Thursday, February 04, 2010

South America Trip - Crossing the Border

After our time in Santiago we headed off to Peru. We kind of knew this day was going to be an adventure, but really had no idea what to expect.

We hopped on a flight early Thursday morning to the Chilean town Arica, about 10 miles from the Peru border. Here is the tabulated version of what happened.
  • The airport was tiny
  • No one spoke English at the airport
  • The only 2 cabs present took off with other people
  • While waiting for a cab, we asked other backpackers if they wanted to split a cab
  • They didn't speak English - much confusion
  • The cab driver didn't speak English - more confusion
  • The cab driver started driving us AWAY from the border...oops...pit stop for the other backpackers to get money from an ATM
  • The cab driver pulled up to the border and said "problema"
  • The cab driver made us get out and pointed toward Peru - we were confused
  • We walked toward some offices and they stamped our passports
  • We walked 1/2 a mile through the barren desert
  • We found some more offices, they stamped our passport again - we were in Peru!
  • Another cab driver was waiting for us, who also spoke no English - some confusion
  • We drove to the nearest city in Peru about 30 miles away.
While walking through the desert we couldn't help but laugh at our predicament. It seemed no one spoke English for 1000 miles, which was also the nearest plant life.
While crossing we thought it fitting to do something completely out of place, like taking jump pictures at the signs.

The desert in northern Chile and southern Peru is like nothing I've seen before. Over 1,000 miles of NOTHING!! No grass, no cactus, no trees, absolutely NOTHING. Sand, dirt, and rocks. It was quite a sight.

Once in Peru we shopped around for a bus to Arequipa - about 200 miles north. We took the bus with the best price, which we later realized was only for locals. Here is how that went:
  • Got on the bus and no one spoke English - little confusion, but we knew where we were going
  • 45 minutes later the bus stopped - some confusion
  • Then half the people got off - much confusion
  • Then we looked outside and all our bags were being thrown off - what?!?
  • We got off
  • Others formed a line
  • We got in line with our bags
  • The line took us to some police officers
  • The police officers were searching through every one's bags. So it was a police checkpoint, which makes some sense...but not very much.
  • Everyone got back on the bus
  • The bus stopped 2 more times at other checkpoints, but we didn't have to get off anymore
  • The bus arrived 7.5 hours later, 2.5 hours late
We finally made it to our hostel after a day of great confusion and many laughable moments. Most of all we were really proud of ourselves for making it in one piece and for relatively cheap. So we celebrated with some good old delivered Domino's.


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