Friday, Dec 28, 2018
Arica turned out to be the right choice to spend Christmas week. As the northern most coastal town in Chile, it provided me the right amount of interest and activity, and the beaches had the perfect amount of sunshine and heat. It was a great Christmas gift to myself.
Morro de Arica was the last garrison of the Peruvians who were defeated by the Chileans in 1880. The Morro, or hill, can be seen from almost any point in the city. Michelle and I walked up the steep side of this hill to check out the museum, artifacts, and the view…which was spectacular.
21 de Mayo
The main street where all the action occurs is on 21 de Mayo. It runs east-west for several blocks in the middle of town.
In the lead up to Christmas, vendors lined the streets and performers of many kinds and ages entertained the shoppers, some for free and some working for coin.
I was amazed at this woman who looked quite old to me compared to the other street performers. She was singing her best, and doing a little 1-2 step to boot. I couldn’t help but be impressed at her resolve to take care of herself.
This guy could play a nice tune on whatever this instrument is called. What I also liked was how his dog sat next to him the whole time. In between sets the musician would turn around and give his dog a scratch or a pat. They definitely seemed like a team.
On Christmas Day, however, this street was empty. It looked like a ghost town as Michelle and I walked up the street looking for a place to eat.
We didn’t find a place to eat here, only this one man who showed up hoping to still earn some Christmas cash.
Cuevas de Anzota
Michelle and I took an Uber to the far south end of Arica to see the caves along the ocean’s edge. Cuevas de Anzote is a nicely developed area for tourists to take in some magnificent coastline and walk through a big ass cave. Michelle noticed the tsunami warning signs posted along the trail we walked. I’m not exactly sure where one runs because the cliffs were too vertical to climb. Guess you just hope you’re not there when it comes.
Michelle and I spent a lot of time sitting or walking on the beaches in Arica. From La Lisera to El Laucho to El Chinchorro to the beach in front of our apartment and those farther north, it was all blue ocean and white sand. Some beaches had a bay like shape and some took the full force of the Pacific Ocean waves. Each had its own unique presence to offer the avid beach goer.
Just gotta love the beach!
I really enjoyed Chile. The people I met were very nice and helpful. I suspect there is a higher percentage of educated people living in Chile than in Ecuador. The standards of living seemed higher to me. Many more people drove nice cars, wore better clothes, and generally they all seemed to be spending money. It eerily felt like the US pre-Christmas spending frenzy to me.
The food was outstanding. With the exception of a bizarre pizza we ordered at the only restaurant we found open on Christmas day, every meal was incredible. Italian, seafood, Peruvian…all delicious. Typical Chilean food seemed exactly like Peruvian to me.
For the most part any where in the tourist areas things were very clean with plenty of trash cans available. There were areas of Arica that had tons of trash on the streets however. I’m talking large piles in the medians of the roads and along buildings. I suspect these are the poorer parts of town. Michelle and I got on the wrong bus once and we had a grand bus tour for about an hour all the way back to the city bus depot. This is when we saw all the trash.
The prices aren’t cheap here…no $3.50 almuerzos! Lunches ran around 7000 Chilean pesos. The US dollar is worth about 30% less in Chile. I felt the exchange rate pain of my Canadian friends who live in Ecuador and deal with a similar situation daily. No me gusta!
For a last minute decision to travel over Christmas, the cost and the time was well worth seeing and doing what I did in Santiago and Arica Chile! It was a great trip.
…and Ecuador still feels like home.