Goodbye Arica, Chile…

I arrived in Arica about 5.30am after a nine hour bus trip from San Pedro de Atacama. The hostel was supposed to be a 5 minute walk from the bus terminal. However, given that I had no idea which way to turn once outside the bus terminal and that it may not be safe at that hour of the morning, I hailed a taxi. Only 2,000 pesos (NZ$5.00) so well worth it.

Arica Unite Hostel

Arica Unite Hostel

I was a wee bit dubious about where the taxi took me, however there was the sign “Arica Unite” which set my mind at ease. Sometimes the nicest hostels look really grotty from the outside. I rang the bell and waited for a bit and then a lovely lady greeted me. She showed me to my room (another top bunk!), the toilets and went back to bed. I was in a four bed dorm which is smaller than the six bed dorms I have had previously.

The hostel owners are a lovely French couple; Jenny and Nico. It’s a lovely laid back, quiet hostel and there are only about eight or so here at any time. It is a wee bit noisy at the moment because they are having some rooms added upstairs and a deck where they can serve breakfast. The breakfast is very basic…2 pieces of toast, butter, jam and coffee or peppermint tea, but hey it fills a gap in the morning.

Didn’t venture too far from the hostel the day I arrived. Just down to the local market to get some veges, fruit, water and milk. I thought I would do a stir-fry. My experience getting meat from the butcher was interesting. I picked what looked like pre-packed schnitzel. I apparently didn’t pay him. He weighed it and gave me a ticket. I was then directed to the cashier. I then wondered where I went after that and two ladies behind me directed me onto yet another lady who took my receipt and gave me my meat!

I have developed quite a bad chesty cough and decided tomorrow I would have to go in search of a Farmacia (pharmacy) to get some cough medicine. I got prepared and Googled how to ask for cough medicine – “medicamentos para la tos”. Love you Google translator! Wrote it in my notebook just in case I forgot how to ask for it. Drugs are soooo cheap over here a 120ml bottle of cough medicine cost only 1,400 pesos (NZ$3.50). We get totally ripped off in New Zealand for that kind of thing.

Arica from Morro de Arica

Arica from Morro de Arica

Next day was nice and sunny and had Googled things to see in Arica the previous night. My mission was to climb up Morro de Arica which is quite a significant and much photographed feature in Arica. It took me about half an hour to walk there and found a street that led to the rather steep walkway up Morro de Arica. The first part was the steepest and the whole climb only took me 10 minutes. I have to say it was well worth the view of the city. Unfortunately Arica seems to have this kind of haze that hangs over the city even when it is sunny, but still a stunning view nonetheless.

Port of Arica from Morro de Arica

Port of Arica from Morro de Arica

When I got back to the hostel, since it was Saturday night, I thought a wee wine would be quite nice. Off I set to find a bottle store, not difficult…bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for 2,400 pesos (NZ$6.00). A bag of chips would be nice too. Not much of a choice…plain, plain or wow plain! They were rather expensive at 1,400 pesos (NZ$3.50). My night in by myself with my wine, chips and internet was short lived when two Belgium girls and a German girl arrived. Out came the pisco that we were drinking straight on the rocks! Arica is an olive growing area so were having olives with our pisco. I’m not a great fan of olives, but I am now hooked. These ones were delicious, nothing like the crap ones you get in a jar back in New Zealand. Great conversation…a bit of dancing and then hit the sack!

Me and Angelique from Belgium

Me and Angelique from Belgium

Didn’t feel too good the next morning, because of my terrible cough of course…nothing to do with drinking a bottle of wine and I don’t know how many pisco’s!

Had a whole day in the hostel just chilling and thinking I really should think about moving on. After all I had originally only booked in for two nights which has turned into five, including the morning of the night of the 18 July which I booked for. Had looked at a number of websites offering volunteer work. I gave up on it for now as they either wanted you for too long (about three months), I would have to detour off my roughly chartered travel path or they want people with a good level of Spanish. There is plenty of time yet if I do decide to pursue voluntary work.

Last day in Arica and I went to the market just to get enough food for lunch and dinner. Then went for a wander down to the beach. Another very hazy day but pleasant at the beach. Sat there for a bit and updated my diary.

Tune in for your next instalment in about five days.

Chau!

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile…

After getting over my initial melt down when I arrived at the bus station at San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, I have enjoyed a lovely three days here.

The trip from Santiago with Tur-Bus only took about 25 hours. When I got off the bus it was like a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’s nightmare. Nothing but dusty roads! It was suppose to be a 10 minute walk to the hostel. I had a map but having no street signs, and it being dark did not help matters. A massive tip…try and take only one bag! I have my backpack, a trolley bag and a day pack (plus my handbag). At this point I was definitely cursing myself for packing so much stuff. However, I can’t dispose of any of my winter stuff just yet because, although it is the desert, it is hot during the day, but the temperature drops way down at night.

Backpackers San Pedro

Backpackers San Pedro

After about half an hour and showing a couple of people my map (who didn’t really understand any English), I came upon Backpackers San Pedro. More disappointment lay in wait. The six bed mixed dorm was sooooo small there was no rooms for my two large bags. Fortunately there was another small adjoining room so I set up in there. I also had a top bunk…I hate top bunks! There were no steps up to it and it was as rickety as anything. I felt like the whole thing could collapse…poor person beneath me! I couldn’t even sit up in bed as my head would have gone through the ceiling. The bottom bunk wasn’t any better, no room to sit on the bed without hitting your head on the top bunk. Next challenge was the crappy lockers. Not only are they tiny, one could yank the door and the parts you put your padlock through would just break away. Next was the shower…the instructions said to turn it onto hot and wait for it to heat up, after five minutes the hot water automatically shuts off. No problem, you just start the process again. What I found amusing was they had signs everywhere saying “Save Water, Save the World” (after all San Pedro is in the driest desert in the world). I fail to see how running all that water down the drain while you wait for the water to get hot, then it is so hot you have to waste a whole lot more water waiting for it to cool down is helping to save water!

Backpackers San Pedro Hostel Cats

Backpackers San Pedro Hostel Cats

So enough of the moaning…it would be a boring trip without these little challenges. I have realised that being adaptable when travelling is something that is crucial. One thing that has made me happy is the two resident cats at the hostel. One morning they were both cuddled up on my bed when I woke. Everyone is friendly here and have had nice room-mates.

The first day here I went for a wander around the town. I discovered that there was a shorter route from the bus station to the hostel so will take that route when I go back to the bus station. It’s a lovely little town. It has a very Peruvian feel to it with a lot of the same handicrafts as Peru. There was a street parade which I love. The music is so uplifting and the dancing and costumes are a sight to see. I had an empanada and café con leche (coffee with milk) at a little café. The empanada was huge and sometimes you just don’t quite get what you expect to. I was brought a cup of hot milk. I was starting to think, hmmmmm, where is the coffee? Next minute a jar of Nescafe is put on my table! The coffee wasn’t very strong so had to add about 5 teaspoons of coffee. It was actually a really nice cup of coffee with hot milk.

Andes at sunset taken from Valle de la Luna

Andes at sunset taken from Valle de la Luna

The next day I did a tour through the hostel to Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) and Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley). Our lovely guide Elise (who also runs the hostel with her husband), told us a lot of history about both these places. We walked through a salt cave and had to use torches, otherwise it was pitch black. The whole area is salt that has hardened. It is only brown because of the layers of dust that have settled over the years. There is very little rain here so the dust never gets washed away. There are a few patches here and there where you can see the white of the salt. We climbed up to the top of a sand dune in Moon Valley to watch the sunset. During the sunset the Andes change to some beautiful shades of pink. Quite a lovely sight.

I have spent my last day here just chilling out in the hostel waiting for my bus at 8.30pm to Arica which is north of Chile, just 18km from the Peruvian border.

Welcome to my travel blog…

Home Page Pic of Me

Hi everyone and welcome to my travel blog. My name is Jennifer and I started my trip around South and Central America on 6 July 2013. I have a ticket back home to New Zealand on 1 February 2014.

I hope you enjoy my blogs. I will try to make them entertaining and informative. Please feel free to comment. I would love my site to be interactive.

Happy reading!

A week into my travels…

I honestly can’t believe I have only been away from New Zealand for a week. It feels like so much longer.

Aji Hostel, Santiago de Chile

Aji Hostel, Santiago de Chile

One thing that has struck me quite profoundly this time travelling, is that everyone in a hostel is an equal. It doesn’t matter what we do/did for a job, what kind of house we live in, what kind of car we drive…all that is left behind and we are all equals. We share…rooms, bathrooms, common areas and meals together. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone loves listening to everyone else’s stories. We all look out for on another…it’s really nice.

It is often hard to move on from a hostel where you have met great people…some will keep in touch, others come into our lives for a short time and then move on, or we move on.

I believe the important thing is to cherish the moments and look forward to the future adventures and the new places and people that I will meet.

In a couple of hours I move onto the next stage of my adventure in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. It’s going to be about a 30 hour bus trip, it’s going to be the first really long bus trip for me but definitely the cheapest way to get around.

Until next time…adios

Moving on…

Today my cold is definitely getting better and not feeling as drained. Today’s mission was to take the metro to the bus station and get myself a ticket to my next destination.

I have been tossing up between Antofagasta, Calama and San Pedro de Atacama. I decided Antofagasta, although very beautiful looking and by the sea, was just another city. I thought San Pedro was very barren looking and didn’t think there would be a lot to do there. The great thing about staying in a hostel is the information you can pick up from both hostel staff and other travellers. I had pretty much decided to go to Calama until one of the girls in my dorm said to go to San Pedro de Atacama. I spoke to another traveller this morning, he said there is nothing to do at Calama and suggested I go to San Pedro de Atacama. It is the driest place on earth, being in the Atacama desert. He said you could spend a week there seeing the Valley of the Moon – a moon-like landscape with ruins of old Chilean salt mines, and worker huts, Death Valley – a valley where gigantic dunes and rocks abound, hot springs, geysers, salt caves and other sites. He showed me his photos and I was sold!

He drew me a map of the metro station I had to get off at (Estacion Central) and where I had to go to get my bus ticket. I get really nervous getting the metro because the people selling the tickets can never speak English. I also get worried about getting on the right train and getting off a the right station! However, it wasn’t as bad as the actual thought of it.

Found the bus ticket places and after firstly going to a wrong counter, I found the right counter. The man could speak a little English and the good thing is they show you the computer screen which makes it easier. I booked a ticket in a semi-cama (a semi reclining seat). It was 44,400 pesos (NZ$111). The cama (a full bed) was 56,000 pesos (NZ$140). It is something like a 24 hour trip and I may regret not spending the extra to get a cama.

Next was to book a hostel. Settled for Backpackers San Pedro. At 8,900 pesos (NZ$22) it is more expensive than the current 7,900 pesos (NZ$20). It doesn’t include breakfast or dinner that is included at Aji Hostel. I only had the option of a 6 bed mixed dorm…so there better not be any loud male snorers!

Fifth day in Santiago…

I can’t believe this is my fifth day in Santiago! I am staying at Aji Hostel. The same hostel I stayed at in October 2010 on my way back to New Zealand. The hostel is a lot busier than it was then. Everyone is so friendly and have met some lovely people.

I have had a wander around the city on my own and have done a free guided walking tour of the city (about 3 hours) with a stop at a bar for a pisco sour. When I was in Peru I took some pisco sour back home and thought it was a Peruvian drink. However, Chilenos claim that pisco sour is their national drink. A wee bit like New Zealand and Australia with the pavlova. Of course, we all know the pavlova was invented in New Zealand (even Wikipedia confirms that fact)!

Andes

Andes taken from Santa Lucia Hill, Santiago

Felipe our guide was a colourful character who spoke excellent English. The history that went with the points of interest along the way were really fascinating.

I walked up Santa Lucia Hill where I took some stunning photos of the Andes. There are lovely gardens on the hill also. The hill was built by soil and rocks by prisoners and is quite a famous landmark in Santiago.

I celebrated my birthday on 8 July. The girls in my dorm sang “Happy Birthday” to me. My friend Fernando who runs the hostel, opened a bottle of wine and then took me to a bar where I had another pisco sour! He got the waitress to bring out a chocolate brownie with ice-cream on the top and a candle.

I am now nursing a cold and haven’t ventured too far the past two days.