Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 175 (324km): Last call for border shenanigans

It's great bush camping in the Atacama but what I forgot about was the massive amounts of dust that get on everything. Oh my. The first order of business of the morning was to fill up with gas in Pozo Alomonte, this would get us all the way back to the relatively cheap gas of Peru.

The ride north through Chile was dry. The exciting part about the north part of the Atacama is there are a bunch of large canyons that the road goes through. So that spiced things up a little bit.

We arrived at the Chilean side of the border a little bit after 12:30. We pull up to migration and the woman asks us for our passenger list. We had to get one of these pieces of paper when we came through Peru and I was furious about it. We played dumb and asked where we got one. The girl acted sheepish and said we could go buy one on the street. I expected this kind of thing from Peru but I thought that Chile would be above that kind of nonsense. No,we had to go buy this random and unnecessary (it's not needed at the other Chilean borders we've gone through) piece of paper from some guy who operates a restaurant. We paid 5 soles, since that's the only currency we had.
Bye-bye Chile
Back to migration with our passenger list, paperwork and passports. Stamp. Aduana, stamp. We leave the Chile side, and get stamped at the security gate. They keep a copy of the passenger list. We go to Peru. Getting the passports stamped wasn't too difficult but the Aduana could be better organized. This part of the process took about 60min to complete, in the heat of the desert sun. We got our passenger list forms stamped by some random Peruvian officials (three stamps in total). This stupid form is so annoyingly bureaucratic it makes me crazy with anger. Finally we were able to escape, hopefully, our last border crossing of the trip.
Back into Peru, our last stop
Stupid Passenger list form... and all the stamps
Even though, now on Peruvian time, it was only 12:30 we decided it would be good to stay in Tacna for the night to try and take care of a few things. We have been putting off getting a few things fixed until we returned to the cheaper pastures of Peru. So we arrived in Tacna and started the search for a hotel. We pulled up in front of a bank where there were lots of other motos parked and parked beside them.

The security for the bank asked us to move the bikes. It seemed silly since we were parked with all the other bikes but okay. His vest said police so I thought that it would be best to just comply. Maneuvering our bikes isn't as simple as one of the peruvian motos. He asked us to park up the street so we had to drive the wrong way in traffic and then switch the angle of the bikes so they would be pointed the right way. I parked where he told us to park but it still wasn't good enough. I had to park about 600 cm to the right of where I was. This guy was trying to position me like I have reverse! It was a slanted street and all I have are my toes to move 300 kgs of bike. Alberto sees me getting annoyed and moves my bike for me. He also thanks the guy for all his help, sarcastically. Welcome to Peru; we are back in the gong show.

There was a tourist info on the corner so Alberto went to inquire about hotels while I watched the bikes. He came back with a list of hotels and went to seek out a suitable one. I stayed and watched the bikes. He came back some time later. Just as we were leaving to go to the hotel he found, a lady walking on the street came up to me. She asked me where I was from, not an out of the ordinary question, and then proceeded to tell me to be very careful. That Peru is a dangerous place. To be careful where I park my bike and to keep my eye on my things at all times. She may have said a whole bunch of other stuff as well but Peruvians speak fast and I had my earplugs in. I just kept nodding and saying thank you. Again, welcome to Peru where locals fear for your safety.

We proceed to go to a nice new hotel. It felt kind of weird to be back in the hotel routine. The last hotel we stayed at was in Huaraz and that was Jan 17th, quite some time ago. It felt strange but also familiar because that was the normal routine for the first 4 months of this trip.

As is always the case, it's a mad dash for the shower to regain the feeling of being human. Once we both felt cooler and cleaner we left the hotel in search of food. Alberto is always trying to take me to sketchy Menu places but I convinced him to take me to a fancy place which served Palta a la Reina (one of my favourites). It was really good and I also had some quinoa. We eat quinoa at home but this was the first time I've eaten it in Peru. Lunch was luxuriously amazing. Afterward we hit up a few stores to pick up some supplies and then came back to the hotel.

Alberto went off to get the chains sorted out on our bikes. We had been carrying the chains we bought in Mendoza just in case the worst happened and we were stranded in the middle of nowhere with broken chains but now that we are in the land of cheaper labour it's less of a hassle if we get someone else to put them on for us and just be done with it. He returned successfully, commenting that the bikes felt a lot happier, and only 5$ poorer.

The rest of the night was spent catching up on internet and things like that. It was noisy in the room compared to all the peaceful nights we've spent camping. Welcome to Peru, where there is a lot of noise in the streets. 
Welcome to Peru

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