We keep ending up here in Arica. We were here in the 90’s, here again in 2008 and were here for Christmas. Now we are back again. This time we came to Arica because Bill was scheduled to go to a business meeting in Buenos Aires. We needed to go to a spot that would be a comfortable place for Nancy and Capi and the truck and that was near an airport that has connecting flights to Buenos Aires. Arica was perfect. At Christmas the Hotel Arica had allowed us to camp in a little used area on their property overlooking the shore until they could provide us with a cabana. They allow dogs in their cabanas but not their rooms. This visit, after 2 days camping in our old spot, we were lucky enough to again get one of the cabanas.
So what is it about Arica? Well, to start with, it is the Hotel Arica that draws us. It is an upscale hotel, slightly shabby but in a beautiful waterfront location, with friendly staff. It is located far enough out of town to be quiet.
Built on a rocky promontory, on each side of the hotel there are public beaches that are maintained by a crew of cleaners who remove all the garbage and rake the sand every morning. In fact, the entire waterfront area is cleaned and watered every morning. Arica has a fascinating museum or two, housing ancient mummies from the dunes behind the hotel, an amazing stash of mothballed fish boats, and paragliders who work the cliffs behind the hotel.
The city has the usual seedy sections, and is not without empty buildings full of garbage, but overall it is decidedly middle-class. The weather is seldom too hot, never too cold, and it never, never rains. Ever. A mist rolls in from the ocean in the early morning and dampens the soil. The mist condenses on the sand dunes behind the town and provides the water that is used to water the town’s gardens.
The view from the hotel is always changing. Small and large fishing vessels work the waters and deliver to the fish plants just south of town. There is a container port, and freighters are often anchored offshore. The Arica waves are well known to surfers, but the best “breaks” are not near the Hotel. Except for the cleaners and a few joggers or swimmers, nobody is on the beach early in the morning. The surf is usually gentle, perfect for Capi. For a few days, around 9 AM each day a group arrived representing a government program that promotes sports. They erected tents and played music as they taught swimming, kayaking, snorkeling and other activities to school kids. The kids were encouraged to move to the beat of somewhat questionable American rap music. (Although the song with the chorus “Let’s see how big your mouth is” has a really catchy beat, the lyrics are not at all appropriate for little kids. Presumably the teachers do not speak English.) It makes me wonder about the Spanish songs we play without understanding a word.
As the day progresses the beach fills; in the late afternoon it becomes crowded. The noise of children and soccer players reaches a crescendo, interspersed with the cries of food vendors who walk through the crowds shouting out what they are selling in a repetitive chant. At sunset everyone goes home. After dark there may be a few campers in tents, but for the most part the beach is deserted.
Other beaches south of town are filled with tents and shelters made out of tarpaulins. These camps appear to be permanent or at least semi-permanent, and are usually crowded. As the majority of the residents appear to have cars, we assume that these shelters are used as summer cottages rather than housing.
Before Bill left for Buenos Aires we went to the propane depot to fill the propane tank. Bill was chosen to be photographed for the propane company’s Facebook page.
Finally Bill returned and by Saturday we were ready to travel to Peru. We emigrated from Chile, and got to the Peruvian Border where we were told that the paperwork for Capi that had been given to us by the Chilean authorities was incorrect and we had to go back to Chile. So we emigrated from Peru back into Chile and went back to Arica. The government agency that issues the paperwork was closed until Monday, so, there we were, back at the Arica Hotel again.
Although they were completely booked, they managed to get us into “our” cabana for another 2 days. By this time, we were pretty much tired of being in Arica.
On Monday, paperwork in hand, we finally managed to get into Peru.