Travel Journal


(Monday 18 April 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 243-4 4/7-8/11
After a ride back to Calama I was lucky to be dropped at the main bus station instead of the ticketing office and saved the $4 cab ride out here. I checked with the lost and found department for the bus I took from Valparaiso and surprise no one had turned in a camera. I then got on a five hour bus ride to Iquique. Why Iquique? I really have no idea. It looked like a good jumping off point for La Paz and there was also El Gigante de Atacama geoglyphic (drawing in the sand) and the Zona Franca which is a duty free shopping area. I had never heard of this town a few days before.
The bus got in about 8:30 and though the bus station is in a bit of a dodgy neighborhood, it was early enough and so I walked a couple of miles to a hotel recommended in my guidebook. It was nothing terrible fancy but it was a good price.
The next day I checked a few places for bus tickets to La Paz but only found one which had one the next morning at 1 AM and the next one was three days later. I walked to the Zona Franca through some rather unsavory areas and found a shopper’s paradise. I got a cheap replacement camera and spent a little more for an IPod than I would in the states but at least my bus rides in the future would be more bareable. I took a taxi back rather than walking through the forementioned neighborhoods with a bag full of electronic goodies and gleeful loaded my IPod and charged the camera.
The hotel is on a boardwalk with lots of colonial buildings and restaurants and shops. There are streetcars that run on the boardwalk during high season but now they are just fancy park benches where the locals sit and chat with each other. I actually got a good meal here and enjoyed walking around and looking at the park and buildings.
A further check of buses to La Paz found another company with buses that leave the same day as the other company but a half hour later. Hunh? I’m not sure what the logic of this was unless it had to do with the border crossings. I decided to catch a bus to Arica the next day where there should be more frequent buses to La Paz.
Getting to El Gigante proved to be a problem as there was no public transportation to the area and guided tours tacked on extra stops that I wasn’t interested at extra costs. I could get off the Arica bus the next day and either walk 20 kilometers or hire a taxi and then hop on another bus to Arica and I went to sleep thinking of the possibility.


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