling siblings, even more a rarity
4) One of them can actually communicate in Chilean Spanish, a necessity

After making our travel arrangements to Peru, we scuttle out of the main bus terminal and into the hands of hungry taxi drivers.  What I notice first is how old most of the vehicles are.  Not Cuba-50's-vehicles old, but there are a lot of American cars from the 80's and 90's, including the beloved boat-sized Chevy's.
  Nothing like that would survive the Canadian winters back at home.

Arica is a coastal city, equipped with a big port and a long beach.  As a result, it's really laid back, and it haunts us immediately as we, now converted breakfast zombies, scour the sleepy city for breakfast. 

"What time do you open for breakfast?"

"10 a.m....  Maybe."

The above conversation repeats itself many times, and faster of course, in Chilean Spanish. All the restaurants have a breakfast menu.  They just don't serve it at breakfast time. 

Of course, there is a McDonald's, but the thought is vanquished almost at the moment it appears, and the three of us make a pact not to go there.  So we wander around a half-heartedly looking at the sights before settling into a just-opening diner at 9:30 a.
m.  Nonetheless, we receive our orders at 10 a.m., even though all I order is a slice of leftover apple pie under the glass counter.  Go figure.

And so, with breakfast complete, it becomes an opportune time to stroll the beach for a while.  Oh, the beach.  I miss the beach.  My past few trips have been inland, and the everything about the beach is just so different from large lakes I've visited.  The fishy-seafood smell.  The crashing waves.  The salty wind.  The sweeping curve of the beach. 

We pass a fresh fish market, cardboard shacks for the homeless complete with the remnants of devoured sea birds outside, a pretty port with multi-coloured tugboats, sea lions, and lots of birds.  Actually, the birds were really interesting.
  For whatever reason, there are a number of rafters built near the port for hundreds of birds to perch themselves upon.  Gulls, terns, pelicans.  I don't think I've seen a wild pelican before.  It's crazy.  Just look at the pictures. 

I wish I could jump on the rafters and run through them.  Then again, the pelicans look pretty tough.  And now that I think about it, maybe the rafters purposely built for the birds so they crap into the ocean rather than all over the port.   That's clever.  Getting crapped on every day wouldn't be pleasant.

Well, the stroll along beach was really a way to build up a hunger for lunch.  We received a seafood restaurant recommendation early on from the tour office and our taxi driver.
  I have been thinking of the coastal seafood for a long time now.   It haunts me in my dreams. 

As it turns out, the recommendations are spot on.  The fish is fresh, and I tuck into colourful raw pieces of some unknown fish species, hopefully not endangered, complete with a tangy Chilean spicy sauce followed by ceviche, lemon-marinated raw seafood.

My travel partners decide not to test their stomach strengths with too much raw food and order seafood off the grill.  We mix and match our plates anyways and leave pretty satisfied.  Well, I down their unfinished portions because I have gone mad for seafood.

How come no one eats sea lion?
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photo by: jendara