We set about the next morning in high spirits, we were Chile bound. The ride was fairly uneventful, more or less a straight line on the map from Moquegua to the border. The landscape had changed dramatically and we were now into a washed out sandy desert theme. We’d noticed that some things seemed to act in reverse here. There seemed to be more life at higher altitude then down here at sea level. Up top there was vegetation, sheep, alpaca, llama and loads of cattle, on our ride to Arica there was an empty landscape full of sand. Not what we expected.
We rolled into our first border crossing of the trip and all in all things rolled by pretty smoothly. We were given the usual run-around but that was nobodies fault but our own. If you don’t speak the language you have to expect some confusion. We exited Peru and waiting on the Chilian side were a couple of agents, one an agriculture inspector that owned a BMW motorcycle, and the other, Mario, a customs guy. Well these two guys were fantastic and walked us through the different agencies and probably saved us 45 minutes of confusion.
From there we were in Chile....and what a difference from Peru. When travelling it’s not my intent to knock one countries customs or levels of development over another, but I have to say the difference between Peru and Chile was substantial. We rolled another 20 kilometres into the seaside town of Arica. On the outskirts we witnessed a huge new housing development that signalled a very well developed economy, but it wasn’t a young economy either. As we rolled through the traffic and headed down to the water we cut into the older heart of Arica, and what a beautiful place it is. Some of the buildings had been around a long time and the fishing boats up in dry dock, a stone’s throw from the downtown square, were taking up space that had been used for that purpose for a very long time. The fleet out in the bay also gave evidence that it was an industry still going strong. Next to the dry-docked boats were piles of shipping containers, literally right across the street from the square. Arica hid nothing from us, there was industry and habitation a block apart which gave the small city a real dynamic flair.
We found a hostel where we could store the bikes inside and set off to town on foot with a couple of other guests. They were Chilians, electricians, up from Santiago. They would come up for two months then go home for a month. They took us under their wing and walked us downtown and played tour guide for an hour before we parted ways. It looks like the hospitality from Peru was spilling over to Chile.
While we were downtown we noticed a large stage had been set up for an evening performance. Arica was throwing a party to honour Victor Jara. After a quick consultation we stopped in a little back ally off the main pedestrian walk that passes through the heart of town for a pizza before returning to the venue to do some filming. The outdoor concert was well attended and in the background was a large rock that rose up a couple hundred feet where a huge Chilian flag fluttered patriotically. We listened to a few musicians and walked the outdoor art show that was set up to one side before walking back to the hostel. We retraced our steps up the busy pedestrian walk and I noted to Dominik it felt just like an outdoor living room. It was a beautiful place and the number of locals confirmed that just like their Peruvian neighbors, the Chilians liked their public spaces.