We were craving a bit of organization. When I say “organization” I’m mostly referring to safer drivers and pasteurized cheese. After traveling some of the poorer countries in the Americas, It will be an interesting transition back to the so called “first world.”
We were not surprised we got denied at the Chilean border, Lupe’s papers were insufficient. Chile is very strict about any pets, eggs, vegetables, and various other animals and food products one may try to pirate across national lines. For this might contaminate the country with disease and foreign fauna from the bordering countries. Being unsure of the specific paperwork we might need for Lupe, we just rolled in to see what needed to be done. Smuggling her across the border (like we did in Panama) is a risky move, because Chilean authorities have the ability to take your pet from you, for a variety of reasons, including no paperwork, so we’ve heard.
Approaching the border we are surrounded by grey mountains of sand and rock. It could be the backdrop of any haunted desert movie. Everything was dreary, the overcast sky, the color of the sand, the trucks driving by. We had no choice but to drive the 20 miles back from the border to the Peruvian border town, in search a vet to provide the proper papers for Lupe.
Before the days end we made it through the border legally. While approaching downtown Arica, I immediately notice a difference in the Chilean drivers good etiquette, as well as no senseless horn blowing. Not to mention we are in a beach town during the off season, and I can’t help but admire the resemblance of Arica, to the off season at the Jersey shore. I immediately liked Chile.
Some of our food was confiscated at the border by the vegetable cops, so we decided to do a quick shop. The large grocery store resembled one from back in the states, genetically oversized veggies, pre packaged cheese and meat, individually packaged tuna burger patties. This was familiar, and noticeably more expensive than anywhere we’ve been this past year. Then we found the Chilean wine, which is only three dollars a bottle, so it all evened out.
We camp on the beach every night with the overcast landscape, sounds of the ocean, and the occasional drizzle. Our mornings were spent watching surfers shred “El Gringo,” which is a large barreling wave that breaks on a shallow sharp reef. Expert surfers and body borders only, due to the danger factor, which is why watching proved to be entertaining. We were restricted to surf all the other breaks in the area, and did so every day we were there. The wind picks up in the afternoon, leaving the jaded vagabond to roam the beaches or explore the pueblo.
Afternoons were mostly spent wandering downtown, buying car insurance, stealing wifi, eating epanadas and completos. “What the fart is a completo?” A completo is a regular sized hotdog in an oversized bun, laced with guacamole and mayo, and possibly other various sauce and toppings depending who you buy it from. This might sound disgusting and sloppy, and you are right, it is gross. I bought a completo and did not like it, plus it made a mess on my lap. Eating a completo while driving is not recommended. Unhappy with this hotdog creation, I just thought I went to a bunk vendor. I tried a new vendor and I got the same results. Sara got it all over her cloths forcing me to kick her out of the truck. The completo was not only messy for our relationship and apparel, it also does not look very appetizing to begin with. The popularity of the completo will forever remain a mystery.
Ten nights in Arica, a daily routine, several acquaintances made, we could stay here longer (and later wish we had,) or start heading south down the desert costal highway. Arica is laid back, and an easy place to live in your truck. Our favorite city in the country we hardly traveled at all. Chile is safe, beach camping is not a problem. From what I gather, the most dangerous thing I experienced in Chile was almost chipping my tooth on an olive pit in my epanada.
The costal road is littered with nameless fishing villages, sandy cliffs, and waves crashing on the rocky urchin covered reefs. Driving days spent passing several grassless golf courses, a suspicious number of pet cemeteries, one abandoned and possibly haunted house. Once again faced with the dilemma of having no place to be and no specific time to be there, we walked the cemeteries and wandered old buildings while overlooking the never ending Pacific blue.
There is cloud cover every day, while a few miles inland the sky is as blue as can be, its that time of year. Over several days we drive through and pirate camped to the cities of Iquique, Tocopilla, then to Antofagasta. None of these places matched the relaxed vibe and waves of Arica, which is why we wished we stayed there longer. While questioning our next move we drove to the “Mano del Desierto” also known as “Hand of the Desert, and had a team meeting discussing our next move.
We wanted to go more south, we wanted to see the rest of Chile. With the budget dwindling, It would be tough to make it work. You could easily spend 6 months exploring Chile and Argentina alone, we don’t have the resources at the moment to do it properly, so we decided to save it for the next trip.
Our time in Chile was cut short. While leaving the “Hand of the desert” we unexpectedly decided to drive East and prepare ourselves to cross South America, with Uruguay as a final destination. The Atacama Desert, salt flats, and the Northern Argentinian farmland is what lies ahead for the next week.