I got so sick in Chile. Not from food, or water, but just a flu/cold that hit me like a tonne of bricks. Luckily, the farmacia’s in South America have cheap and effective medications (in Bolivia they even sell them by the pill!). Despite being ill, Kim and I were able to book night bus tickets to the Peruvian border and a tour to the Valle de la Luna, where we got completely sandblasted.
Being sick + sand = not great. But it was beautiful?
If you were me, and you tried to get to Peru from Chile, you might …
- Leg 1: Chile – Book a bus from San Pedro de Atacama to Arica (stopping in Calama to switch buses, if you want a cama bus. Which of course you do, because it’s an overnight bus and cama means BED). Fever-ridden, you wander around town for a long time because the place to buy bus tickets and the place to actually catch the bus are on opposite ends of town.
- Leg 2: La Frontera
- Groggily the next day, you get off night bus in Arica, Chile at 6am. You pay 300 pesos to use the washroom and freshen up.
- You then drink the horrible South American coffee.
- Then, you ask agencies how much it costs to bus to Tacna, Peru. When they say 23,000 Chilean Pesos, you decide to take a public transit adventure.
- Proceeding to buy a 300 peso ticket to use the collectivo, you stand lost until Chileans approach you and point you to a man with a funny hat named Jorge … and his luxury Buick?
This is not the bus you’d imagined.
- You place your bags in Jorge’s trunk, pay him 3,000 pesos, and then foolishly hand over your passports for registration. (He then returns them to you, but scolds you for just handing over your documents, and tells you never to do that again.)
- After this, you wait patiently in the Buick until 3 more people fill the car.
- Now you stop to get out at the Chilean side of the border. Stamp the passports. Get out at the Peruvian side. Stamp the passports and scan the bags.
- In Peru now, Jorge drives you to the Tacna bus terminal. He trades you Soles for your last Peso coins; what a nice guy.
- Leg 3: Tacna Bus Terminal – kind of a crazy place, you hop from agency to agency and ask how much buses are to Arequipa. Prices vary from 15-25 soles (yes you’re right, that’s $8; I paid more for Pringles on the same day).
- You choose the 10am bus, because it’s 9:00am and you don’t want to wait until 1pm.
- A weird man approaches you and wants to chat. You speak to him in German so he goes away. (German always works).
- Leg 4: Tacna to Arequipa, Peru. Should’ve waited until 1pm.
- The cracked windshield blocks your panoramic view on the top level of the bus.
- You have to close your eyes when the buses passes fuel-carrying trucks because the bus is doing it on a blind corner at 100km/h.
- At some point you lose consciousness, but wake to hear angry Peruvians stomping on the floor. The bus is stopped.
- Fifteen minutes later you continue. But you don’t go much faster than 50km/h. Then you stop.
- Everyone gets out.
- You wait. Then Bus #2 appears. You get on last, because your bag is transferred last, and end up standing on Bus #2 next to a friendly woman breastfeeding her adorable baby.
- You stand for 2 hours. You entertain the baby with your BC Hydro bug light.
- You arrive in Arequipa after 10 hours, which is later than the 1pm would’ve arrived …
- Leg 5: Techno and Terraces
- After arranging the mini-est taxi you’ve ever seen for 10 soles, you get to The Point hostel. You wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s a bed.
- You enjoy thumping techno beats as you walk to your room on the roof. You change, get dinner on a beautiful terrace in the middle of the city, and make yourself go to bed.
Welcome to Peru, tired Kimmy and Sonia. You’ve made it.