Arriving at the Atacama bus station for the 2000 Turbus , a fellow traveler says that our bus has been delayed until 2130. We go into the ticket office to confirm and yes, because there is not enough people I the bus we have to wait for the next one. I’m starving so I head off to go and get some food. Have just ordered when the traveler from before comes running over to tell me that the bus is now going. But was I lucky he did that for me.
On a new bus, not quite the suite I had had before, but none the less I couldn’t complain. We got to Calama and the steward herded us of the bus, looks like we weren’t going the whole way on this bus and we were directed onto the one next to it. Of course it wasn’t as new as the previous bus, I didn’t get the cama seat that I had paid for a nice sleep for the 10 journey that was ahead of me. All the rest of the passengers on the lower floor of the bus weren’t impressed either. At least they didn’t have a 6’6″ Dutch guy sitting next them who funnily enough couldn’t get comfortable for the journey.
Arriving into the bus station of Arica at 0630, it was still dark. But an email from the hostel had assured me that it was safe to walk al the couple of blocks at that time. Ross the owner was just arriving in with bread for the breakfast. He was a kiwi married to a Chilean woman, he offered me a seat, showed me the coffee pot and told me to sit back and relax he was very used to early morning guests.
I was only staying one night but it allowed me a day to sit back, enjoy the warmth of the sun and check out the local town and beach. The hostel, was home to Ross and his wife and had a really nice vibe about it and the other backpackers were a friendly bunch. A real array of charactes. An older Canadian who had bought a motorcycle in Dakota, drove it up to his hometown in Canada, continued on up to Alaska to then planned to get all the way down to Ushuaia at the tip of Argentina. He got as far as Mendoza and decided that with road closures due to the weather he would head north again to the warmth until spring came to the south. 50,000 km completed so far.
There was Riley the Aussie who had been traveling for 15 months chasing waves carrying two surf boards around South America with him! Almost out of money he was heading back to Sydney a couple of weeks later. The German girl with an American accent who had been an exchange student similar to myself many years ago and was on her way to Nashville to visit her host family after her travels. The Kiwi who had been living in the jungle of Port Douglas the previous 15 years and only recently got himself a mobile phone. He was planning on traveling overland to Sao Paulo. I had to install an app on his phone for him as he didn’t know how do it. If I hadn’t needed to get to Lima I would have stayed another day or two especially as there was a surf boarding competition happening that weekend! Dee is the reason I’m heading to Lima so quickly.
Saturday was head to Lima day. If Ross hasn’t warned me in advance then I really could have been a bit freaked out by the system in place at the bus station and to cross the border. Turns out there is an international bus station next to the regular bus station. You have to pay 350 pesos to enter it. Drivers ask you where you are going. They then take your passport, you get in the car and wait for other passengers to join and fill the car up. In my case I had a family of four and another man.
Taxi driver drives to entrance of station and gets out with your passport and into the office for the paperwork to be drawn up for the border. If I hadn’t been warned in advance then I really don’t know about handing over my passport or paying to get into the bus station. Off to the border we go. The journey costs 4000 pesos or £4 for the 63km journey to Tacna. From there I get on a planev to complete the 1300km journey to Lima. A 22 hour minimum journey really did not appeal to me.
The taxi man leaves me at the side off the road outside the airport gates. I’m two hours early for my flight. I’m the only person there aside from a security guard and fortunately a lady serving in the coffee shop. I’m charged first world prices in a third world country. I pay almost £6 (i think) for a coffee and sandwich. She takes my Chilean pesos even though the currency has shifted to sols. It’s just a shame that the bank located in the terminal will not change Chilean or Argentinean pesos; US dollars or euros only. Go figure!
Getting out of the airport was a lot better than I thought it would be. I was expecting chaos. Out of baggage claim, through the doors and there is the Green Taxi stand. They are mentioned in the guidebooks and on various websites with set prices. The chaos starts when you leave the airport and hit the road into the city centre. We are back to road madness and a beeping culture again. Lord, how I haven’t missed that!
It’s only been 11 days since I left Mendoza and traveling on my own but it will be great to see a familiar face. I met Dee on the Tucan tour through Patagonia and after she returned home she still had itchy feet to see more of South America. She was in contact and we came up with a plan of where we could meet and what we could cover on her 16 day trip. At the moment our final destination together is La Paz but who knows, that could change…