I arrived in Arica over the border from Tacna, after a bus from Arequipa to Tacna at 2pm until 9pm (even though I was told 5 hours…. surprise surprise, it was longer!). I travelled with the bus company Flores again, for a cheap s/20. Once I arrived in Tacna I exited the bus station and with some confusion and a lot of hand gestures from a bunch of taxi drivers, I walked across the road to the Tacna international ‘bus’ station – which is really a large car park with a terminal and lots of people trying to fill their small cars with people for s/20 to get across the border into Arica. It was all fairly smooth sailing and the taxi drivers take care of a lot of the small details and usher your through an easy border crossing (just be sure to not have any fruits or vegetables or organic materials on you, and it’s all sweet!).
Arriving in Arica was a completely different story however. It wasn’t smooth sailing. I thought my Spanish had improved in Peru, but the accents in Chile were nearly impossible to understand. I had a lot of confusion getting out of the place I had been dropped off, which wasn’t even a bus station, and trying to get to some place to sleep…. first things first, change money into the right currency…. sounds simple, right? …..wrong…..
let’s go back a step further, get in the right time zone. It wasn’t 11.30pm (a somewhat reasonable time) as I originally thought, but actually 1.30am.
So nothing much is open at 1.30am in a sleepy small beach town on the edge of the desert. Long story short, it was a long night and a lot of walking around with my heavy backpack, a close call to me breaking down in tears, a nice bus man letting me rest in his office, and finally finding somewhere to get some money out in Chilean Pesos, I made it, I survived (even the old drunk man with the plastic cup of wine following me and yelling at me in slurred Spanish).
So, ‘Welcome to Chile, Catriona…. good luck’
Things could only improve.
I bought my ticket out of there early the next day (same day, but the sun was up). A ticket with Frontera del Norte to San Pedro De Atacama at 9.30pm that night, for $15000pesos (about $30AUD).
I had a whole day to explore this strange place. It was a huge contrast to Arequipa. A bit rougher around the edges, but it had a beach and an interesting busy port harbour where I spent most of my time, some cool cafes and a huge showing area in the centre, and delicious nectarines! Yum!
Here are some pictures of the sea lions I met at the port, where all the fishermen were feeding them scraps!
There was also a cool church.
And the beach.
Another interesting thing to note about Arica is that I didn’t run into another traveller the entire time while I was there until I was waiting for the bus in the evening.