The Chile report

14 Feb
The bus to Tacna


It’s been a busy week so I’m a little slow getting to the Chile report.

Daniel and I boarded the bus in Arequipa about 10:30pm last Friday night along with our friend Wilder, who also had some business in Chile and very graciously volunteered to accompany us. We used the Civa bus company for the overnight journey. It was much better than expected. The seats were huge and reclined to about 45 degrees. After a little snack, they showed a movie (which, unfortunately was played quietly over the speakers rather than headphones, but wasn’t too hard to ignore since it was in Spanish). I don’t sleep well in seats of any kind and Daniel apparently doesn’t, either, so we both arrived in Tacna, Peru at 4:30am with only 2-3 hours of sleep. But it was a smooth ride with only a few stops and cost only $11/head.

On the bus

Quite the mood

From the domestic bus terminal in Tacna, we walked across the street to the international bus terminal where we hired a registered car with 2 other guys to take us across the border to Arica. The rental clerk entered all the info from our passports into the computer and gave us pre-filled border entry forms. It was about 30 minutes to the border, as I recall. Daylight was breaking and we found ourselves in the bleakest landscape I have ever seen, basically nothing but sand and no evidence of life, not even cactus or brush. Indeed, the Atacama desert in northern Chile is the driest region in the world. Its other-worldly appearance has been used to film Mars scenes, and the same instruments used in the Viking 1 and Viking 2 missions to Mars found no signs of life in the soil!

At the Peruvian border control station, I was able to exit the country using only my residence card. They never even asked for the tax-related form I had been worried about. Daniel also exited without any problem using his passport. At first, the official protested that he was only paid up to the 4th of February, but Wilder pointed out that was the date the fine was paid, and the exit date right above it was the 8th of February. I think she was a little sleepy. She informed us that upon reentry, I had the right to receive the maximum length of stay for Daniel since I am a resident.

We got back in the car and drove the half mile to the Chilean border control station. Daniel observed that the fences did not extend very far in either direction from the border control stations. It looks like anyone with a dune buggy could cross just about anywhere they like. Unlike Peruvian citizens, i could not use my residence card to enter Chile but my US passport was accepted and I thankfully did not have to pay the $160 fee charged at the airports.

Amazing prices

Check out the prices!

We continued on in the car to the bus terminal in Arica, Chile and arrived about 6:15am Peru time or 8:30am Chile time. Arica is a quiet beach town complete with beach bums, drunks, and a really laid back pace. Hardly any stores were open and we had to eat breakfast at McDonald’s, at a cost of 3,580 pesos (about $6). Chile has had some serious currency issues in the past and you have to be a math wiz to live there now. A bottle of water costs 500 pesos. If you want to be a millionaire, you can always move to Chile.

Tourist walk

Tourist walk

We didn’t do much in Arica, really. We walked in the small tourist area where stores were just opening up and then asked some drunks for directions to the hotel where Wilder had an appointment (he runs a travel agency). The 2 men were very kind, but very confused as they pointed in opposite directions. Mind you, Arica is a very small town. The beachfront extends less than 2 miles and we were at that point about half a mile from the hotel, one of only 2 or 3 along the beach in Arica, and neither man had ever heard of it. Wilder asked why they were drinking and they were quite surprised, in turn asking why he would ask such a thing. Wilder replied that we were Christians and didn’t want to see people hurting their bodies. At this, the men grew very friendly (go figure) and volunteered the services of their friend who had just pulled up in his van. Daniel and I were quite nervous about this, but he did not appear to be drunk and there were 3 of us… He was extremely laid back (like, Caribbean) and took us straight to the hotel. It had very nice pools, but no beach access, and was way overpriced at $240 / night. Wilder did not feel he could recommend it to his clients. Oh, and the manager with whom he had an appointment evidently forgot that she doesn’t work on Saturdays. She never did show up.

Morre de Arica

Morre de Arica

We got a good look at the big rock, Morre de Arica, which Peru used to own but lost in the War of the Pacific in the mid-1800s. We didn’t have time to hike up it, but I wish we had because I’ll bet the ocean view is pretty nice up there.

After walking quite a while because we refused to pay 2,000 soles for a taxi, we finally found a driver who took us back to the bus station for only 1,500. From there, we boarded a bus back across the border to Tacna. The bus cost 12 soles per person, or about $4, and is half the price of the car service, but as we discovered, it is a LOT slower because at the border stations, you have to wait for everyone on the bus to get through before the bus can proceed. I was beginning to worry about missing our flight (we had found relatively cheap one-way tickets so we didn’t have to spend two nights in a row on the bus and arrive in Arequipa in the wee hours of the morning, which is dangerous). I worried even more when the bus, which was going slowly already, stopped in the middle of the desert and the driver jumped out with what looked like a 10 gallon container. After a few minutes, we resumed, but at probably 30 mph tops and it took forever to go the last 15 miles to Tacna. Thankfully, Wilder had left plenty of time and we made the airport in time.

Wilder and Daniel

Old steam locomotive

At the airport, we had lunch with one of Wilder’s friends, a university professor in Tacna. He is very interested in having me do a seminar about online marketing for the travel and tourism students, so it may turn out to be a good business opportunity.

In immigration news, we have sent our documents off to be translated and expect them back next week. In addition, the accountant has set up payroll and has given me the 3 pay stubs that I will need to submit along with our marriage and birth certificates in a few weeks. Please continue to pray that this goes smoothly. Or that the whole family will have a nice time on the bus to climb Morre de Arica, which we’ll probably be doing if it doesn’t go smoothly 🙂

2 Responses to “The Chile report”

  1. Juan Melgarejo February 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    There are landmines put by Chile in its side of the border in 1979 (100th anniversary of war), so sometimes there are news about peruvian smugglers being hurt by these chilean mines. Therefore fences are not necessary.

    • David Chandler February 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm #


      On Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 1:54 PM, The Chandler Far Southern Times wrote:


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