I caught the train from Arica at 9 a.m. yesterday -- there are two a day that make the two-hour trip to Tacna, just over the border in Peru. Border crossing is extremely easy this way -- you get "stamped out" of Chile at the station in Arica, and "stamped in" to Peru at the station in Tacna. It's not a long distance -- only 60 km or so -- but the train is an antique wooden one-car variety that chugs along at a leisurely pace. It's a charming way to go, though, as long as you're not in a hurry, and I doubt I would have enjoyed a collectivo ride to Tacna as much.
From Tacna train station, I caught a taxi to the bus station and, forgetting I was now in Peru and was supposed to bargain for my taxi fare, paid well over the odds for the ride. I probably made the taxi driver's day when I just paid what he asked, instead of trying to bargain him down; Chile and Argentina both have metered taxis so I'll have to get used to a different way of operating.
Taxis aren't the only difference. The bus was much more comfortable than I expected -- a double-decker semi-cama almost as nice as an Argentine or Chilean one, instead of a chicken bus -- but they don't serve you on Peruvian buses, it seems. Instead, people bearing all manner of drinks and snacks swarm aboard the bus every time it stops; one guy was even selling hot chicken dinners, carefully packaged in tinfoil trays. I had a tasty empanada con pollo for the princely sum of 1.5 soles (about 50 cents). (I have to change my Spanish pronounciation, though; I said "po-zho" for "chicken" like an Argentine instead of "poy-yo" like the rest of the Spanish speaking world. I'll have people thoroughly baffled as to where I'm from if I walk around talking with an Argentine accent.)
My hostel -- the charmingly named "Home Sweet Home" -- is great, but oddly bereft of Australians. They are the most common backpacker species everywhere else I've been in the world, but the only one here is my San Pedro buddy John, who just got here tonight on the bus from Arica. Lots of Canadians, which is also unusual -- either we as a nation haven't embraced the whole backpacker culture, or we mostly choose to go to different parts of the world, because there haven't been many in South America.
|Main square of Arequipa|
Hope all`s well in your respective corners of the world. I`ll let you know how the canyon is -- it`s supposed to be spectacular, and there`s one point called the Cruz del Condor where you can see the magnificent Andean birds in action. Can`t wait!