Day 26 - Fri 27 Apr 07 - Arica, Chile - Peru
Up at 06:30 for shower etc. and down to see if I can book the bus to Arequipa today online - and the answer is no. So breakfast at 07:30, and a walk down to the station. It's a clear day with bright sunshine, but the place is still asleep. Got to the station at 08:10, and had a chat with Carlos who sold me my ticket yesterday, a queue starts to form, so I join it. The train from Tacna arrives and as soon as they clear immigration they run across the road to grab a taxi. But the weird thing is that there are many more taxi's than people so why is everyone running?
Eventually everyone is cleared off the train, and it's our turn to go through the x-ray machine and clear immigration. The couple I met yesterday are on board. The train is a single carriage affair with leatherette seating and it moves at about 15mph. Entering Peru was an old world experience. Off the train and through a turn style to find a lady sitting at a wooden desk in a wooden room. She stamps my passport and that's it I've arrived in Peru! Next comes the exchange ladies who will change money for you, and finally the taxi drivers - It's all very polite and low key. No hassle at any point. I grab a taxi and wait while the rest of the Brits pass through immigration. 250sols (50p) gets all four of us up to the bus station.
I spot the bus company has a departure at 3pm I head for their counter and change my ticket that was for tomorrow - again no problems - South America seems a very easy place to change your travel plans! While I'm changing my ticket there's a bloke at the next counter trying to drum up trade. "Arequipa" is the shout which is repeated every 30 seconds. Find a very nice little cafe just outside the bus station to eat, and get stir fried chicken for about 50p.
After lunch with the 'English Couple' we have time to kill so hail another taxi and head back into town to checkout the railway museum - really quite interesting. Lots of old heavy duty machines and a few steam trains. Around the corner is a huge cathedral which looks rather better on the outside than it does inside. The town seems to be having a marching band competition with everyone out in the main square.
Almost out of time in Tacna, so a taxi back up to the bus station. The shouts for "Arequipa" as still going strong. Onboard the bus it's bloody hot, mind you it's 30°c outside. They video each passenger in their seat - I guess it's for identification purposes. Finally we're off, the journey is punctuated by two movies, an 'in flight' meal and a game of bingo, which was won by the lady sitting next to me. she had to some up to the front of the bus to collect her prize and make a quick speech.
Peru time is one hour behind Chile time - I don't get it either - it's the only time on this trip where I've had to put the clock back. So it's well dark by the time we arrive in Arequipa. The 'English Couple' have a hostel booked already, with a pick up arranged so I tag along with them and get a room in hostel. It's a room with three beds, but I seem to have to the room to myself. Then it was out on the town to get something to eat. Found a place just around the corner and had a nice meal with the 'English Couple'. Then it was off to the Irish Pub for a very expensive whiskey!
Started to head home, but we bumped into one of the guys from the restaurant earlier on, and he dragged us off to one of his pals bars. I stick to cokes to try and rehydrate myself (we're at 2,500m). The toilet in the bar has to be the most memorable one I've every experienced. It consists of a single bowl in an alcove off a corridor. There was a door, but if you shut it you couldn't stand in front of the bowl. So you have to stand in the corridor and perform. It was described as the toilet from Trainspotting.
After that it was onwards to a night club - escaped at about 1am, and headed back to 'Home Sweet Home' the name of the hostel - Honest!