It’s been less than three hours since I entered Peru, and I’ve already lied to the police.
I stayed a day longer in Chile than I had planned. But I don’t think anyone who saw the view of the beach could blame me.
Iquique gives a feeling of complete isolation. On one side, the Pacific crashes against the beach. It’s a popular location for surfing and boogy boarding. The water is the clearest blue I have ever seen for a Pacific beach.
The other side is enclosed by towering cliffs. The desert goes right up to the coast; sand dunes loom over the city. Iquique looks like it could be buried in sand at any time with the right shift in the wind. A popular activity is to launch oneself from the top of Cerro Dragon, strapped to what amounts to a big kite, and fly. The paragliders land right on the beach. Several people in the hostel flew every day.
Other options included bike rental, stand-up paddleboarding, and sand boarding. I opted to relax in the sun. Frankly, I could have spent the rest of my trip in Iquique. But I only needed one extra day so I my laundry could dry.
My guidebook recommended a restaurant on Peninsula Cavancha. A leisurely twenty minute stroll on the beach–my favorite activity–and I was there. I sat and ordered three empanadas–one pescado (fish), one camarón (shrimp), and one pulpo (octopus). All washed down with an Ariquipeña, a Peruvian lager.
Apparently I was at a local joint; the owner of the hostel and his friends showed up. I invited them to join me at my table, then sat quietly and tried to pick up as much Spanish as I could.
Anyway, back to being a fugitive from the law.
From Iquique, it’s a four hour bus ride to Arica, 20 km from the Peruvian border. Arica is another beach city, but I had my fill of sand and sun. It was time to get on getting on.
The border crossing was a new experience. I’ve entered countries by car before, but in Arica, I got into a colectivo–shared taxi. Myself and a Chilean couple were ferried to the border by an elderly man driving a Hyundai. He handed me the necessary paperwork, pointed me in the right direction at customs, and generally hustled us into Peru. I found it all very efficient.
It’s also the first time I’ve crossed a border and had to set my watch back by two hours.
Southern Peru does not look like the Peru from the postcards, or the pictures on friends’ Facebook feeds. Like Northern Chile, it’s a desert, vast and sandy.
The colectivo took me to Tacna, Arica’s opposite border town in Peru. Criminal that I am, I wrote the name of one hostel on my entry card, then checked into another one.
Somehow I doubt the Peruvian authorities are too concerned about a bearded American with a poor sense of direction.