Daws.ca
Saturday, October 25th, 2003

Chile

Alpaca with a snow capped volcano

Spent a bit of time in Arequipa before heading southwest and crossing the border into Chile. We’ve  been eating very very well, and stuffing our faces with ice cream and having more than our fair share of alpha whores (alfajores i suppose). Going to see three more firework towers like we saw in Ayacucho! Three times the fire! Fire FIRE FIRE!

 

From Arequipa we made our way to the border and across it into Chile. The border crossing was relatively straightforward without any problems. But holy do they ever check your bags thoroughly!! …every bag opened and felt up. Searching for plant and animal bits that might contaminate a now-disease- free Chile. All our gear also had to be irradiated or something, again checking for plant and animal stuff. Veronica’s box of fresh mints were the most suspicious thing they found.

 

Chile is a really nice country… very different from Peru and Ecuador…which are both a lot cheaper and poorer than Chile, which is very notable by the way people act and the way the city of Arica (a town close to the border in Chile) looks…very clean! Things are slightly more expensive than Peru but things also seem safer… I think the safety-aspect of a country goes hand in hand with how rich the country is and therefore how much things cost.

 

Oh and the cars stop for you!! Weird… took us a while to figure that out. We approached a road, and a car stopped ... This was very confusing so we searched high and low for traffic lights or some reason why they were stopped before we looked at the driver, who was patiently waiting for us to cross the street! He was holding up traffic and nobody was honking at him! Come to think of it, don’t think I heard a single car horn in Chile. In fact, every time we approached a road like that, cars would stop for us, even more so than in Canada! Unreal. 

 

It even feels different in Chile. On our first day there we were able to walk around at night and feel relaxed ... The hostile environment feeling I’ve come to expect in South America, the feeling that accompanies the necessity of casually checking over your shoulder every little while, the frustration and irritation at everyone looking at you like a huge wad of cash that has grown legs, or the feeling that you are being watched with angry eyes as an irritating foreigner who has it all when you have nothing…. all that was non-existent in Chile. In fact, everyone was extraordinarily friendly, and would bend over backwards out of their way to try to help you out for nothing in return. No one hassles you to buy things. People would want to talk to us and you knew they were just being friendly and no more. Such a nice change.

 

The only frustrating thing in Arica, Chile was the lack of vegetarian food. It didn’t really bother me actually, except that we had to wander around for ages to find food to feed the two chicas. And you’ll never guess where we finally found some good vegetarian food for them, and good enough to come back a second, third, and fourth time... McDonalds!

 

We took a three day tour into the northern Chilean national park for $270,000. The sign for Chilean pesos is close to the dollar sign. Had some fun throwing my $10,000 notes into the air, laughing madly:)

 

The Tour was quite pleasant as we had our own private spacious air-conditioned van. Chewing fresh coca leaves and drinking pisco in the little towns at night with a couple from Holland was a blast. The scenery was great, although our guide sucked. he kept stopping at seemingly random places and asking us if we wanted to take a picture (to which we would look wildly around the area we were in for the picture-worthy thing we assumed would be right before our eyes if only we could find the right direction ... only to finally stare blankly back (with a confused look I’m sure) at the guide and say "ahhh .... no that’s okay ... ". Although we made him stop in a few places which were lovely. The scenery was really pretty… Lots of perfect snow capped mountains, like the kind you draw as a kid, beautiful blue lakes with lots of birds and ducks and flamingos.

 

Probably our favourite part of that trip was seeing wild Chinchillas (or Vizcachas), which Tony and I nicknamed “squirits” due to their resemblance to both rabbits and squirrels. This quickly got shortened to squirts. Such cute little creatures! They would bound up to you to check you out before bounding away. We saw quite a few in their natural habitat where they were curious but suitably scared of people, but also some in a small little town where they had been tamed. There we got to actually pet one a bit (they seem to have poor vision ... maybe it thought I was another squirt nuzzling it or something).  We got a ton of pictures of them. They were so fun to watch scrambling over the rocks and jumping or standing on their hind legs to get a look at something, which made them look like little miniature kangaroos :)

 

Also stopped by a very remote village in the area with a very nice looking church from the 17th century. There were 2 really cute little kids. A boy, about 4 or 5, and a girl, about 2 or 3. They would come up to you with their arms stretched up towards the sky begging for you to pick them up. They loved to be carried. They were so cute!! At one point V was holding the little boys hand and walking with him and he started hopping on one leg so she joined in and he thought that was so funny! We totally loved it! Was laughing… it was so much fun playing with the kids! Loved it!

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