A Travellerspoint blog

Andando a Pata en La Ligua

Dulces y Suéteres y Micros, Oh My!

26 °C

I’ve started getting conscious of the semester drawing closer and closer to its end, and with it inevitably my time in Chile. Classes end the last week of November for me, and then I’m traveling by myself around the Lakes Region until my mom joins me in Santiago on December 22nd. I’ve been feeling a bit sad about not really having many/any Chilean friends but telling myself to just try to maximize my remaining time here to meet people and make this semester a personal experience as opposed to six months of events strung together.

By the way, it is so easy to sit down with my gringo friends and have an entire conversation of intense reflection about our study abroad experiences. (El Baul Café is very conducive to this.) I was recently talking with Jess and Heather, two year long-ers about how taking the full year abroad really allows you to develop the skills and friendships you have just started to plant in the first semester. But at the same time, I am happy only to have been gone one semester. Junior year of college isn’t the only opportunity we have to live somewhere new, and there is plenty I still want to explore at Brown.

Chile, instead of states, has regiones: there are 15 plus a Región Metropolitana de Santiago (the capital), 2 of which just became operative earlier this month. Valparaíso is the capital of the V Región (Quinta, “keenta”) which is right next door to Santiago’s RM. So really, given the incredible length of the country, there is a disproportionate density of people and cities around here. But Viña/Valpo still don’t have their own major airport, for some reason.

In the spirit of maximizing our time and familiarizing ourselves with our region in Chile, Caitlin and I decided to venture to the pueblo of La Ligua to “go to the source”… of woven goods and dulces (sweets). We showed up at a bus stop on Libertad not sure what to do next but heard a man yelling, “Quillota! Calera! LA LIGUA!!” So we ran over and hopped on his bus, which turned out to be just as expensive ($2,000 pesos = $4 USD) and longer than a ride to Santiago. Anyway, it was fun, and it’s always nice to be surrounded by only Chileans (somehow that is a lot harder to come by than it should be).

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2 hours later we stepped off in La Ligua and instantly saw sweaters everywhere. The town has a nice small plaza surrounded by textile shops and eateries. Especially since we arrived around lunchtime, there were dozens of vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the street, including plastic bags with all sorts of chopped veggies in what I gathered was a sweet dressing, with each bag inflated to within an inch of its life. We went to La Lihuen which was good, and I finally (after seeing the name so many times) tried camarones al pil pil, which are shrimp in an olive oil and garlic emulsion soup/salsa. According to Wikipedia (I had to “go to the source” again), the name “pil pil” for the sauce is an onomatopoeia derived from the sound made as the sauce is whirled in the pan during preparation.

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We then took the waiter’s suggestion to take a colectivo to Valle Hermosa about 10 minutes away… which was basically one road flanked by sweater shops as far as the eye could see. Neither Caitlin nor I were looking for any woven goods in particular, so we kind of peeked our heads in every few shops. There were also a few artesanía handicrafts shops with prices much lower than other places (for example, San Pedro).

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We had the good fortune to run into Mauricio at a bus stop to catch a micro back to La Ligua. He was a dulces vendor who explained to us that there are about 20 dulces factories around La Ligua, and they each have an army of salespeople that get huge wicker baskets full of about a dozen kinds of dulces.

“Pastelitos fresquitos! Llegaron recién! Liiiiiiiiight!!!”

He would yell, meaning “Fresh little pastries! Just arrived! Light!” I asked him how long ago they’d arrived, and he said, “shhhhhh.” He said you just have to make those kinds of statements to get people to come over to your basket, just as another salesperson walked over and set down his basket about 20 feet away upstream in the flow of people, making Mauricio anxious and yell louder. But Mauricio maintained a pretty stead flow of customers, and he would tell them that these lovely gringas were bringing him good luck and that we’d arrived “direct to La Ligua from the United States.”

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Eventually we did make it back into La Ligua and headed straight for the delectable aroma we had smelled on the way to lunch earlier in the day. We traced it to La Masa de Carlos, a pastelería around the corner. In addition to small batches of all of Mauricio’s types of dulces, Carlos also had probably the most beautiful alfajores I have yet seen.

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Tomorrow : Santiago
Nov 1 – 4 : La Serena
Nov 8 – 11 : Buenos Aires

Posted by KKS 14:34 Archived in Chile Comments (3)

Adelante A Mendoza

Esperar, Esperar, Esperar...

semi-overcast 20 °C

It was strange to actually feel sort of Chilean for once. On a weekend trip with 3 friends to Mendoza, Argentina, last weekend, our Chilean Spanish really bumped up against their Argentinean… with no apologies.

As it turns out, there are many dozens of flavors of Spanish spoken around the world, and I have been amazed how organized they seem to be by country borders. For example, when I was in Arica and San Pedro in the north and took day trips just SLIGHTLY into both Peru and Bolivia, there was a very marked difference in the way people spoke Spanish. For example, they actually pronounce the “s,” and they speak more slowly. It was amazing how much better I was able to understand our Peruvian taxi driver than some of my teachers at the university here in Valparaíso!

Before arriving for my semester abroad, I had heard that Chilean Spanish is the hardest to understand. I figured that’s what they say about every Latin country, and I knew it would be hard to carry on a conversation in Spanish no matter where I went. But after going to those other countries and now to Argentina, I totally agree with that stereotype. But I think that being surrounded by people always talking fast, mumbling, dropping all sorts of letters, and butchering grammatical rules is actually a good experience for me to acquire a sort of verbal fluidity to mix in with my unshakable tendency to resort to textbook-style language.

It was kind of fun to have the Argentines correct my grammar… not because it was wrong, just because it was Chilean.

A few examples:
Chileno: ¿De dónde eres?
Argentino: ¿De dónde sos vos?

Chileno: Uy, estoy cansaaaaa.
Argentino: Estoy can-sa-da.

Chileno: Son de Bueno’ Aire’.
Argentino: Somos de Buenos Aires.

Chileno: ¿Cómo estái, po weon!?
Argentino: Uh… ¡Hasta luego!

As for logistics of the trip, well… it’s always good to travel with an open mind and a flexible schedule.

We took the trip on a 3-day holiday weekend, so of course everyone else in Chile was going to Mendoza, too. In fact, when we went to the Viña del Mar bus station on Wednesday night to buy tickets for Thursday night, we went window to window of the bus agencies and they were all sold out! We managed to find one “ida” (going) and “vuelta” (return) from 2 different companies: El Rapido and Cata. The distance from Viña to Mendoza is around 300km, and it can be driven in a car in 5-6 hours. I had heard a bus can take up to 9 hours. Well, I thought, we’re not in a hurry.

Fast forward to El “Supposedly” Rapido bus Thursday departure at 10:00pm (22:00 for those of you down South here) and things were pretty good, except that we had front row seats to the bathroom. The busses are double deckers, and the bathroom is downstairs. Well whatever, I though: easy access.

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Fast forward to 2:00am, when our bus pulls into a huge parking lot (after circling around about twice). The door opens about 5 feet from me to the freezing night air, and there is a mass exodus of Chileans out of the bus. We send Dave out to have a look, and he concludes that it’s just a cigarette break. About 20 minutes later, starting to get really cold, someone official looking says something-something-something everyone needs to pay 500 pesos to pay someone-someone. Uh, okay… so I turn to the Chilean lady sitting next to me (I always try to sit next to Chileans and, hey, this time it paid off!) to ask her what was going on.

Looking frustrated, she said that the border crossing was closed due to snow, we were going to stay in this parking lot overnight, leave at 8am to be first in line at the border, and that the bus needed to pay the parking lot owners $50USD to be able to park. Wow, we gringos had been really out of the loop. So anyway, we decide to “aprovechar de” the opportunity of being at a trucker’s stop so we get out, head over to the owner’s rest house, and about 40 minutes later get the “churrascos” (beef sandwiches) that we ordered, mostly to avoid being in the freezing bus.

When we finally do get back on, the door is still open, the cabin freezing (though warm upstairs), and people generally agitated.

Fast forward to actually getting to the border, after about 15 hairpin turns up a mountain. This huge dome shaped building (massive, but somehow totally inefficiently utilized) is actually right next door to one of Chile’s most popular ski resorts, Portillo. There was snow, wind, right in the grip of the Andes. And just as importantly, several kiosos selling refreshments.

Fast forward to actually arriving in Mendoza 4 hours later (after an abrupt change of busses, and NO BREAKFAST--- THANKS EL RAPIDO). It was about 12:30 on Friday, so more than 14 hours.

We finally get our bearings after asking a “carabinero” (police officer) and get to our hostel, Mendoza Inn, 1 of the 3 Hostelling International Campo Base hostels in Mendoza. Of the 3, I’d say Campo Base has the best location, though the extra 8-ish block walk from Mendoza Inn isn’t bad. All the activities offered are the same and often people are mixed together on the excursions. If you do stay at Mendoza Inn, we really liked the Mulato Café around the corner and El Palenque up the street… good eats, not expensive.

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Speaking of excursions, they were offering a package deal: Saturday excursions to 2 bodegas and a chocolate factory, followed by an “asado” (BBQ); Sunday excursion to do trekking, rappelling, and rafting.

We spend the rest of Friday walking around the town. It has very wide streets, due to the city’s being rebuilt in 1861 after a devastating earthquake. So it’s pleasant to walk along the streets… well, except that in many places there isn’t any form of traffic signaling, signs, or otherwise. So cars kind of speed toward an intersection at the same time and, at some point, someone makes the decision to go first. There are also a lot of nice plazas, and vendors set up tables with assorted antiques or little tents selling handmade goods or foods or what have you. We also found the densest concentration of book stores we’d seen anywhere in Chile.

We took my Chilean seatmate’s recommendation to go to Las Tinajas, a “tenedor libre” (all you can eat) restaurant near Plaza Independencia downtown. She told us to get there early… meaning 8pm. We did, only to find that it didn’t open for dinner until 8:30, but good thing we got there early because there was already a line of about 10 people and more quickly extending behind us.

For a mere $7.50USD, we got entrance to about 6 counters of all sorts of food: “mariscos” (seafood), pasta, an “asado,” “ensalada,” “postres” (dessert), and some semi-Chinese food. Well, well worth it. Except that it kind of hurt to walk home afterwards… and we couldn’t really figure out where we were (our map had lots of streets missing and our hostel was located off the shown area), so I approached a studious looking young woman on the street and asked:

“Discuple, dónde está la Calle Colon?”
“Ah yah, la Cajsha Colon, una cuadra por allá.”

“Uh… no, no la CASA Colon… la CALLE.”
“Sí, sí, la CAJSHA Colon está allá!”

“Hmm… Cajsha… Calle… oooo Cajshe! Yah, gracias!”

Tose crazy Argentines turn the “LL” into a “JSH” so that “calle” which should be “cai-yae” becomes “cah-jshay.” But on top of that, instead of “-ay” she said “-uh”… which totally threw us off. It also threw us off that someone had spray painted the street signs of “Calle Colon” with “Che Guevara,” and that the street has about 3 different names anyway. Long story short, we got back to the hostel VERY “satisfechos.”

Next morning we piled into some hostel vans off to two bodegas, and I found it really interesting to see all the machinery used in the process, and also to meet all the Swedish exchange students also studying in Valparaíso and also in Mendoza for the weekend. Different university though. I still managed to bring up Norway ASAP though.

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We then went to the La Cabaña chocolate factory, and you can imagine how my mouth was watering watching that massive vat stirring around some lovely milk chocolate. It was almost fun to just walk around the chocolate shop at the back (dare I say I felt like a child in a candy shop??) and “aprovechar de” the free samples. Argentine prices, once higher than Chilean ones, are now significantly lower… very convenient in this type of situation.

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For the asado around 9pm that night, vans picked up people from 2 of the Hostel Internationals and brought them to Hostel International Mendoza for the asado, which basically consisted of about 1.5 hours mulling around near the bar and the grill while the food was prepared (this is kind of how South American asados are, I think). People joked that they made the people wait so long so that they would buy drinks, thereby giving the hostel money, and not be hungry by the time that the food came around.

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Well, we still were, and there was plenty of cow for everyone. The servers came back with tray after tray of meat and told us “Con la manito no más!” (Just take it with your hand!). Fast forward to it being difficult to walk afterwards…again.

Sunday, we again pile into the tour bus, this time next to our new-found Argentine friends: Charly, Sol, Gaby, Juan, and Montserrat. We head about an hour away to trek through some pre-cordillera hills to a site for rappelling (preceded of course by an hour or so of waiting in the lodge… no worries, we played ping pong). When we get to the rappelling site we have to wait for about… 2 hours?... as the group in front of us finished and as a pobrecito had his leg bandaged up and himself strapped to a stretcher after he broke his ankle jumping off a rock (not related to the rappelling). The rappelling was fun… I actually didn’t feel scared at any point in the process, I’m not really sure why. It must be due to all of Mr. Miner’s insight during our climbing unit in 6th grade. Thanks again, Mr. Miner, for everything.

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Back to the lodge, another hour of waiting in the lodge (more ping pong), and we got to go rafting. But oh wait, oops, everyone else has already gone rafting for the day, so all the wet suits and everything else is really wet. So… wear what you want. Smart Kam is pretty sure that we won’t get that wet, so why not just go in my jeans? I’ll put on a jacket and some supposedly not really waterproof over-pants… and wet shoes. Shiver.

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Fast forward to water crashing all over our boat as we bounced along the class III river, and did I mention it was freezing? About 30 minutes of rafting later, we get out and I’m glad that my pants aren’t actually cold, but I’m pretty embarrassed that since they’re gray jeans, it looks like spots on a cow: black and white, wet and dry. And of course we still had to go to the lodge to wait while who knows what with all the Argentines and Swedes inside. Oh well. At least people made room for me at the fireplace.

The next morning, after the tasty and small breakfast of tea, a piece of sweet bread, and a piece of buttery bread, we head back over to the bus station, optimistic about out 10:30am Cata departure. As we were stocking up on food items from the kiosos (trying to go prepared this time), Andrew and I were approached by a cameraman and reporter and asked if we could be interviewed! It was fun… she asked us each some questions about where we were from, what we did and liked about Mendoza, and what the city was lacking. I joked with them afterwards that I hoped our Spanish was acceptable, and they kind of chuckled. Too bad it didn’t air in Chile so that we could see if we’d actually made it onto the program.

Fast forward to us waiting for SEVEN HOURS at the border crossing. Let me clarify that I mean the bus pulled up to a line of cars and stopped. And fifteen minutes later, it moved a little. Then stopped. Stayed stopped. And the driver didn’t like letting people out because, hey, we could move at any time.

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[Can you SEE how many vehicles are in that LINE???]

About two hours in, he realized this was a bad strategy and started letting people out, many of whom scurried over to find scrap cardboard to make makeshift sleds, others to buy cigarettes and have an extended smoking break. I started talking to the couple across the aisle only to have the wife explain to me in English that her husband sitting between us is the most famous living musician in Chile, Patricio Manns. Apparently he was 1 of 3 main forces behind the “New Song” era in Chile, along with Violeta Parra.

Fast forward to… wait, no. Keep fast forwarding. Keep going, keep going… I mean, seven hours is a LONG TIME. Fast forward, fast forward, fast forward. Did I mention that we had front row seats to the bathroom, again?

So we wait in this line between 2pm and 9pm… yes, it was dark by the time we had our bags sniffed by fruit-seeking dogs and finally pulled out of the station. And then another 3 hours to Viña. So, hoping to be home by, you know, 6 or 7pm at the latest, I’m walking home with all my bags at midnight.

So all in all, it was a really fun weekend in Mendoza, especially the parts where we actually talked to Argentines. [In fact, we exchanged emails with some and may be able to meet up in Buenos Aires in a few weeks when I go!] Having to wait and wait and wait at nearly every turn in the trip could have been really frustrating, but then you just have to remind yourself that you’re not really in a hurry to do anything on these trips. Or semester in general. And there are always plenty of people to talk to and new things to discuss.

And if you have to go to the bathroom, there’s always one nearby. And in Argentina, there is actually toilet paper in every stall!

Posted by KKS 01:03 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Soy La Ganadora del Primer Lugar!

del concurso fotográfico

A few weeks ago, I saw a flyer in the Art Department building promoting a photography contest "Miradas de Valparaíso" ("Views of Valparaíso") sponsored by the Municipality of Valparaíso Department of Tourism Development in the categories of people, architecture, and urban landscapes Valparaíso.

So I decided, why not just turn in some photos, since I already have a ton on my computer? So I sent in 5 (would have been 8, but the inbox was full).

Fast forward to yesterday and I received the following email:

Por medio de la presente tengo el agrado de comunicarle que usted a sido el ganador del primer lugar del concurso fotográfico "Miradas de Valparaíso" organizado por nuestro Departamento de Desarrollo Turístico de la I. Municipalidad de Valparaíso. La premiación será el día 11 de octubre en el edificio consistorial ubicado en Condell 1490 en el hall del 2º piso a las 10 de la mañana. Por favor confirmar su asistencia.

MEANING: I won first prize in the contest and invited to a prize ceremony! I was totally surprised! And immediately skeptical that there must have been many first place winners. In any case, I eagerly RSVPed yesterday and trekked over to the Municipality's building this morning.

Turns out that there were almost 400 entries, of which about 40 were chosen as winners... but THEN they chose a 2nd place and a 1st place, and I got 1st! This is the winning image, which I sort of cheesily titled "Flores en el Invierno" ("Flowers in the Winter"), since I often give cheesy titles to things I don't think are important (and call important things "Untitled"):

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The program director mentioned that the gold, red, and blue are actually Valparaíso's flag colors (and pointed to a nearby flag)... a fact to which I was totally oblivious. So I think that's really the reason it won... It's not one of my favorites of all time, but I guess now it's one of my most memorable (and may be appearing on a Valparaíso mug or tote bag in the near future?).

I was actually the only winner to show up at the ceremony, but with about a dozen staff members, we carried out the ceremony. It was strange to have people be able to comment on my photo from memory... like I didn't even remember the title but the program director cited it during a taped interview with the Municipality's press person (I got interviewed too!). Long story short, I got a certificate signed by Valparaíso's mayor and a free dinner!

Posted by KKS 16:59 Archived in Chile Tagged events Comments (2)

Celebrando Chilenidad en San Pedro de Atacama

Fiestas Patrias y Mucho, Mucho Más

sunny
View Chile Study Abroad 2007 on KKS's travel map.

Monday (night)

Our first adventure on the ubiquitous Chilean bus system proved highly eventful, if not mildly inconvenient at times. But sometimes it’s the strange things that make the trip memorable, right? We boarded Tur-Bus at 10pm from the Arica bus station for our $30, 11.5 hour trip (breakfast included!!) to San Pedro de Atacama further south in the desert. Our bus was all “semi-cama” (semi-bed) seats, referring to the angle of their incline. (There are also names like clásico and ejecutivo to distinguish, with the most expensive reclining to almost 180 degrees.) All the busses have a chofer (driver) and an assistant, and as soon as we start moving, the assistant comes around to each passenger, asking for their name, phone number, and taking their carnés (Chilean official ID cards). Of course, we were very reluctant to put our valuable carnés in the hands of some semi-random Chilean, but he assured us it was for governmental purposes and that the huge stack would be returned AL TIRO (right away).

Then about 40 minutes into the ride, as people are trying to fall asleep, he announces that we all need to get off the bus for a drug search. So we file off into a large lean-to type structure on the side of the pitch black road in the middle of the desert in Chile (just in case you forgot) while… I don’t even know what happened. The passengers just stood around and reboarded like 10 minutes later. The put on the Denzel Washington crime thriller “Inside Man” but dubbed into Spanish and with a really fuzzy screen so that I couldn’t really catch anything and started to nod off. About two hours later, we stop again, bright lights come on, and a carabinero (Chilean police officer) starts walking slowly down the aisle of the bus, not doing anything in particular except semi-intimidatingly looking around. That lasts about 5 minutes, before he gets off again and we keep rolling. Okay, strange, back to sleep… until the glorious hour of 4:30am, when the assistant turns the lights on again and announces that all passengers must get off with all their bags. What? Now? It’s 4:30?

We get off the bus, practically falling down the stairs, in front of an Aduanas station (customs), meaning another large lean-to structure with a few small offices nearby. Two aduanas workers start checking out bags, meaning kind of poking them, asking what’s inside, and moving on. We had one plastic grocery bag tied tightly with a towel inside, and the lady asked me, “Toalla?” (Towel?) and I said yes, and then she moved on without even opening it. So… not exactly thorough, but whatevz.

I asked the assistant what all the searches were for, and he said they’re related to the drug trafficking that passes through Arica from Peru and into the rest of Chile. Apparently the drug addiction rate is higher in Arica than anywhere else in the country. Check out this NYT article if you’re interested in drugs and Chile:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7D6123EF930A15752C0A964958260&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Tuesday

I managed to get back asleep and was awoken by the assistant handing me breakfast… one entire cookie! Wow… but luckily I had packed my own peanuts and raisins and was enjoying the scenery outside: puro desierto as far as the eye could see! And a little while later we pulled into San Pedro, an interesting little town that serves as the headquarters for tours around the region.

After dropping our stuff in the nice, centrally-located La Ruca hostel, Tracy, Irene, and I decided to spend the day getting our tours lined up and familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the town… which isn’t particularly difficult since it consists of a single main street and a plaza. The roads are all sandy gravel, and all the buildings are a very simple adobe or brick construction, which really gives the impression of being a totally old-fashioned, authentic little pueblo of 5,000 people. However, the hand-painted brown-on-white signs read things like “Desert Adventures” (in English) and advertise astronomical tours (in English, Spanish, or French!) or money exchange between a dozen different currencies. As you walk down Carcoles, the main dirt road, about half of the stores are actually tour agencies, and the other half is comprised of gourmet restaurants and stores selling altiplano souveniers with higher prices and much better selection than I saw anywhere else. I had read San Pedro described as a Disneyland, but I think that’s too harsh and inaccurate. But it is pretty easy for tourists (all 120,000 each year) to find whatever they may need (except that the 2 ATMs in the town are often out of $$$...).

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Thanks to Tracy’s keen negociation skills, we ended up getting good discounts for booking multiple tours with Colque, a tour agency that offers Bolivian tours and is run by a Frenchman named Regis (you have to really gurgle up that “cccchhhhhrrrRRRegis”). We had a really nice lunch at La Estaka, including bread with SALSA, crepes, and nice LETTUCE salads with salmon. (In Chile, “Ensalada” does not actually imply lettuce, so it’s always a welcomed surprise).

Tuesday the 18th is the main independence day holiday in Chile, and we had expected to find lots of festivities since there is such a tourist population in San Pedro. Unfortunately, there was not as much as we expected, not is the nightlife particularly active in the town. Nonetheless, the town was certainly dressed up, with Chilean flags hanging from every door (mandated by law, actually, else an $80 fine) proudly displaying its “Chilenidad” and with a traditional night fair.

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We walked around the stalls of the fair, many with a large grill out front cooking up steaks, anticucho (kabobs of beef, chorizo (look it up), hot dog, onion, and carrot stacked up), empanadas (especially pino (beef and sautéed onions with an olive and some egg inside)), and mote con huesillo (“Pásame el huesillo!”). I wanted to try a variety of foods since this is the best time of year to try traditional Chilean dishes, though some were more able-to-be-chewed than others (the stray dogs standing around me always appreciated the ones that weren’t!). Some stands also had games, like pay 100 pesos to spin this wheel and you get whatever prize it lands on, like Q-tips, detergent, or a plastic gun! We also saw in Arica’s fair a win-a-pet-rabbit game… which was sweet and sad para mí.

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Wednesday

Two food lessons from this trip:

1) Never leave eggs in a hostel refrigerator if you plan to eat them yourself.
2) Siempre, pero SIEMPRE, hay pan!

We spent Wednesday also walking around the city and meeting up with Caitlin, Jess, Jeff, and Andrew who were leaving San Pedro for Iquique that night. We ventured over to their “gravel mound” that they had discovered a few days earlier for some good views of the city and of little dust devil tornadoes that appear out of nowhere.

That night was our first tourist activity: an astronomical tour with Space Obs (aka SPACE) led by Alain Maury, another Frenchman (why are they all in Chile? I don’t know.). We took a shuttle ride about 10 minutes outside of town to his house slash observatory, and once inside, he asked us where we were all from: New Zealand, England, France, Israel, Holland and only four study abroad students from the US. We actually did not run into a single other tourist from the States, apart from study abroad students on vacation… so strange.

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Outside, he used an impressive long distance green laser pointer to show us the sky: the Southern Cross, the Altar, the Swan, Jupiter, a blue giant, the zodiac signs… a canvas of stars distinct from that seen from the northern hemisphere. Alain, who entered the field of astronomy through photography, and his wife Ale then showed us the group of outdoor telescopes through which we looked at Alpha Centauri (A and B… the closest stars to earth after the sun) and various others. The tour concluded with a lovely mug of hot chocolate!

Thursday

Following Juan Segovia’s suggestion (see Arica post), we decided to give our passports some exercise and head to the Bolivian side of the desert for a day. There are several tour options for Bolivia: a half-day to Laguna Verde and Blanco; full-day to those plus Laguna Colarada and hot springs (which we did); and a 3-day trip to those plus the incredible Salar de Uyuni (but we decided 3 days would be too much for us, not to mention that the trip to the Salar is reputedly incredibly bumpy, long, and includes nights in freezing, shack-ish hotels along the way, except the final hotel which is made of pure salt).

Since we had already stayed in San Pedro at 7,000 feet for several days, we correctly assumed that the altitude change wouldn’t be a problem this time around. Our tour bus drove along a nice asphalt road west, at which point the driver announced in Spanish that this road continues on to Argentina and Salta, but we are going to Bolivia so--- ERRRR--- and we swerved off the road onto pure desert and bumped our way along toward the Bolivian border crossing… basically a bathroomless shack smack in the middle of sand with a crooked sign welcoming us.

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After crossing the border, we drove further into the desert (with other tour vehicles visible out the window many meters away just driving as they pleased) until we hit a rest stop where we had breakfast: once again, té de coca and bread, this time with strawberry and mora mermelada.

We first stopped at Laguna Blanco, inside the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo, which is frozen at this time of year and has a very high mineral content.
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At certain points of the year, the water level is high enough to connect it to the nearby Laguna Verde, whose mint green color was quite lovely. Its color is apparently due to a high concentration of magnesium, and at an altitude of 4,350 meters about sea level, it is at the feet of the Licancabur volcano, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

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We stopped at a large group of gray mudpots that reeked of sulfur before moving on to Laguna Colarada, and it was definitely worth the wait. The lake is truly an opaque red, not merely some trick of the eye, due to high concentrations of alga which are eaten by the hundreds of Andean Flamingos wading in the water. Somehow there were also white and brown domesticated alpaca hanging around near the outside… I don’t know why they were there, but they sure made for some memorable photos.
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And then… “MIS GUANTES!!!” cried Irene, as her gloves blew out of her hand and into some mud, which she didn’t realize was about 6 inches deep before she jumped into it. Pobrecita.

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Our driver Alvari (whose name in Quechua means “Amor Divino”… I though he said “Amor De Vino,” which surprised me a little) was busy preparing out lunches slash repairing the car (at the same time?) as we and our two travelmates—Rodrigo the Brazilian and Ignacio the Chilean) walked around in awe of the sight. Lunch consisted of do-it-yourself sandwiches of tomatoes, cucumbers, tuna, and, of course, MAYONNAISE! As we were eating our lunch, Alvari was tinkering under the hood of the car, occasionally removing tubing and blowing through it, kicking the tires, but generally behaving as if nothing were wrong. We didn’t mind the extra time to watch the flamingoes, in any case.

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On the way back we hit up the natural hot spring pool that was absolutely delicious to soak in and punishing to get out of. Back in the car, we watched the sun go down behind the desert hills, and at some point, Ignacio learned from Alvari that we were driving with a flat tire and were late in getting back to the border crossing… not to mention that we didn’t have a spare. It was pretty amazing how calm everyone was at that point… we decided that, even if we had to stop, it was a beautiful place and we had all packed enough snacks to last us. That’s kind of how I felt the whole trip (and this whole semester so far): this is a lovely place even if things go wrong, and I have snacks. With those conditions met, life is pretty good.

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But then we did end up making it back to the border crossing, albeit late enough that there was no light inside the shack save the flashlight that one officer was holding over the other’s head while he stamped passports. I mean, hey, as long as it works, right?

Friday

Instead of spending more time inside a tour bus, we decided to start burning off all that pan (bread) and bike to Valle de la Muerte (Valley of Death) to try our… legs (?)… at sandboarding. The dune is only about a 30 minute bike ride away from town, and the idea was definitely worth the $7. Once there, I think we each only ascended about 3 times in 2 hours because it is absolutely exhausting to lug the board up the sand in total absence of shade. I was generally too afraid to slide down really fast, so I let myself fall about 4 times on each attempt to slow down, which was not the best idea if I wanted to avoid getting sand all over myself. But oh well.

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We met a sandboarding instructor named Cristián who said he is originally from Peru but likes being in San Pedro to meet all the interesting people that come through (and he then sketchily winked at me). But I found it interesting that he could say, “Chevre,” “¿Cachái?” and speak Portuguese all in the same conversation. He also said he was 34 but looked about 23… I guess sandboarding is just one of those things that keeps a person young?

In the afternoon, we took a tour to the Salar de Atacama and on the way, stopped in the small town of Toconao, which has a surprising amount of flora and agriculture, and the guide pointed out a type of salt-resistant tree that grows in the area. The church was also quite nice.

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Salar de Atacama has a different composition from the Salar de Uyuni, the latter being much flatter and whiter due to the way the water washes it (or something like that… the person was explaining it in Spanish, so give me a break.). It is a beautiful place to watch the sunset, especially since the flamingos fly from one part of the water to a warmer part. (FYI Apparently the reason flamingos stand on only one leg is to protect their body heat from dissipating into the water.) Another lovely sunset in the Atacama Desert.

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Saturday

Our requisite up-before-the-crack-of-dawn day in the Atacama to experience the wonder that is the Tatio geyser field. I woke up with Irene’s alarm at 3:30, though Tracy stayed in bed until 3:52. We somehow managed to be waiting outside just after 4am, the required time for our bus pickup, which then hightailed out of town to catch sunrise at the geysers which are a good piece away. We got there more than two hours later, along with about a hundred other tourists, all of whose tour guides were busy dropping eggs and cartons of milk into the smaller, more tepid hot pots to warm up breakfast. A good idea, no? At least these ones didn’t smell like sulfur. The largest geyser is nicknamed El ComeTuristas (The Tourist Eater) because 4 tourists have died in its boiling water. Our tour guide warned us that there are NO small accidents here, only big ones, and they always end in a plastic bag. “It’s not ‘Oh, I lost my finger!’” he said. “It’s ‘Oh, I’m dead!’”

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Needless to say, we made it out alive and to the small town of Machuca, which our guide kept saying only has a population of 12, though it seems more like a little hotel village catering to visitors than an authentic Andean population. It was, however, authentic enough to have a grill going with anticucho de llamo (llama kabobs), which were alpacalicious.

Side note: when our guide learned we were from the State, he said “Oh! I’m the only American guide in San Pedro!” with a heavy Chilean accent. Confused, we probed him about exactly his experience in the country, and he basically said he spent a few years in Galvaston… I guess a few years in Texas makes anyone a true American?

Double side note: We’re not supposed to call ourselves “Americano/a” because, technically, anyone from North or South American is “Americano/a.” People from the US are supposed to call themselves “Norteamericano/a” or “Estadounidense” (meaning United Statesian). I usually just say I’m from Chicago. Or “gringa” works too. Or people just think I’m Chilean, which is probably the best case scenario, unless I actually talk, in which case my horrible Spanish gives me away.

We returned from the geysers ready for naps, and in the afternoon had yet another Chilean style adventure. We had hoped to rent bikes to ride to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), about 1.5 hours away, but the man at the bike shop said he absolutely would not rent us bikes because it was just too windy with sand blowing everywhere. We were surprised, and he said that if he was a bad person he would have just rented us the bikes anyway, so the fact that he wasn’t should tell us something. Still wanting to go to the Valle, where the sunsets are legendary, we went to our old pal Regis and asked if we could join a tour. Sorry, he said, but the tours have already left for the day! It was 3:30pm, and they leave at 3. He tells us to take a taxi to the Valle (about a $20 ride total) and that we could join his Colque tour group with a driver named Hernán for free afterwards for a ride home.

So we wait about 30 hour in a parking lot for a taxi to show up, and the first one asks for $40, but we weren’t willing to be ripped off. The next guy, about 20 minutes later, says he’ll take us for $20, and once we get there, we ask him to drop us off a little past the main sunset viewing area so we can walk back at our own pace and get some exercise. Note at this point that the car is gently rocking due to wind.

So we get out of the taxi, say gracias, and are nearly swept away by the winds. I couldn’t even turn my face into the wind because the sand was hitting so hard. Gracias a Dios Irene had an extra hat to protect my ears! We immediately realized that making the 30-40 minute walk back to the sunset viewing dune would not possible. So we put on our sad gringa faces and approached the driver for a different tour group and asked if we could possibly join them to drive to the next place. The driver Juan seemed happy enough with the idea, but just as he was pulling away, he said, oh, there’s Colque. So we got out and were happy to finally find Hernán and hear that he had space in his van for us.

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And then who else did we run into but Paul and Jeff, INSANELY arriving on bicycle, sweating, out of water, but somehow still very enthusiastic. Together we climbed up to the main area, along with about 50 other tourists, as the sun went down. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the quintessential walk-along-the-dune due to the intense wind: a security guard was stationed in front of it so no one could make the attempt. But the colors really do change along the craggy hills around the valley to all sorts of reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows, though I believe that you can enjoy an incredible sunset at many places in the Atacama.

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We came back in Hernán’s bus, very thankful for his and Regis’s generosity. We got empanadas in town and returned to the hostel nostalgic for that morning’s hot chocolate. So we bought a carton of chocolate milk and, upon entering the kitchen of our hostel, we met Gonzalo and Daniel, two backpacker Chileans that we actually got to practice our Spanish on around a liter of hot chocolate and some Atacama-style kettle corn (is that what we finally decided it was?). Gonzalo is a forestry engineer in the southern coast of Chile, and Daniel is actually a researcher/teacher at the Universidad de Valparaíso who lived on Charles Street in Providence for 6 months! What strange connections…

Sunday

Our last day in town, we decided to walk around and tie up some loose ends. I had seen some women vending jewelry on a blanket in a parking lot a few days before, and a necklace with a blue circular stone entwined in a tan colored cord had really caught my eye, but she wasn’t there when I returned later in the week to try to buy it. I went back on Sunday, and by happy coincidence she was there, and so was the necklace, so it made a very happy souvenir for me.

We went to the Tur-Bus office to buy our tickets to Calama, the city with the closest airport, only to be alarmed that all of the seats were sold out on the bus we needed. Of course, we were kicking ourselves as to why we hadn’t bought them earlier, but the cashier told us to try a different bus company located, conveniently enough, right down the street.

We did manage to get tickets from the other company, called Atacama 2800 or something, and when the bus finally showed up about 15 minutes late, we realized this was going to be a very Chilean experience. First, there were no other gringos on board, every seat was taken, and the temperature was starting to go up. Then 30 minutes later we stopped to pick up more passengers. These people just had to stand in the aisle as the rest of us were falling asleep in the heat. After a total of two hours (twice the time we thought it would take between San Pedro and Calama), we arrived. Due to some good planning, we still had lots of time before our flight, and took a taxi to the airport. There was no one behind any airline counter, so all we could do was wait and explore the airport a bit.

The SKY flight, this time stopping only in Antofagasta, served us a nice little dinner, though arriving back in Santiago and onto Viña del Mar, opening the gate at my apartment and climbing up the stairs with my suitcase was a surreal experience. The week was so adventure filled, with such a rich combination of people, places, languages, and at the same time, Viña and Valparaíso possess all these same things. It was the return to my home away from home away from home.

Posted by KKS 17:22 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Preguntando Se Llega a Arica

El Comienzo de La Aventura Atacameña

semi-overcast 16 °C
View Chile Study Abroad 2007 on KKS's travel map.

For Chile’s Fiestas Patrias independence holidays the 18 and 19 of September, my friends Tracy, Irene, and I decided to explore the Atacama Desert, the world’s driest, on an excitement-packed 10 day adventure. We took SKY, Chile’s budget airlines, from Santiago to Arica, and I think it was the first flight I’ve taken with 2 intermediate stops. We hopped over to Copiapó and then Iquique before landing in Arica, the northernmost city in Chile with a population around 200,000.

We had reservations at Hostel Doña Ines, the Hostelling International location in Arica. The shuttle dropped us off at around 11pm on a totally empty, dark street, seemingly very distant from the center of the city. But soon enough two employees emerged to help us with our bags, and showed us to our room with a 2-high and 3-high bunk bed, a small kitchen, and small private bathroom inside the room! Once we entered the patio area of the hostel, the legendary owner Roberto greeted us by saying, “So which one of you is KAM!??!?!?!” He and I had probably exchanged a dozen emails in anticipation of the trip, with my constantly asking questions about the hostel, Arica, tours, the altiplano, etc etc and earning the nickname “Preguntín” (“One who Asks Questions!”).

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After offering us welcome drinks, he invited us out to a club in Arica. Keep in mind that we had just spent almost 4 hours on a plane and it was by now past midnight. I was practically nodding off as we talked, but Tracy was gung-ho about going out, and Roberto performed hypnosis on me, so about 45 minutes later we found ourselves in the nautically themed discoteca Drake near the beach packed with young people dancing. It seemed like Roberto knew everyone inside, and I found out later that many of them were his buddies from the Chilean army stationed in Arica that seem to show up whenever Roberto goes somewhere. I should also mention that this was Tracy’s first encounter with a certain security guard (did we ever learn his name??), who seemed to have a not a GPS but a TPS (Tracy Positioning System) and ran into us several more times during our 4 days in Arica. We stayed out until the club closed (the first of 3 times that happened during the trip) at around 4:30 am.

Friday

Waking up at the crack of noon, after taking our time eating the bread, cheese, cereal, yogurt, and tea of the lauded “NO FU***** SCHEDULED BREAKFAST” that appears on all the hostel’s advertisements, we caught a colectivo (taxi along a fixed route) into the center of the city, which is all clustered around a street called 21 de Mayo (yes, a lot of street and even town names are actually dates).

We ran into Jeff, Paul, Amber, and Nicole, who had gotten to Arica before us and had just picked up their rental truck for their adventure driving through the altiplano to Parque Nacional Lauca and Parque Nacional Las Vicuñas further south. They gave us the name of Juan Segovia who had given them a tour of the city for 12,000 pesos (about $23). Since there are a bunch of interesting things to see in the area, we decided to call Señor Segovia and make a tour for the three of us.

We also walked around Arica a bit along the main street 21 de Mayo and found the 1913 Arica – La Paz Ferrocarril train station. I saw that trains ran out of the station to the altiplano, and there was also a cute restaurant beside the courtyard of the station. There was a massive iron scale I assume was used to weigh parcels and nicely kept flowerboxes around a patio area. It was a very lovely old-fashioned reminder of another era in this city.

Side note: as we were talking to the other 4 gringos, a large man came up behind Tracy, put her in a sort of headlock, and gave her a big hello kiss on the cheek. We all stared at him like, “Whaaaa?” and Tracy looked at him like, “Who the frigg’ are you?” Nicole even said, “Ella no conoce a ti” (“She doesn’t know you”). The man shook his head and said, “Tracy?” We were all shocked that he knew her name. You could see the expression on her face change from shock/horror to embarrassment/recognition as she remembered he was the security guard at the Drake club the night before. So… a little sketchy, maybe a little stalkerish, but at least not crazy.

After drinking a delicious “leche con fruta” (meaning “milk with fruit,” basically a froth smoothie) made with maracuya, we met up with Señor Segovia and his party van, and he told us that even though he’d charged the other kids 12,000 pesos, since we had called him directly he was giving us the same tour for half price! We were very excited…

And thus commenced our tour around Arica. There is a lot to see in the city, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it’s near the desert and closer to the equator than everything else in Chile, the weather was very pleasant since we were near the ocean.

Our first stop was a red and white church near 21 de mayo. You may not believe that Alexandre Gustave Eiffel can claim more than one building to his name, but in fact he was very active in South America before his legendary 1889 Parisian creation. He designed a clock tower in Pisagua, Chile; a cathedral in Tacna, Peru (1870); a bridge in Arequipa, Peru (1882); and in 1868 began work on la Iglesia de San Marcos in Arica, Chile. He was originally ivtied by Peruvian President José Balta to construct a church in Ancón, but the project relocated to Arica after an earthquake felled its cathedral in 1868. (Much of northern Chile belonged to Peru or Bolivia prior to the War of the Pacific (1879-84). “Guerra del Pacífico” in Spanish translates as “War of the Peaceful.”) The plates and girders were cast in an iron foundry in Paris and then transported to Chile, and the structure withstood an earthquake just two years after completion and again in 2001 when another powerful earthquake hit Arica.

So… props to Eiffel. Mister Infallible Tower Man, citizen of the world.

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Señor Segovia then drove us further into the desert valley to show us the surprising abundance of agriculture based on drip irrigation. We saw maracuya (the fruit I had just tasted!) in its natural form (looks like a palta (avocado) with pink flesh inside and big, wet, bitter seeds in the middle), lots of tomato, and olive groves (also selling goods made from olive wood--- apparently the trees have to be at least 90 years old to be used). There were also many geoglyphs up on the hills created by indigenous people many centuries ago that have stood the test of time without any problems.

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We passed golf course in the desert… don’t forget to pay the GREEN fee!

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We followed Paul’s tip to visit a cemetery in the desert, which was aesthetically quite unusual. I couldn’t help wondering if the bodies entombed there become mummies themselves, given the total dryness of the area. And speaking of mummies, we saw the OLDEST mummies in the world, the Chinchorro mummies in the San Miguel de Azapa museum (that’s right: they’re not from Egypt). We learned that the various indigenous tribes of this region believed that gods lived in the Andes mountains to the east, so when the Spaniards arrived and started constructing churches, the natives insisted that the churches face north, not east, so as to not interfere with their conception of the divine.

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As the day came to a close, we visited El Morro, a former Peruvian stronghold that was the site of a key battle in the War of the Pacific. Actually, just visiting Arica was an interesting history and culture lesson, since the area of far northern Chile and southern Peru changed hands several times between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia during that era. Today there are plenty of Peruvians and Bolivians in Chile, and with them plenty of discrimination. One Chilean told me that Chile is like South America’s United States, and Peru is like Chile’s Mexico. I guess my response to that is that the food of Chile and the United States is pretty boring, while their equatorial neighbors have delicious cuisine!
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Saturday

We woke up early very excited and also a bit nervous for our trip up to the Chilean altiplano, due west of Arica. We knew that the paisaje (landscapes) would be incredible as we approached the Parque Nacional Lauca, but we also knew that ascending from sea level to 4,000+ meters (13,000+ ft) in a half day could potentially be very uncomfortable. We had the option of a 2 day trip which made a stop in the town of Putre for one night at 7,000 ft to acclimate, but since our time was limited, we decided to throw caution to the wind and hightail it to the altiplano.

I was pleasantly surprised that we were 3 of only 4 non-Chileans on the bus (the other being a Japanese exchange student in Santiago), so we managed to speak a good bit of español that day. Everyone on tour was older than us, in part because there was an ecology conference happening that weekend in Arica, so many of the doctoral students and professors took the tour on their off day. The question “How old are you?” never really figures into my speech at home, I guess since at Brown you’re somewhere between 18 and 22 usually, and the question would be “So, are you a junior?” But here in Chile, that question is so popular! Whenever we 3 gringas responded “Veinte,” the other people would look away and say, “Oh, we’re much older than that.” And that was that!

We drove for several hours through the hills of the desert, slowly gaining altitude, passing a “Zona Magnética” that apparently pulled our bus backwards and uphill when the driver put it into neutral. There was also a cactus nearby that everyone took pictures near, for some reason.
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We moved on to a vista of the small city Putre, 54 km from Lauca, where multi-day tours stop for the night to allow people a day to acclimate. I guess for those that have time, I would recommend taking a multi-day trip to the altiplano stopping in Putre since nearly everyone feels some symptoms of soroche (altitude sickness). The tour provides breakfast, but it’s really just a cup of tea of coca leaves (mmmm… illegal) and a small cheese sandwich, since you’re supposed to eat very little when preparing to experience such a dramatic change in altitude. Irene and I got off easy with just bad headaches and fatigue as soon as we walked up or down the 5 steps of the bus. Exhausting! Tracy, on the other hand, kind of spilled her beans… or should I say pan y queso? I went into the bathroom with her not knowing she was about to throw up and yelled over the stall, “Hey, is there any toilet paper over there?” to no response from her. When I walked outside, I noticed she was washing some grime off her pants, and Irene told me the news, as Tracy was inhaling a a napkin damp with rubbing alcohol handed to her by the tour guide.
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Just as a side note, in all these little pueblos on the side of the road, vendors would be selling llama scarves, mittens, wooden carvings, and big bags of dirty green coca leaves, which are supposed to be chewed to prevent soroche. They told us that it is also sold in powder form, but that’s more expensive…

We saw much wildlife the somehow thrives in the middle of the desert, including guanacos, llamas, alpaca, the wonderful vicuñs (all types of camel), vizcacha, and even a condor.
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As the day and altitude progressed, we approached Parque Nacional Lauca and its famous Lago Chungará (one of the the world’s highest lakes, higher than Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest *navigable* lake). We were only 9 km from the Bolivian border, but we wouldn’t get to Bolivia until 5 days later.) When we finally reached it, people were putting on their extra jackets since it was a bit chilly. I was comfortable in my short sleeves, though I almost fell down as I got down the bus’s steps. Needless to say, I pressed on, undeterred.

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We saw some lovely vicuñas eating nearby the lake, which was surrounded by the Nevados de Payachatas: the active volcanoes Parinacota and Pomerape. As I was clicking away photos, I realized that the clouds had almost entirely obscured the sky, and snow was beginning to fall! I was very excited, once again.

We reboarded the bus, and most people slept as we drove back to Arica. As the sun was setting, we could see the clouds below us in the valley.

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And that night, Roberto the hostel owner threw his weekly “asado” barbeque and invited all his army friends. Though the steak was quite tasty, it was a typical Chilean experience: we return to the hostel tired and hungry around 8, he says food will be ready in an hour, people slowly file in, chat and drink, and we wait until about 10 to actually start eating. And then just when you think the evening is over, you find out everyone is going to a club afterwards! So I figured I had to go out as well, since we weren’t planning anything for the next day and, hey, when in Chile, do as the Chileans, right?

The club, SoHo, was located literally next door to Drake, the place we went to Thursday night, and as we found out at the coat check, it has exactly the same staff! So when a large man grabbed Tracy’s face again, at least this time we knew who it was.

Chilean men tend to be very affectionate, so it is not uncommon to just be sitting down in a club and have someone come right up next to you and start asking you questions and all that. It takes some getting used to, and I have to kind of change my mindset to interpret it as a kind gesture instead of an unnecessarily sketchy invasion of personal space. You know.

Sunday

We spent Sunday leisurely wandering around Arica, finding the beach, the casino (we decided the the $6 entry fee was too much), and ate at a restaurant on 21 de mayo. I noticed that nearly everything on the menu had either tomato, olive, or both (especially since you don't realy find olive on everything), and I realized that there, as opposed to the US, it probably is cheaper to use locally grown foods.

Monday

We had originally set aside the day to take a trip to Tacna, Peru, on the old train that runs between the cities for about $3 (see http://www.bradanovic.cl/trenatacna/trenatacna.htm for a *thorough* photo essay). However, it turns out the train runs everyday except Sunday and moreover was sold out that Saturday and Monday due to the Fiestas Patrias mad rush of holiday-ing Chileans.

Never ones to let sold out steam engines stand in our way, we discovered that you can easily get to Tacna by taxi (or bus, but those are very crowded and often delayed, apparently). We made out way to the bus station, found one of the few taxi drivers available, and filled out a few border crossing forms. Our driver, Omar, was a very excited kind of guy, and we piled in the 5 chicas into the taxi sedan and made our way off into the desert at around 11am. We hit the border very shortly after… or should I say, we hit the end of the massive line of cars waiting to cross the border. Omar stopped the car, got out, started chatting with other drivers, came back in every once in awhile to move it 10 feet forward, and thus we inched our way out of Chile. We spent more than 2 hours getting across the border, meaning both exiting Chile and entering Peru (separate lines of cars, separate border control buildings, separate paperwork… and separate stamps in my passport!). We also saw the barbed wire enclosing mined areas of the desert, remnants of the time when relations between Peru and Chile were really bad, that no one gotten rid of. The time inside the stations was minimal, and once we passed through, it was smooth sailing for another 30 minutes into Tacna.

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We were hoping to find lots of cheap goods, especially llama goods, altiplano mementos, and generally any kind of handicraft we’d seen in Chile but for a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, we found nothing of the sort. Chileans definitely do cross the border to get cheaper goods, but of a different ilk: jewelry, clothing, (pirated) DVDs, and the like. We weren’t really in the market for that, but we were definitely up for some food after such a long time in the car. We took Roberto’s suggestion to go to the restaurant Todo A Vapor (meaning Full Steam) and try Peruvian ceviche. Ceviche is a very interesting Latin American dish that uses citrus (usually lemon or lime) to cook raw seafood and is served cold. After about 30 minutes, the waiter finally showed up to ask what we wanted, and once all the food had been served (in three separate trips) more than another 40 minutes later, we all agreed that Peruvian food is definitely RICA!

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We had to hightail it out of the restaurant to meet back up with Omar, who was waiting to bring us back into Chile in time to make our 10pm overnight bus to San Pedro. As we approached the Peruvian side of the border, Omar rolled down his window to chat with a security officer station outside the building. He asked if the line would be moving faster anytime soon, and the officer said, well, it will move a lot faster if you go to that lane over there and pay the officer 2,000 pesos. Omar chuckled and we stayed in the original lane. He then turned to us and asked if we noticed how blatant the Peruvian officer was with the bribery. He said you would never hear that kind of thing in Chile…

That about wraps up Arica, but I haven’t even finished writing about half the trip yet! Hopefully you’re not bored! San Pedro post goes up as soon as I finish it!

Posted by KKS 18:47 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

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