Manaus, Sao Paulo, Santiago and Arica

Wednesday 11th April, 2018            Boa Vista, Brazil to Manaus, Brazil

Today we’re off to Manaus, the major departure point for the surrounding Amazon
Rainforest. We’re actually heading back to Santiago in Chile, but we can only do it by a series of flights, including the first one to Manaus. Decided it was too good an opportunity to miss, so will spend a couple of nights there. We were there in 1999, when we did boat trips up into the rainforest, so this time we’re just having a look around the city, and especially an Opera House Tour, which we missed last time.                                          

We had a reasonable breakfast at the hotel, gave the Dragoman staff their tips, and bid farewell to the girls, before packing and calling a taxi. We were a bit shocked by the 40 Real fare for 2kms, but hadn’t checked beforehand. Apparently the standard rip-off fare is 30 Real, but had to cop it sweet. We were further insulted by having to pay 60 Real each for our baggage on the Azul Linhas Aereas flight as the travel agent had assumed there would be no charge as it was ticketed with the Latam International flights . We had to pay double the rate it would have been if it had been paid in advance.

A$1   =   2.53 Brazilian Real

                                                    1 Real   =    39c Australian

We managed a window seat by sheer chance, as a man in the same row was happy to swap with Dianne. The seats in the Embraer up the front are pretty good. We got good views over Boa Vista on the way out, some river views between the clouds in mid-flight, and views over Manaus, including the (relatively) new bridge over the Rio Negro,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

and the proliferation of high rise on the outskirts of the city.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

Can’t believe how much it’s grown since 1999 (when population was about 1.3million – now over 2 million).

Before leaving the airport, we found the Latam ticket office and tried to sort out our flight to Arica, which we had been notified had been cancelled when we were in the jungle out of contact, and our new flight keeps being put off for longer and longer (started at two days later, and now looks like being five days later). Dianne shows our onward flight to Australia, and points out that we can live with two days delay, but any longer and we won’t have enough time to do what we want to in Peru, where we are going from Arica. She went in to bat for us, and after an hour and a half, she finally got us on a day flight on the 16th, which means having to spend two nights in Santiago, Chile, compared with the original flight on the night of the 14th, which connected with our flight from São Paulo. We later talk to quite a few people who have had their flights cancelled, and when we google find there was a strike between the 13th and 18th April when 800 flights were cancelled, and 126,000 passengers affected.

We had landed in a rain storm, which influenced our choice of transport to the city. We declined a taxi offer for 60 real, dropped to 50 from a helpful taxi driver, and found the airport bus stop up at the departures level, but no bus there. We got another offer of 40 real from another taxi driver, who reduced it to 36 – looked at the grey to black sky and decided to take it. The low taxi prices were possibly due to it being the last plane of the day, and us being the last passengers.

The trip into town was punctuated by a bit of spruiking for tours, but otherwise OK. Manaus is now a very big city, with freeways, but the traffic was still pretty heavy. Arriving at Hotel Saint Paul (booked with 7,145 United Airlines points per night), we paid our man his original 40 real, checked in without problems, and up to the room.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

Having only eaten a biscuit snack on the plane, the big breakfast was starting to wear off, so we asked at reception where we could get a feed safely, and were told the Opera area was well-patrolled by police, was safe, and had restaurants, so we headed down there with a minimum of gear. At the Opera House, we found the building and the Sao Sebastian church across the road lit up like Christmas, took photos on the IPhone, but didn’t venture too close as there were two black police riot vehicles, and quite a few police standing around, and down the other side of the square was what sounded like a political demonstration. Dianne asked a policeman what was happening, and he told her it was only the weekly rock concert (are we getting paranoid?), so we walked past, looking for food and drink without a lot of luck, finally settling for Tambaqui De Banda an outdoor restaurant right beside the temporary stage (later find out it was 12 of 1,788 on Trip Advisor, so it was a good choice.) It was a great location, with a good view of the nearby Opera House and local square. We ordered one local specialty, dried pirarucu (a very large freshwater fish) stewed with vegetables, presented in a pot with a bamboo stand for Murray and (strangely), Fillet mignon sautéed with onions, with chips and salad for Dianne, plus two excellent capiroskas.

The local rock band, Tacaca, featured a wild Joe Cocker type, on guitar and vocals, with a big band featuring a flute player and lots of drums and guitars. There was a lot of energy in it, and the locals seemed to approve, but it was mainly a lot of noise.

After taking photos of the band, and walking around the Opera house and taking more photos, we walked home

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

by a main Street at the far end of the Opera house, then up through a park to take a photo of the Institute of Education, Amazonas, lit up with pink lighting on what is a grey building during the day.

During the night, we had our usual battle with thin sheets and the room either too hot with no AC, too cold with it.

Thursday 12th April                Manaus, Brazil

The major exercise today is to visit the Opera house, so after another good Brazilian breakfast we walk up our street, finding by chance a large colonial pink building with the gates open to a set of steps and a formally planted terrace (photos). There is lots of great colonial architecture in Manaus as a result of the rubber born in the late 19th century. We walk through the park and down to the Opera house,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

taking photos of historic buildings on the way,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

then rock up to the ticket office to find the next English Language tour starting at 9.30am. Dianne gets tickets while Murray takes photos of the general area,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

then we join a group of English speakers, mainly from Oceania Sirena, an up-market cruise boat docked at the floating harbour.

The girl running the tour had fair English, but was softly spoken, and hard to hear a lot of the time. After a quick orientation, we were allowed into the theatre for ten minutes where a non-dress rehearsal of Faust was in progress. The acoustics were magnificent, and we could easily have stayed listening for a lot longer. The theatre is very impressive.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

It’s in the classic European style, with ground floor seating and a multi-tiered arrangement of boxes around the curved back and straight sides of the auditorium.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

The Opera season hasn’t started yet, but there are free concerts in the theatre, and rock concerts outside most nights. The tour took us to the ballroom,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

with its elaborately painted ceiling,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

cast iron pillars painted to resemble the brown stone seen in Rio,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

and an outside balcony with views down as far as the port and river.

We then go upstairs to the top level, close to the roof, where we get a birds-eye view of the orchestra, choir and cast, and into a mock-up of the star’s dressing room. Various mementos, including Margot Fonteyn’s ballet shoes, the shoes, and posters of Marcelo Mourao Gomes, the local lad made good. Interestingly, the historic character of the theatre has been maintained, yet they have managed to air-condition it. Definitely a tour worth doing.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

Outside, we take more photos of the monument and the building, then follow the path of the cruise passengers down the main shopping drag and knick-knack offshoot alleys towards the port, getting photos of a large and colourful church, an interesting street-clock, and the port buildings.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

We see that port security has been stepped up considerably since we were able to walk down the ramp in 1999. It looks as though we won’t get to take photos of the floating harbour, or the historic flood level record on the sea wall,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

as we get through the first gate, but not past officials sitting at desks beside access gates. Dianne talks to guides, who find their boss, and he marches us past the officials with a wave, and we get to see what we came to see, and take photos. The whole area has gone up-market, and the very flash expedition-sized cruise boat our friends from the Opera House arrived on is a good example.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

We tip our guide, who points the direction of the fish market to us, and we set off under a very hot sun to find it. We see a handsome building in yellow brick and white paint,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

with a prefabricated steel market building beside it,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

and walk toward it, getting distracted by a young woman who seems to be taking an unhealthy interest in us. We walk to the wharf to take river photos, and to see what she does. She walks further down the wharf, taking pictures, but appears in the market when we cross the street to it. We can see no obvious accomplice with her, but take evasive action in what seems to be a more retail market. Walk further, having lost her, to find the real fish market, with fishing boats unloading their catch.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

We had a look inside, finding some strange fish, particularly catfish types

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

and large, fat vegetarian piranha,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

but no sign of the toothy monsters with drink coaster sized scales we had seen on our previous visit. They may be extinct, or protected, as there are a lot of posters about regarding fish types, closed seasons, etc. The dried fillets of pirarucu (last night’s dinner) are up to a metre and a half long, but there are no fresh fish to see.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

We stop for a cold, cheap and welcome Coke, then walk the wharves looking at floating pontoons for the classic multi-deck river boats,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

with few as small as the one we took up the river in 1999

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

. Further along, the river freight business is in full swing, with labourers carrying bags of rice, crates of sodas, pineapples and melons. One interesting feature of the wharf was a large punt piled up six-metres high with garbage, going who-knows-where.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

Along from the fish market we found a fruit market with tonnes of melons advertised as from Boa Vista, like us. As we walked along as far as the inlet off the main river we had investigated in 1999,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

not getting as ambitious this time, staying our side of the inlet, we passed scores of classic river boats, plus smaller skiffs and pontoons.

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

By mutual consent, we decided the heat had got the best of us and looked for a taxi, at first finding little to offer, but getting one after ten minutes, heading straight back to the hotel.

In the afternoon, a storm blew through, with strong wind and heavy rain, discouraging leaving the hotel,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

but late in the afternoon we ventured forth, driven by hunger, and walked down the hill from our hotel and turned on to the main road towards the port in search of food. All the restaurants are closed after about three in the afternoon, so by four, it is slim pickings indeed. We settle on a restaurant which is open but empty, just near the Opera, which has a buffet, and get a very strange whole fish, heavily scored for marinade, and very pink in the flesh (what there was of it) plus rice, farofa, and a yellow stew, possibly with dried fish. Not terribly satisfactory, but enough to stop the worms biting.

After, we crossed the street to get an ice cream in a cone. The ice cream was far too big for the cone, and not tamped in, so it was about to fall when the cashier suggested transfer to a plastic cup. With a bit of difficulty, this worked, and we walked back to the hotel.

In the evening, we revisited the Opera to take photos of the Opera,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

San Sebastian Church,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

and the monument with the big camera, in both normal and low light mode, then went to Casa do Pensador (59 of 3,136), basically the only one open, and next door to last night’s restaurant. Had beef filet with chips and salad, and a chicken fillet with chips and salad, plus two larger capiroskas for a more reasonable price. Maybe the price is different when the free concert is not on.    Back in the hotel, we start packing gear and tidying up, before another night of battling the AC.

Friday 13 April – Bad day for a bumpy flight from Manaus to São Paulo.

We are not in a hurry to pack and leave, as our flight isn’t till 3.30pm but we have to sort out a Latam flight from Santiago to Arica, so are ready to leave at checkout time of 12pm.    We call a taxi in the knowledge that there is a fixed R75 charge to the airport, and make reasonable time through heavy traffic,

Brazil, Manaus
Brazil, Manaus

and are in plenty of time to sort out high-priced Arica tickets with the man and one of the girls we terrorised yesterday.

We had not booked our Arica/Santiago flight, as we thought we might even get the bus back, stopping at coastal places along the way, but now decide we’d better book a flight, but allowing enough time to get a bus if that flight is also cancelled, which cuts another two days off our Peru time. They know they have us over a barrel, and the flight costs A$816 for two, compared with the A$265 for two we paid when we originally booked the outward flight in February! We also keep getting Latam letters saying we have to confirm our flight for the 18th (the one that we hope has been changed to the 16th) so satisfy ourselves that the 16th flight is still on, and we should ignore the emails about the 18th.

We’re heading to Santiago, but unfortunately we have to spend a night in Sao Paulo as there are no connecting flights today. We reorganised our baggage so that we have overnight stuff in our daypacks, and managed to get ourselves and the luggage  ticketed right through to Santiago, but with some pretty horrible seats on both legs.

People started lining up early but we held our nerve, assuming that the back of the plane would be loaded first, and were rewarded with a walk-up start, but our luck ran out there. Dianne was wedged between two men in 27E, Murray right behind her in 28E, with a bunch of noisy and obnoxious kids right behind in the last seat. Their father started beside Murray, but moved to the back. The mother was in 29C, and between the two parents, they made no attempt to control the kids to stop them screaming almost the whole flight. Murray’s seat back got a good kicking for most of the flight, and even though he wasn’t trying to sleep, it was pretty annoying, but with the language barrier, there didn’t seem to be a lot to be gained by complaining. The guys either side aren’t too impressed either, but cop it. Dianne’s light doesn’t work either, so by the time it gets dark she can’t even read. We can see a bit of the Manaus area from the middle seat, but not enough to take photos. The trip is really rough, with cloud most of the way, and turbulence coming into Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos airport. Definitely one of our worst flights. It’s 8.30pm by the time we land, and we’re pleased to be on our way, with the convenience of no baggage to collect, and no customs and immigration.

We’re booked into Hotel Domani, Guarulhos, using 7,580 United airlines points. This includes use of shuttle to and from the airport, and breakfast. We plucked up the courage to go to Sao Paulo at the end of our 10 weeks in Brazil in 1999, after hearing lots of stories about how dangerous it was (it wasn’t as bad as we were told), but we have no desire to risk it again, so we’ve booked a hotel in Guarulhos, which is the suburb the airport is in.

We find the place where we think the car park shuttles stop, but ask further and are directed further down the kerb area to the end, where the hotel shuttles are known to stop. While we are waiting we talk briefly to a Kiwi woman who has also been to Manaus, but is going to a different hotel. We are pleased to see the Domani shuttle turn up, and the driver accepts our booking sheet. We are the only ones in the shuttle, which drives for about 20 minutes in fairly light traffic on expressways, before turning off into more suburban streets, then into a dark side street, which is a bit confronting. We are pleased to be in a shuttle rather than a taxi, and are relieved to pull up at a real hotel with a Domani sign. We would have expected the back entrance of a hotel to be here, rather than the main entrance!  We are recognised at the reception, given a towel package and directed to the fifth floor of a modern, but fairly functional hotel. The room is adequate, with twin beds, TV, and pretty ordinary internet.

After we get set, we go down to the first floor to a very functional dining room, where we are given a menu with numbers against the meals and a price list at the back. We settled for a steak and chips and salad, and chicken fillet and chips with salad, quite reasonable, plus a big beer for Murray and vodka and Coke for Dianne. The meal was quite reasonable, but the place felt more like a mining camp canteen than a restaurant. With the time change and sorting out internet, and booking a shuttle for the morning, it was after midnight local time when we called it a night, finding our light gear and thin bed covers only just adequate.

Saturday 14th April          Guarulhos, São Paulo (Brazil) to Santiago (Chile)

With the shuttle booked for 9.20am, we had a leisurely morning, getting a good breakfast, and packing our minimalist baggage. We entertained ourselves by checking out a crowd which was growing in the narrow street in front of the hotel, with women in frocks and high heels, some men in suits, and a stream of cars arriving to park opposite. As far as we could work out there was a government office opposite which conducted civil marriages.

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

They must be pretty busy on Saturday’s, as the people seemed to be constantly changing.

Dianne had settled our account the night before, so all we needed to do was hand in our key card and wait for the shuttle to turn up.

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

It unloaded some incoming guests, then we were first in, getting the front seats while a local family took the back seats. Travel to the airport was through very light traffic,

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

and we managed to get some photos of the massive new concrete above-ground metro line, the streets of Guarulhos City,

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

and the surrounding urban area.

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

There are three terminals, and we bet rightly on the #3, checked in and went to Gate 309 of about 400. This is a big airport, but then there are 12 million in Sao Paulo proper, and 20 million in greater São Paulo. Because we were down-market travellers who go to the plane by bus, the Gate was on the ground floor, and pretty ordinary, but it did have charging facilities, so we were able to spend the time usefully.

The boarding with buses was pretty chaotic, but we managed to get in through the back stairway and straight to our seats, Murray at the window, and a local guy on the aisle. We got some good photos of the amazing extent of the greater São Paulo area

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

before the cloud closed in,

Brazil Sao Paulo
Brazil Sao Paulo

some photos of farming land in the Brazilian highlands, some very dry, flat badlands with exploration tracks across them, and what looked like extensive vineyards which we assume were near Mendoza, then a big dam before the mountains erupted from the plains. Over the mountains the air was pretty clear, but coming onto the west side, there was a fair bit of smog confined by the mountains.

The flight was much smoother than the previous one, but we still encountered a fair bit of turbulence approaching the mountains.

Brazil, Sao Paulo to Santiago de Chile
Brazil, Sao Paulo to Santiago de Chile

And the annoyance level was a lot lower. The food was pretty terrible, but at least it was free, even if the Coke was flat, and the coffee was barely an inch deep in the cup.

Before immigration, we noticed that there was a separate collection office for the visitors’ fee for Australians (no other countries!)  and the notice was very visible, and $US117 each, not US$100 as we had been expecting, but we were allowed to pay by card.

At immigration, there was a second arrow for Australians, leading to an official who checked that we had paid. The lines were pretty long, but we made it through to find a complete stuff-up with the carousels. Our flight was supposed to be on 7, but there was nothing on the moving belt, which worried us as they had to sit at Sao Paulo overnight before they were loaded on to our flight. However we found a notice on the screen indicating we should check the counter opposite the #5 belt, which was servicing other flights. By the time we got there, our bags were still on the belt, to our relief.  Outside, we tried to get money from the ATM, but were told we had insufficient funds, which was a surprise, but we tried with a lower number, and managed to get 40,000 pesos, enough for our immediate needs.

                                                                         A$1 = 461 pesos

                                            100 Chilean pesos  = 21c Australian

We shopped around for shuttles, buses, executive shuttles, taxis, and common taxis, and only the bus was significantly cheaper. We decided on the common taxi, for a rough estimate of 18,000 pesos, but with a meter, rather than a prearranged price as we don’t imagine there is too much traffic at 7pm on a Saturday night.

The taxi was quite comfortable, with 1960’s rock music in the background. Our driver brought up on his IPhone a statement that there would be an extra 2000 charge if we took the freeway. Murray, remembering a bit of his Spanish, replied “de nada”and got the thumbs-up from the driver. Dianne kept track of us on maps.me while we made pretty good time into the city proper on a multi-lane road which carried on right into the heart of the city. Our man knew roughly where we were going, but Dianne pointed out the hostel on the far side of a big road, and we had to do some fancy driving to get there. The meter reading came to 14,000 pesos and with the extra freeway charge we paid 16,000, less than the estimate and the pre-arranged price.

Hostal Rio Amazonas (A$105 per night) was as per the ad, old, quaint, and in a good part of town (near Bellavista, historic centre and Providencia) with 24 hour office, good wi-fi, and the services of a typical hostel, including a guests kitchen, transport bookings, maps etc. Drawbacks were bedroom on the second floor and no lift, triple glazing and shutters to keep out the noise of a major road, very creaky wooden parquetry floors, no sound insulation between floors and noisy people above, thin doors with glass opening onto the hallway, an uncovered stained glass window onto the hallway, which had a light on all night, noisy corridors, expensive laundry, heating radiators in the room, but not yet turned on, even though the mornings are pretty chilly. We’ll try somewhere different when we return.  An interesting thing about hotels in Chile is there is a 19% tax for locals and people who pay in local currency. However if you pay in US dollars with cash or an overseas credit card, you don’t have to pay this tax.

After settling in, we head out just on dark to look for our evening meal. Find the area down where the main roads of Alameda and Ave Vicuna Mackenna (our street) cross, where there is a Metro station, very busy with Saturday night crowds, homeless people on the street, and a crowd of presumably students watching a harangue with a video background by a revolutionary type (we’re near a university). We looked at various local eateries – decided to go multinational, but couldn’t decide between KFC and Maccas, as both were crowded, with long queues, but decided on KFC even though they had Pepsi, which turned out to be warm and flat, but the promotional double Krispy deal was good, and the burgers were tasty. Dianne took half her Krispy back to the hostel, and we spent the rest of the evening IN, catching up on correspondence and reading, after Murray tried but failed to get the TV working. After a long wait, the hot water in the shower came good.

The thick doonas worked well at first, but were too hot for all night. Dianne managed the sleep of the exhausted, in spite of the noisy environment.

Sunday 15th April                    Santiago, Chile

The sun comes up pretty late in Santiago, a combination of longitude and geography, with 4,000 metre mountains to the east of it, so we had no trouble sleeping in, only getting to breakfast with half an hour to spare. We took some advice from management, and borrowed their subway card after paying a 3,000 pesos refundable deposit, and headed toward the supermarket,

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

finding it as described.

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

We bought water, bread buns, salami and Werthers-substitute caramels then carried on further up the valley into the upmarket residential streets of Providencia.

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

Turned towards the river,

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

crossing it on a foot bridge under repair, finding a side street off the main road beside the river to get to the Barrio Bellavista tourist area (Barrio means neighbourhood).

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

The streetscape hasn’t changed much since we were here in 2003 and 2005. Have a look at Patio Bellavista,

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

an off-street eating complex with dozens of possible food choices, but nothing which strikes us as attractive at the moment. We walk back to the river, find the next bridge a long way down, so back-track to the main Street we live in, then follow a riverside park on that side downstream

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

toward the funky area of Barrio Lastarria between us and the Cerro Santa Lucia (cerro is hill in English). We take photos of an ambitious naval battle-based fountain in the park, then find a seat in the shade to eat our bread rolls and salami, long on salami, short on bread, although the bread was quite good.

At the end of the park, we cross a main road and work our way into the funky area, finding a new development being protested,

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

with the road blocked off to traffic, and a historic building with protest messages including murals.

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

This area is right behind a massive bus station and self-rusting steel clad building, with a lot of construction going on. From here we find a very busy food and drink quarter, and some upmarket shops, before reaching the Cerro.

We are feeling fit enough to climb to the top of the Cerro, but a gate on the obvious path is locked, so we have to circulate a fair way above the main entrance. The park is quite pleasant, with lots of people enjoying it on a sunny Sunday.  Have views as far as the mountains, but the air quality is pretty bad (as it was last time we were here).

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

We can’t climb further, as this path is also blocked, and can’t descend to the main gate as the stairways and paths have been declared too dangerous, so we complete a full circuit of the Cerro, plus another half at a lower level which leads to the main gate, which features a nice grotto and fountains.

Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile

We check our map, and maps.me,  and find home is on the far side of a busy major road. We walk back looking for a crossing, but see locals making a dash across, and decide to do likewise, after a long wait for a break in the traffic. Walking down the far side of this road, we find an entrance to an underpass, but it has a locked gate, hence the action of the locals. Our return takes us through streets in the University complex, where we find a supermarket to buy Coke, then carry on through minor streets to home.

At night, we walk back to the food complex in Barrio Bellavista to look at the eating possibilities, but find no inspiration, and end up settling for a Big Mac combo between the two of us. Walk back through quieter streets with no revolutionaries haranguing the crowd tonight.

We pack for a reasonably early shuttle, but with plenty of time in the morning.  When we return from Peru we will stay in Valparaiso, as we’ve seen Santiago quite a few times, and it’s not one of our favourite cities.

Monday 16th April              Santiago de Chile to Arica, Chile

The shuttle is a bit early, but we are ready for it, and are the first in, so get a tour of the city picking up mainly from apartment buildings. Murray tries to get photos of a Sacre Coeur look-alike church, but only sees glimpses of it through gaps in buildings and down narrow streets, even though we do a circle of the area to find parking while waiting for a pickup. Once we got on the main road, progress was swift, and we made it in less than the hour and a half predicted. Payment was interesting, with the shuttle stopping at a kiosk just inside the airport, where credit card payments were taken for the 7,000 pesos per person.

We were really early for our 2pm flight, but we’re not taking any chances on missing this much changed flight. Killed time catching up on Diary and internet. The seats we thought included a window turned out to be aisle and middle in the three seat right hand side. We sat beside a young man who looked like being poor company, but turned out to be a civil engineer from Arica, and he was able to point out most of the attractions of the area, and gave us clues about the bus system to Peru.

Our flight took us along the coast, a few kms out to sea, giving us good views of the coast and coastal desert mountains, but after a while, our row partner closed the blind. On the way to the loo, Murray noted that the last three rows on either side had been isolated with green masking tape, but you could still get close enough to the window to get photos, so got photos of most of the significant points, inlets, harbours and ravines running down to the coast. Most of the coastline was barren hills,

Santiago de Chile to Arica
Santiago de Chile to Arica

with most dropping steeply into the sea, with the odd settlement here and there, mainly at the end of the steep ravines through the mountains. Two of the major cities were Antofagasta (where we flew to on a previous trip) and Iquique.

Descending into Arica, Murray had to take his seat, so no photos. The airport at Arica, where we did a short stop in 2003, doesn’t seem to have changed much, but it does have an air bridge. We considered taking the bus, but didn’t fancy finding a second bus, or a taxi from the bus station, so settled for a shuttle for 4,000 pesos each, which took us over kilometres of brown sand

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

to the northern outskirts of Arica, then down to the north side beach area,

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

then some back streets before dropping us outside our Hostal Jardin del Sol (1 of 31 B&B’s).

We had made an executive decision to try and leave for Arequipa, Peru the next day, although we had booked for two nights (the dates of which we’ve changed a number of times as we got each amended flight date). Confirm with our host, and headed out to make the most of our short stay in Arica, walking towards the port, then deciding to have a quick look at the pathway up the Cerro, going first past the mirador celebrating the Virgin, just above the city skyline. We got some good photos over the city,

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

then decided to go “just a bit further”,  ending up going all the way to mirador at the top, for better views of the harbour

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

and the road which runs around the headland and along the beaches, a bit like at Lima.

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

We walked past a cliff rescue squad and an ambulance, with the climbers just coiling up their ropes, and a man on a stretcher being loaded into the ambulance. Family members were being loaded into another vehicle, but we never did find out the full story, but probably a story of a macho man disregarding the numerous peligro signs and safety walls and rails. We walked past the large statue of the Savior to look along the headlands and surprisingly good beaches to the south, Murray going the extra distance to the far end of the wall for better photos of the cliffs and beaches.

It was getting late and the area was pretty isolated, so we headed down, but found people coming up in cars and walking to enjoy the sunset. We decided it was not for us, and walked down to look at the historic and colourful church

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

and large plaza with polished granite paving.

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

We found the eating section alley, but were not inspired, so walked up and down the pedestrianised main street,

Arica de Chile
Arica de Chile

and, making a spur of the moment decision finally settled on a fairly upmarket restaurant (El Arriero – 26 of 135 on Trip Advisor) with a small entrance, but a large interior, seating at least 100 people, but entirely empty (which is always a bad sign). Decided to splash out a bit, with sea bass with an avocado topping for Dianne (only OK) and something not so exotic, but nicer, for Murray. Decided on a half-bottle of white wine – they only had two, and we took the wine he suggested – Casillero del Diablo sauvignon blanc, which was excellent.  The bill was surprisingly high, (A$61), helped by the wine which was double the cost of the other bottle, but well worth the money. Paying was complicated by having to use the ING card, which didn’t want to play ball, and we didn’t have enough cash, but it came good on the third try, and we walked home up the Mall to our little room at the Hostal.

When we say little, we mean just that, like an inside cabin on a cruise boat, not enough room around the bed to walk other than sideways, a small but adequate bathroom, with an interesting mixer tap, which worked if you followed the three-step instructions. Although there was a large, built-in cupboard, this wasn’t a lot of use for a one-night stay, accommodating one of the large bags, but not really big enough to access it. We also encountered one of our nemeses, glass windows and door opening out onto a mezzanine over the common area, but the place was pretty quiet, and the windows were fitted with a good blind, so we had no trouble sleeping. However the place was spotlessly clean, with a lot of facilities, a shared kitchen, and the staff were very pleasant and helpful, and we will return here.

We’re heading to Peru tomorrow, facing a two-hour shared taxi run to Tacna, including Peru immigration, and a six, going on eight hour bus to Arequipa, plus a weird two hour time change, we figured we would get an early start the next day, and packed accordingly.

 

 

 

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