Published: January 23rd 2012January 7th 2012
The house was built around this shop.
So, about three weeks late, I have decided to update my travel blog, just in case anyone was worried about me. You have no idea how much effort it has taken for me to finally get around to writing this…
I've spent the last two and a half busy weeks in Arica, a small city on Chile's Pacific Coast just south of the frontier with Peru. Staying with a local family was a brilliant experience as it allowed me to become truly immersed in local culture. Plus it was a chance to improve on my Spanish.
Arica itself is an unusual place. Although now in Chile, it has previously been owned by both Peru and Bolivia, the latter of which still claim ownership, leading to frequent disputes between the governments. The temperature fluctuates between 20-30 degrees during the year and rain is annual occurrence. Typically, the skies opened during my stay. However, it was hardly a deluge, but caused all the businesses in the city to close down 3 hours early. The subsequent rainbow even made front page news!
New Year’s Eve was celebrated by a party which started around ten at night with a 3 course meal.
Then, at twelve, the entire city flooded onto the streets for fireworks (many of which didn’t explode until they hit the ground a few feet away) and bonfires in the street (with Guy Fawkes-style effigies of the Chilean President). At 2 o’clock we headed off to a field a few miles out of town with DJs and this continued well until the next day. By this point, I was somewhat zombiefied after jet lag and a 24 hour flight. The legendary Mama Jimenez (grandmother of many), who was the matriarch of the house, was cooking lunch when I emerged the following afternoon. She hadn’t slept a wink but was bright eyed and busy. I was definitely a light-weight by Chilean standards!
The house of my adopted-family was almost as impressive as their ability to function without sleep. As the complete absence of rain there was no need to protect the furnishings from the elements, the line between indoors and outdoors was hazy. Walking between rooms often involved walking outside and there was a three-piece suite in the garden. The house was also full of animals. Several dogs, chickens (which frequently interrupted my sleep), and three tortoises had free roam
of the house and there was an aviary adjacent to the dining room. At this point I also learned about the ‘Corner Spider’ which could kill a human with one bite and was prone to lurking in, you guessed it, corners. Despite moving my bed into the middle of the room, I still had several sleepless nights and checked the toilet seat several times before use.
As a ‘thank you’ to my hosts, I decided to show off British cuisine by cooking a traditional meal. This was a curry followed by carrot cake. Both were complete disasters. It was hardly the thank you they deserved, in my two weeks I’d been taken around to visit the area’s attractions, had surfing lessons, attended classes at the local university and even been to a wedding. My wonderful hosts had treated me like a king, reflected in the vast quantities of food I received at every meal.
Thanks again to everyone who has subscribed and read this. I’ll try and post again in the next few weeks!
There are more photos below