The journey from Arica to Arequipa or 2 border crossings, 1 collectivos and 7 hours on a bus!

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April 21st 2013
Published: April 24th 2013
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21/4/13 Arica, Chile to Tacna and on to Arequipa, Peru

Last night Howard had to make a stand, or should I say sprag on the bunch of Chilean lads who were making a right racket after the official 11pm SILENCIO! He gave them until 11.30pm and then off he went to the office to complain. He shot back into our room just before the member of we heard one of the staff giving them a stern telling off ha ha. All was quiet after that, well if you are going to post rules you have to be prepared to enforce them!

Up bright and early to do the border crossing, we attempted and failed to eat the dry cheese sandwich that was for breakfast and then called for a taxi to take us to the International bus station.

So here’s what you do – go in the main entrance and to your right is a little kiosk with 250 written above the window (this is actually the departure tax that everyone has to pay, so you need that ticket). Then you will see a collectivos sign ahead of you, hand around there and someone will soon come up and ask how many?. You are then assigned to a collectivos – looks just like a taxi and in our case as thee were already mum, dad and child on the back seat, both of us were told to squash in the front seat (no mean feat given the size of my bum!). To be fair the seat was slightly bigger than an ordinary one.

You give the driver your passport, the exit document (from when you entered the country) and the departure tax ticket. He then drives two feet and parks and then takes everyone’s documents to someone somewhere and when he comes back you are given back your passport, exit document and an entry document already filled out for you for Peru.

Then you bomb off down the road in a race for the Chilean border control. The driver takes everyone from his car to a counter and we are all stamped out, you then beyond the counters and wait until he brings the car around. Everyone piles in and off you shoot again in the race to get to the Peruvian border control. Same process but this time you bring your rucksacks/bags in with you. Get stamped into Peru and put your bags through the x-ray machine, walk out the back of the building and once again wait for your driver to arrive with the car and that’s it you are in Peru!

We didn’t have any long waits or queues whether this was because it was a sunday or because we left Arica at 8.30am I’m not sure. Anyway we pulled into Tacna – the border town about 1 ½ hours after we left Arica and our driver entertained us with Chilean Punk music the whole way.

He dropped us off in the International bus station (normal procedure) where you could change any left over pesos at any of the many desks of money changers that were in the hall – same rates as in Arica.

The family we shared the taxi with told us how to get to the National bus station, which was just out the opposite side of the bus station and across the road, we said goodbye and headed over.

In the National bus station were lots of kiosks for different companies and plenty of buses going to Arequia. As Peru is 2 hours behind Chile it meant we would arrive in Arequia at about 5pm which was great. We bought our tickets from a little Manquigna bus kiosk and they also looked after our rucksacks for us for free as we had about an hour to wait for our bus.

Knowing there was no food provided on the bus and having failed to eat our breakfast we headed to Natty’s – a kind of transport canteen, for some grub. We picked off the meals of the day list and had 2 big platefuls plus drinks for less than £5, now that’s more like it!

We reclaimed our bags and wandered along to the platform area, to find the gates shut, as we were early we just sat down to wait. Time passed and the gates didn’t open, we noticed lots of people walking down the hall and I heard a man shouting Arequipa so we went to investigate, only to find the gate number had changed and we should have bought departure tickets also. So we rushed to the kiosk (fortunately in the same area) and rushed back again and found the bus. As it happens the bus was late leaving so all was fine in the end.

There were only us and 2 other westerners on the packed bus and before we cleared the bus station gates the first of many films was on and running! It was a 7 hour journey with lots of stopping at random police check points and one proper stop for people to get on and off.

We drove through more desert mountain scenery until as we neared Arequipa we saw the glorious snow- capped Andes. As we approached the bus station people were already getting up and blocking the aisles, laden with bags and children. Once we actually stopped there was a mass stampede for the baggage compartment, so we hung back and let them at it!

Once we got our bags we walked out and found an official taxi in the station compound (the drivers all had proper id around their necks) – there are lots of horror stories about unofficial taxis whisking people away and robbing them, hence the caution, plus the hotel had advised us to do this too. Soon we were at our lovely hotel – Casa de Avenida, it’s more of a cross between a hostel and a hotel, only 3 blocks from the main square and with a beautiful big garden with the rooms on 3 sides around it. From the 2nd floor (there are only 2 floors) you get views of the stunning mountains.

The staff are great, really friendly and helpful, particularly the lovely Raquel who speaks English and really went out of her way to help us. We booked a couple of trips and handed in our washing – yep clean clothes again!

We are back up at altitude again, although not quite as high as in Atacama but apart from some tightness in the chest and puffing when going uphill it’s so much easier to handle here. I really think it must be because it’s not so dry and dusty.

That night we walked up to the Paza de Armes, with it’s huge white Cathedral and white arched walkways, it is lovely! We ate on a rooftop terrace overlooking the square and once again it was so cheap, particularly compared to the other countries in South America that we have been too. Howard is most pleased!!

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