Peru

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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