Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Month New Country: Chile

First a few quick facts:
- The Atacama is the driest desert in the world.
- Arica is the driest city in the world.
- Chaquicamata Copper Mine is the largest open pit mine in the world.
- There are 495 Chilean Pesos to the Canadian Dollar.
- The Money is plastic and really colorful.
- The time has moved 2 hours ahead of Peru and 1 hour ahead of Toronto.
- There is a problem with landmines through out the remote border areas with Boliva, Argentina Peru. Thank you Agusto Pinochet, you historical douche!

Welcome to Chile
As with all border crossings I have experienced along my way this one was no different. It was fast and easy. There was only one unusual and new thing about todays crossing. When I arrived at Tacna from Arequipa there were no direct busses to the border. You went to the taxi stand and there were just a bunch of random guys waiting, you paid 20 soles (about $7) and they drove you to the border, waited for you to cross then drove you to Arica.

Anyone who reads this BEWARE OF SCAMS AND TOUTS in Tacna. They hit you as soon as you get off the bus. It starts easy enough with them jumping all over you yelling Arica, Arica. I am always willing so I said yes, cuanto valle? We agree on 25 soles and they handed me a customs form. Ok everythign seems cool enough but I am waiting for other shoe to drop. We walk to the second terminal where the drivers are waiting and then sit and wait. Every travel guide says that they want to fill the cars first so no worries.
The second  we are ready to, as everyone is scrambling to get thier bags our fearless guy now wants his 25 soles plus $30 american dollars for the border. Now it gets fun. "There is no $30 charge at the border and if there is I will pay it there" says our hero. No! you must give it to me now"  says our evil tout. This goes back and forth a few times until I use my favourite word. Ladronne!! He stops and looks a bit shocked. I pick up my bags and walk to the drivers. Of course he gets a bit loud but I keep walking. I see a few of the people sitting with me give the guy money when I looked back a bit later. DO NOT under any circumstance pay anyone anything for border crossings.

***As for knowing where the drivers where, I just asked. I would have paid the 25 to him instead of the 20 directly to the driver, which is about $1.50, because he did walk me to the station and give me the customs form. Good times!

I have 7 weeks to travel the 6000 km coastline to cross into Terra del Fuego less one week on Easter Island. To put that into perspective Vancouver to St. Johns NF is about 7100 km. One of the signs along the highway today said Santiago 2235km. When travelling on the 401 in Toronto or the glorious QEW have you ever see a sign that says Winnipeg 2050km, or even Montreal 550km? Seeing that number on a distance posting was just odd, but in a funny "shit I should have taken the picture" kind of way.

I did a book swap and now have a Frommers Chile and Easter Island. I am at the Arica Surf Hostal. Hot water, WiFi, Breakfast of Eggs, toast, cheese and I was told one of the best coffees in town included all for $9. The Pacific is about a 20 minute walk and its sunny, dry and warm.

Nice start Chile, keep it up.

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