Hitchhiking into the south
Our plans are changing every day. First we wanted to cycle from Cusco to Nazca, flying over the Nazca lines and then start hitchhiking down to Patagonia. We changed this plan as well and started hitchhiking from Cusco.
There was trouble at the start. Cusco is a really large city, so it took some time to find the right street. We put our stuff to the site and earned smiles and horns. But nobody stopped for us. Walking ahead, an older man and woman stopped and drove us till a bus control. Afterward we were still in Cusco and the other cars or trucks were not friendlier than before.
During a small break at a gas station, a man came by and introduced himself very weird: "I am a stupid motherfucking tour guide, but I recommend you to take a bus at the control". These words were often heard by us this day, at least the bit about the bus control. It got dark and we followed his recommendation and went back to the control point. The policemen were not really amused but later helped us. The first bus with the destination "Arequipa" came at 6:30pm and many people ran towards it to catch him. We did so, too, and because we are strangers, we were pleased to sit in the front cabine. It should get very worse.
The two bus drivers and one steward were friendly, they gave us food and warm drinks, but they were real machos, too. I couldn't escape, so I were forced to hear questions like are you shaved (!) or if I don't want a Peruvian boyfriend. Martin was no longer in the front cabine, and they asked me those stupid questions. I just wanted to sleep, but it was impossible. After a delay of maybe 1 hour we arrived in Arequipa. I ran out of the bus, grabed Martin and went into the bus terminal. It was full of people and lucky for us: A bus to Tacna! We bought two tickets, some bread and cheese for a fast breakfast and ran back to the buses. The bus should have left already but like everything in South America, the bus was delayed.
Tacna is the last city before the Chilean border and relatively nice. There is a long Avenida (avenue) with a nice church, many flowers and a well, designed by Gustav Eiffel (mostly known for the famous Eiffel-Tower in Paris). After the horror of the bus rides, we had a huge portion of chocolate cake, pudding and coffee. Hitchhiking was at this time a far distant dream and not possible, so we took a small collectivo, which drove us across the border to Arica.
There, I saw the pacific. It was the first time I saw it... the waves crushed against the coast, the water was okay and the sun shined. Luckily, most of the time it is possible in Chile to camp at the beach. And so we did after a short tour around the centrum. Next day we walked through the city, reaching the Routa 5, the chilean Panamericana. We had a Twix for breakfast and were sitting next to a gas station, trying to stop a car or truck. After a short time, I decided to ask some truck drivers at the gas station, when they will leave, but most of them took a long break (it was sunday).
And then Daniel and Heidi stopped in front of us. Our Spanish is still not the best, but we were able to talk to them quite well. I wanted to go to Iquique, Martin wanted to see San Pedro de Atacama, Daniel and Heidi wanted to go to both! Or better said: in Iquique is the "Zona Franka", where you can buy duty-free stuff, and after this they wanted to head on till Calama, which is 1 hour away from San Pedro, because they live there. So we were able to see both.
In Iquique we stopped at their favorite restaurant and had some fish, salad and potatoes and went to the Zona Franka. The Zona Franka is a huge areal, 240 hectar, which contains stock- and shopping-opportunities. All goods arriving by port will be stored in this area or will be offered duty-free directly to retail. We drove to a shopping-mall in the same style as one in America or Europe. A large building with hundreds of small shops. You can get perfume, tvs, fridges, toys, food, and much more. Iquique itself is a city squeezed between ocean, hills and a gaint sanddune. After the visit we headed on till Calama and were invited to a tesito y cafesito (tea and coffee) are could even stayed in the house of Daniel and Heidi. They have a huge family, 8 children and 7 grandchildren, and a huge house. Just their dog Café has to stay outside ;)
Calama lives of the copper mine nearby, the largest in the world. A mine tour would have been possible, but only after the 20. August. All other days were fully booked. At the bus terminal we bought two tickets to San Pedro de Atacama and had to say goodbye to Heidi and her family. It was a hard goodbye for me, because they are so nice, helpful and friendly people, just awesome! It was not possible to say goodbye to Daniel, because he had to work, but we got a photo of us with Heidi :)
Without stress we waited for our bus. A nearby supermarket offered some snacks for us and after the bus arrived, we got in and started eating our cookies. But then, an American guy got louder and shouted after a boy. His wallet got stolen, direct in front of our noses! A bit unsure I took a view above me, where my backpack should be. No luck for me, it was gone, too. Okay, a bit luck for me: I have all my important things, like credit card, passport, money, etc., "on" my body. But my rain jacket from Bergans, gloves and hat from Berghaus, down socks from Nordisk, underwear and small things like my toothbrush were gone!
The whole bus drive and even after arriving in San Pedro I was in a bad mood. I wanted to leave San Pedro de Atacama as soon as possible. It is a small, expensive village and all attractions outside just bored me. Martin enjoyed the stay and visited the Valle de la muerte, was able to sand board for free and climbed around the canyons. We met some people from Germany and got some information for the Easter Islands. That was the only nice part for me. Then, finally, we left. Stopped a car and got out at Calama, where the Routa 5 continued towards the south. We put our stuff on the site of the road and held our thumbs up, now with a small sign saying: SUR (south), too ;)
A truck, fully loaded with copper, picked us up and drove us to Antofagasta. The obligatory questions like what are your names, where are you from, how much money do you have, can we answer in perfect Spanish now. We left the Routa 5, which was not really good for us, and were forced to take a bus to Antofagasta, because the truck had to take another turn north. The bus terminal in Antofagasta was huge, but without a tourist information. Some people helped us to get to a rotunda, which lead to the Routa 5. It was dark at this moment, so we decided to sleep one more night at the beach. A Pick-Up drove us the next morning till the Routa 5.
Our first plan was to go to a gas station, have some food and the opportunity to brush our teeth, but a truck stood in our way. The driver, Patricio, asked where we wanted to go. At this moment, our next destination was Santiago or Valparaiso and, what surprise, Patricio was on his way to Santiago. We got into the truck and started our journey in direction of Santiago. During the tour, we were able to visit the "Mano del desierto", had some delicious bread with cheese and ham, camped in front of the truck and got off at the highway to Valparaiso. We left Patricio, he went on till Santiago, we to Valparaiso.
Hitchhiking worked very well so far. The people are nice and friendly and even the internet says that hitchhiking is really popular in Chile. Still, sometime we rely on public transport, for example the 1 hour in a collectivo from Villa Alemana to Valparaiso. Not being able to camp on the beach we took a Hostal. Valparaiso itself is not that beautiful, looked like Europe for us, a bit boring. But the graffiti on the walls were amazing! They are bright or dark, funny or serious, with or without a message, but all were very high in creativity and well done. I wanted to grab a brush and start to draw!
This time without any problems, we rode a bus from Valparaiso to Santiago. The suburbs are surprisingly nice, with a lot of trees and gras, but after we arrived we had to notice that Santiago is just another city among many. A city like out of Europe. Large streets, traffic lights, shopping malls, McDonalds-BurgerKing-Starbucks on each corner, Sushi and everything is really expensive. The most expensive thing, what we found so far: a king crab menu for 100€. Thats waaaaaay too much for us, because our next 7.400km-detour is already purchased. The Easter Island are awaiting us this weekend. We will spend a whole week with trekking, swimming, chilling and sightseeing.
That was it so far. Expect the next post to have pictures from the Easter Island! :)