after a night in santiago (more on my time in santiago mas tarde), i flew to the town of arica , a less than idylic beach town with a lovely view of the ocean and a landscape that might as well be on the moon. the town´s other quirks include a pre-fab church designed by gustave eiffel (yes, the one and the same) and the fact that it plays host to an international surfing championship. there is as much seriously rocky shoreline as there is sandy beach, so one had better be a pro. arica has its charms as well, including one of the nicest markets i´ve ever seen, row after row of stands piled high with fresh fruits and vegetables, huge barrels of olivies, and pretty much anything else you could want. the desert here has a way of revealing shocks of green, valleys that subsist on water from the mountains, making improbable farming possible.
on day two up north i crossed the border into peru under the guidance of the muy amable marisol, who drove me over and shuttled me through the multi-staged customs paperwork. i was missing a paper on the way in, but apparently it wasn´t a problem. the drive between these two border towns could haven´t been more starck. the land (read: sand) is so completely devoid of resources (water, a bit of shade) that the peruvian goverement gives it away for free to anyone who might try to live on it. small metal shacks sparcely dot the landscape like little ovens baking in the midday sun. a sign mentioned something about an irrigation project; nearby someone watered a single plant with a bucket of water.
tacna itself, on the other hand, is bustling and bright. anything and everything seems to be being bought and/or sold. (this includes inscense which claims to ward off bad things of all forms. yeah, i bought some. marisol informed me it should only be burned on mondays and thursdays.) the chileans often cross the border to shop as it´s much cheaper. the only trick is that the customs restrictions are pretty tight on what you can and can´t bring in, and violators are stuck with a fine. worse, however, would be for instance if you were stopped for a long time at a stop light, and when you were distracted, someone bound a parcel of cocaine to the bottom of your car. then they call ahead to their buddies on the other side and tell them to keep a look out for you. this didn´t happen to me. i´m just sayin.
before we leave peru, i just have to note the delicious lunch that marisol and i had, starting with a traditional multicolored corn kernals, toasted with a little oil and salt, yucca french fries, fresh grilled fish (don´t let all that talk of sand fool you...the ocean´s right there), and a fermented red corn drink, mazamora morada, that could almost be in the sangria family. super-rico.
so all of that was basically the warm up, the real adventure starting with the trip up to altiplano in search of la llareta. that definately warrents its own entry....