about me, arnaud and François crossing the ocean and the equator looking for...

21 August 2006

border-crossing and horseback-riding

after buying my ticket, I headed back from the bus station to downtowm arequipa where I went to re-furnish by book "shelve" by buying two books. this time I actually bought interesting book and not some cheap paperback futuristic/thrille novel. I went for "diarios de motocicleta" del Che - such a cliche for someone touring latin america, I know- and a book about the history of the incas and peru in general.
all content with myself I went to have a good cheap lunch and awaited yfat's sms while reading Henri Troyat's "un si long chemin" - which I got from a book exchange place. still reading I then headed to san fransisco's church and awaited - some more - yfat's sms. then I went for a coffee - still reading - and desperating yfat would ever call :)
Fifteen minutes later I had my so long-awaited-sms and bumped into yfat while rushing to the meeting place she'd given me :) We went with her boyfriend to meet a jewish-canadian friend of hers whom we left to pick up yfat's laundry and sign her up for a trip in the colca cañon while her boyfriend was off buying pants and then we went back to the canadian friend.
by that time, it was time for me to go get my bus so I gave yfat a hug and took off in one of those yellow tiny taxi they've got all over the place.
at the bus station I had 3 enpañadas -the woman thought it was too much for one person but whatever, it was barely enough :) - while chatting time away with a guy from Mendoza and being complimented on my spanish skills (can't see why thought :). I bought some bread for breakfast and smoked my lungs out while awaiting for the bus to start the engine.
we finally got on the bus and I - happily - sat in the wrong seat since there were nobody next to me and it was gonna mean a good night sleep. 20 minutes later comes in a lady who BARKS at me telling me I'm in her seat. I reluctantly admit and change -to my designated seat- to sit next to a stinky fat man. the seat didn't have armrest. the perspective of a good night sleep disminished quite a bit :)
I put in my earplugs - which i have now unfortunately lost :( - while they play a stupid movie about a sinking ship that didn't have any sound anyways.
I arrived in tacna at 0400and looked around but couldn't find any busses to chile in the terminal, I was starting to get slightly stressed out.
at 0600 the tourist info opened in the terminal so I rushed in and the friendly lady told me that, for chile, I had to cross the srteet and go to the international terminal. relieved, I did.
even before entering the terminal - which, akwardly enough didn't have any busses in it - a guy jumped all over me asking me if I wanted to go to Arica. I told him yes, but thanks ,no, I'd go by my own means (knowing it ain't always safe to accept averything when you'r travelling on your own). I finally gavve in, seeing the other german tourists in the terminal were too and the guy took my name for the paper work then asked me 3.000 pesos. I opened my eyes as big and wide as pizza plates and nearly told him to go have sex with himself before I realised that it corresponded to 18 soles. it's just chile that's weird I thought, and gave him 18 soles. then I went to change my last remaining soles to pesos - and surely got screwed on the exchange rate, but there was not time :) The guy took my backpack and shoved my into a car with deafening music and I only stopped stressing when 4 other locals got in too with travelling gears. they actually all smelled better than me, it was really pleasant. the "taxi" driver took everyone' ID and my passport - which I didn't really wanna give but all the others had done so and the american woman had told me they'd done the same for her, so I didn't wanna hurt his feelings - and arranged all the paperwork at the border where, anyways, they don't really check anything.
the guy was driving 160km/h when the speed limit was 30 and I was hoping I wouldn't die there 'cause it was all grey and desert and didn't look like a very nice place to die in. given the choice, I'd prefer bolivia. the music was still blasting.
We arrived in Arica and I understood, by myself, that Ihad to cross over to the other terminal, for there weren't shit. in the other terminal, I went around looking - in vain - for a bus to sanpedro de atacama. I finally asked a guy who told me I had to go through calama and that the busses only left at 2130. I took the ticket and left him my backpack contempleting the big day I had ahead of me in the grey and humid city of arica.
I walked the awekening-grey-sea-side-city and found nothing interesting. I read in the park and quickly fell asleep. staye there for 1h, still there wasn't anything going on. I then went to the city-mall by the terminal where Ihad a cofee, then lunch. I left to smoke then went back to go on the internet. I stayed there for 2h, listening to "le jeu des dictionnaires" (a belgian radio program I love).
I went back into the terminal to have -yet another-cofee and read. by that time I was bored to death and smelled like shit.
little note: they have public bathroom in the terminal and, where you pee, they have, on the ground a little thing representing a sea-horse. it's the cutest thing I've ever pissed on. (see how bored I was to notice such details :)
I went to sit, and the big woman next to me was pushing me aside so I went for a smoke. so did the big woman. she stoke up a conversation and I told her all about myslef and she told me little about herself but complimented me nicely on my spanish skills (again! but now I think I know why : it's because you can see I'm trying real hard :) and gave me her adress in calama in case I needed anything. unfortunately I was only staying there for 20' but I took the adress anyway. I'll send her a postcard. she was a nice old and fat lady. I then got on the bus - without my sleeping bag, but I didn't freeze to death, so it was ok. they showed a bad movie, but I was so tired of reading I was really happy with it :)
I slept on, only being awakened by the 10,000 customs and ID checks they have in chile (you actually can't take the road for more than 20 minutes without encounbtering one :) and got to calama in the morning. all good
I took a taxi to "algo del norte" and the guy made me pay 2000 pesos for a 4 minutes ride, I belived I got screwed - again! - but I had no strenght to argue.
when I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, I was astonished! I was awaiting a big city, with loads of stuff and I got to a tiny city with dust roads and buildings barely taller than me. all there seem to be in this town was hostels (43 of them!!!) and tourists (those i couldn't count). getting used to the idea this was a small town, it all turned really nice and I had breakfast on the main sqaure, real sunny and real pretty (nice change from arica). I checked in a hotel on the main square with "baños privado" and had my first shower and tooth brush in two days. heaven.
chile is quite expensive, thought, compared to my latin-american standards and a hotel room is almost as expensive as back home.so I decided to only stay for 2 nights.
being all clean and smelling good, I headed to the tourist office and asked info with which I then sat and contemplated what the town had to offer : desert, desert, death vaslley, moon valley, desert, horseback riding and a museum. I quickly elected the horseback riding and the museum as my activitites and went to book the horseback riding for the next day. an nice friendly lady told me it was 5 hours the next day and that there was already a german chick booked as well. all fine. seeing my budget running low I decided to go replenish my pockets at the cash machine but it was broken so I sat in front of it and discussed a bit with a french couple. they finally fixed it and I got my money and went into the museum.
it's actually quite funny 'cause the guy thanks to whom the museum has been built is a belgian priest who comes from really close to where my dad's from. the museum was really interesting, retracing the region's history until the spaniards came (and most people did it backwards so I don't think they understood much of it :)
next, I'm out the museum, sneezing because of the A.C. and I cross the main street to have a fag and read in the sun. I look for my book and can't find it. where is it. then I remembre I'd put it on the cash machine, go back and see it ain't there no more. shit! I hoped the french couple behind me took it, and since it's such a small town, that I'd bump into them at some point.
and I did. going back to my hotel, all sad at the loss of my book, I saw them eating at my hotle and went over to ask if they'd seen it. they had it and handed it back to me and I sat with them chatting (they'd been travelling for a year, from montreal to there)until the evening when they left and I went for food and then a good night sleep.
-the rest of the trip is for later 'cause my bus is in an hour and I still haven't eaten :)

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