After Iquique, it’s a quick stop in another seaside town, although this one is not nearly as pretty. In fact, it’s a bit of a dump to be honest. We’re only stopping on our way across to Peru, there’s really no other reason to stay here.
We arrive around 9pm and try and get tickets for the bus the next morning but they are already sold out, so we are stuck here an extra day. Never mind. When we check into the hostel, the guy tells us that we’re actually better off getting a local bus across the border and then getting an onward connection once in Peru – it’s much cheaper apparently. So the next day we head back to the bus station and get a refund (85% anyway) on our tickets.
The next day and we decide to explore town since we’re stuck here for a day. There’s not a whole lot to recommend – there’s a church made entirely of iron which was designed by Eiffel (of Parisian tower fame); an old steam train; and some excellent ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), which you can buy from the local fish market. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can head up onto the hill where there’s a religious museum but we’ve had a bit too much Jesus lately.
Monday morning and we’re up bright and early to catch a local bus to Peru. According to our friend, it’s best to go between 8am and 10am so at 9am we head to the bus station only to be greeted with the biggest queue in history. It might be because it’s a public holiday, it might always be like this, I don’t know, but all of a sudden the tickets we cashed in look much more attractive again. Not wanting to stand in line for hours, we decide to grab a collective (shared taxi) across the border instead – it’s twice the price of the bus but still only £4 each. We also decide to rebook a bus on this side of the border – if the queues are this huge we don’t want to risk it.
The queues are just as big at the border but they seem fairly efficient and have a lot of windows open so we only have to wait about half an hour at each side, which is not bad considering the volume of people crossing through. Once we get to Tacna in Peru, where we are catching our onward bus, our taxi driver escorts us into the terminal, shows us where we can change money and buy food, and drops us at the desk of the bus company.
It’s true – if you buy the bus ticket on the Peruvian side you will save money. But we’re on a bus within half an hour of reaching the bus terminal and it’s pretty full so I don’t know whether we would have got seats if we’d waited. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, we made our choice, and we’re on our way to Arequipa. New country, our tenth so far, exciting stuff! We’re also heading closer to the equator so the temperatures should start to rise, although we’ll be at altitude for a little while yet so the nights will still be freezing!