Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sickness and Recovery in Arica, Chile

We fell into a comfortable pattern of life while hanging out in the small Chilean town of Arica for almost 3 weeks. Scott was recovering from his self-induced lung infection, and we were checking things off our chore list in anticipation of isolated, cold, and harsh exploration of the Bolivian altiplano.

Arica was our introduction to Chile. We couldn't believe that each day, a team of people would fan out along a 4-mile stretch of beach to clean all of the trash. The team took their job so seriously that they would collect dead birds and even dead seals! Similarly, the town was clean and walkable, with pedestrian streets and the absence of smoke-belching vehicles. I think we're going to like Chile!

Streets performers were abundant in Arica - always something colorful and different to watch

The few lucky garbage collectors rode a slide attached to the back of a tractor and
by the end of their shift, they would sit on their piles of garbage

When we tried to leave Arica the first time, we were heading to the high-altitude border between Chile and Bolivia. We made it to within 20 miles of the border. We were both feeling the effects of the altitude, and I had somehow contracted a cold virus that knocked me to the ground. Reluctantly, we drove 80 miles and 13,000 vertical feet back to Arica to recover in the comfort of the beach. Poor Scott, still trying to recover from his feather-hell, got my cold virus as well. Finally, in relatively good health, we headed back up to Bolivia. This time, we made it.

The route from Arica to Bolivia is a steady climb from sea level to an altitude of 15,000 feet over about 100 miles!!! The drive took us through mountainous desert landscapes where we slept under more stars than we have ever seen. We spent one night in the parking lot of a hot spring pool at 13,200 ft (Termas Jurasi). The air was quite cold, while the too-hot-to-touch water pouring out of the hillside filled the pool with crystal clear mineral water.

This was the first time we had seen the unique Candelabra cactus 

A starry and chilly night next to the campfire as we climbed up to the Bolivian border

Termas Jurasi - you can't tell from this picture how cold the air was or how hot the water was

Just before reaching the border of Bolivia, we were treated to a wild landscape of lakes, llamas, and giant snow-capped volcanoes. It was a foreshadowing of the landscape we were about to encounter in Bolivia - stay tuned!

Practical Information For Fellow Travelers

  • Arica: Camp for free on the safe and monstrously long beach in Arica. Beware that each Friday and Saturday night, the locals will join you with thumping music until 6 am. The only reprieve we could find was driving to the very end of the beach (5 miles out of town) off the dirt road. If you have time, walk up the giant headland for a great view over the ocean and city. Park along the ocean road near the port for easy access to the town and headland.
  • Putre: We parked/camped in front of the German-owned hotel right as you enter town (Hotel Las Vicunas). If you are having altitude sickness, you can go to the clinic right as you enter town for a free dose of oxygen.
  • Termas Jurasi: This place was great to spend the night - no one is around at night so you have the hot springs all to yourself!
Border Crossing: 
  • We crossed into Bolivia at Tambo Quemado.We had to drive around miles of trucks who were waiting to get weighed, to get to the actual border. 
  • WE SHOULD'VE FILLED OUT OUR VEHICLE PERMIT PAPEWORK AHEAD OF TIME ONLINE and printed out the necessary entry form. Since we didn't know about this, we had to pay an agency to do it for us (it was cheap). 
  • Americans have to pay $135/person for their visitor visa. The customs agent was not happy with our $20 bills, he wanted $100 bills! He wouldn't take anything but the newest crispest bills - be aware. 
  • The border is at a very high elevation and it's windy, cold, and DUSTY.

1 comment:

Cesar said...

Looking good guys! One piece of Chile advice- stay away from Calama. Thats where we got broken into, and we heard other stories of the same from other overlanders.