Day 49 - Journey to Arica - Across the border to Tacna, Peru

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South America » Chile » Arica & Parinacota » Arica
November 22nd 2018
Published: November 23rd 2018
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Another relaxed start to the day. The hotel was relatively busy and had a full table of German speaking tourists this morning. We had to wait a few minutes to have breakfast. The Swiss couple from yesterday came out, so we took their place. Gradually people left until just one other couple was left, so I asked them “Sprechen sie Englisch” and they did, so we started conversing, they are from Austria and traveling in Chile for 3 weeks. We have met so many nice, like-minded people on this trip.

We left on schedule at 09:00 and our first stop was the small town of Socoroma which was the closest town to the epicenter of the earthquake in 2007 and was mainly destroyed but has since been restored with help from the Government. The building are still built in the traditional adobe methods but with extra modern reinforcing. In particular, the church has been beautifully restored retaining it’s original charm but built to be more robust.

Next major stop was the old Inca fort, Pukara de Copaquilla, which was built before the Spaniard invasion and was used as a lookout point against other indigenous enemies. It has a spectacular view over a valley to the town of Copaquilla and massive quinoa fields.

We then continued our way to Arica on the coast, back at sea level but at 11:40 Alvaro and Mario demonstrated an unusual phenomenon at a particular point of the road, where we stopped seemingly at the bottom of a hill before going up again gradually. Mario put the gear in neutral and instead of of staying still, it gradually moved forward and gained speed slowly, so it appeared we were rolling uphill. Alvaro said it is known as a magnetic spot on the road, or it could just be an optical illusion, but in any case, it did seem unusual. This area is also where you can see the weird candelabra cacti.

Next stop before lunch was the small town of Poconchile with the Church of St Jerome which is another National Monument and huge fields of mainly alfalfa and corn. This is also the main town for the whole Lluta Valley which is green at the bottom but completely desolate canyon walls on either side. A very unusual sight to behold. After driving out of the Lluta Valley and over into the Azapa Valley which is parallel but leads to Arica.

Our lunch stop (which was very nice) was just on the outskirts of Arica and close to the San Miguel de Azapa Archeological Museum at Azapa which is built on the site where the oldest mummies in the world were found. They pre-date the Egyptian mummies. The museum nicely details the history of the people of this area.

Last stop before Arica was to view some more geoglyphs on hills just on the outskirts of Arica and then we drove to a viewpoint high above the town and also the site of a battle between Chile and Peru/Bolivia known as the battle of Arica. We then drove to the Place de Armas and Alvaro showed us the main cathedral and an old train station, that is currently being restored. The interesting part is that these two building were designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. The church which was rebuilt after an earthquake is of metal construction, so very unusual.

We then waited for our transfer van to Tacna, Peru at 17:00. The driver had a bit of trouble finding us but finally we changed our bags over at around 17:20 and said our farewells to Alvaro and Mario who have been excellent companions over the last five days. Our driver for the transfer was the most unhelpful person we have come across and often drove with just one hand on the steering wheel, very unprofessional and didn’t help us much at all with carrying our bags across the border checks. Everyone else we have had could not do enough to help, which made him look bad. In any case we transferred across with no dramas, border procedure took about 25 minutes and reached Tacna at 16:30 as Peru time is two hours behind Chile time.

After settling in we walked around the local area and looked around the shops, but all we bought was a digital luggage scale and some supplies from a Pharmacy (including some capsules to help my nagging throaty cough which hasn’t subsided much over the last 4 or 5 days). We also decided to try another Chifa (Peruvian Chinese restaurant) mainly because we actually saw a Chinese woman running it. Turned out she spoke Mandarin, so Daisy couldn’t even communicate in Cantonese with her. We ended up with a pretty authentic Chinese meal even though Daisy’s won ton wasn’t quite right again but she enjoyed all the fresh vegetables. Only small problem is we do not have any Peruvian Sole left and the Chifa owner said Visa or Amex was OK but when we gave her the card, she told us to follow the waitress who was going to take us to an ATM, which is not what I wanted to do so we offered Chilean Pesos and they took that instead. So we hope the taxi driver will accept Chilean Pesos, like the Chifa restaurant did. It sounds silly but Alvaro told us that many of the shops in Tacna do accept Pesos because so many Chileans cross the border to shop.

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