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Chile Off-Road Expedition
|JULY 14, 2006 – FRIDAY
We Are In Chile
(It still promises to be hot tamale)
We are coming into Chile from Peru.
This is our FIRST border crossing! It takes about 30 minutes to check out of Peru at the border, then about 45 minutes into Chile, and we are in! Nothing to it, but I did have to give up my big bag of oranges that I had bought in a market. But it seems that oranges are plentiful around here.
What a remarkable difference between Peru and Chile. Peru is so impoverished, and at least Arica, Chile, seems so much wealthier. The buildings are more modern, their infrastructure of streets, signs, businesses, etc. is almost American looking (at least at night.) There is even a Chile version of Home Depot, called Sodimac, where we stop and try to find the small propane bottles for the gas grill, which we had read were readily available in S. America-no luck. He bought stuff to make an adapter so that their kind of bottles will work, and bought a small charcoal grill, just in case.
We find a place to park at Hotel Arica, Av. Comandante San Martin #599 (56-58 254-540). It is right on the ocean. There is no charge to park. So we eat at their restaurant for their kindness. We also use their I-net, but the keyboard sticks so badly that it is really unusable.
We can’t wait to see the view in the morning. I can hear the waves crashing as we fall asleep.
JULY 15, 2006 – SATURDAY
Bolivia or Bust . . .
After a quick stroll and a few pix of the rock beach, we backtrack north out of Arica, Chile just a few kilometers, then hang a right (East), on Hwy 11 for Bolivia. The more than 200k of road appeared to be very curvy on the map, and I thought we would be all day just to make the crossing at Tambo Quemado. Tambo means “trail marking”. We are hoping that by crossing at a less-used border crossing, that we will have none of the problems that everyone has told us we will have. It is actually a very nice road. The pavement is good.
Much better roads than expected!!
There are a few places where there is unstable geology, and you can tell that it has heaved or just washed out or something, but repairs have been made. There are definitely places that still need help, but they are marked with spray paint, like they intend to fix them.
We are climbing in elevation, from sea level in Arica, to just over 12,000 ft in 3 hours or so. We spot our first llama, which are really vicunas. They are smaller than llama or alpaca, no long wool, and are skinny. There are not very many of them, kind of like we would see deer at home, I guess. The land changes to a “tundra” type of ground. It truly looks like Alaska. There are bumpy lumps of greenish lichens/grass surrounded by shallow pools. There is 1 main difference; there are ALPACA everywhere, herds of them.
|As we come around a corner, very close to the border crossing, I can see all kinds of birds in the lake. Upon closer inspection, I holler to stop — look at the penguins. Well, not penguins, but it got Mike’s attention! In my excitement, I mistake FLAMINGOS for penguins. You can see the resemblance, right? Well, it did make him stop. We took a few photos. I had not read about flamingos here, so was not expecting it. What a pleasant surprise.|
We get to the “let you out of Chile” crossing and are done in about 10 minutes. After a 5 minute drive, we arrive at the Bolivia crossing. The 15 minute document examination and a discussion as to our “UNIMOG” placa (license plate), and we were through! There were none of the horror stories we heard of: personal searches, demands that all US money be handed over, thorough searches of vehicles while planting contraband, etc. It was a VERY nice and uneventful crossing. This is the one we had been so worried about.
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