Due to strikes and violent protests on the Bolivian border, against Canadian mining companies, we were unable to get a bus as planned over the border, with a stayover on Lake Titicaca. We decided it would be safer to go into Chile for a week, while things calm down and then head up into Bolivia.
We headed further south in Peru to Tacna near the border, where we spent the night. We then made the smoothest border crossing yet, into Arica, Chile. Arica is on the coast and is a really nice town which we were surprised about. Its actually more similar to a European town than the South American towns we have experienced so far. Greater wealth has been evident in Chile so far.
We spent the afternoon visting the work of Sir Eiffel. Before he became famous for the Eiffel tower, he built in his workshop in Paris the church and custom house in Arica, which were then shipped around the world and assembled here. A major feet of engineering for 1875, and pretty cool to visit today. Rick was pleased to end the afternoon with a ´rocket' of beer (a tower of six pints).
We arrived from Arica in the afternoon. Iquique has many reminders of the nitrate boom from the 19th century. The pedestrian street is like steeping into a western film set. The wooden walkways remain, loads of the original Georgian wooden buildings, and even the tram and tram lines. We were just waiting for a tumble weed to come by. In the central plaza is the original wooden clock tower, and the beautifully preserved theatre house. We were able to soak up some rays on one of the surrounding beaches, and enjoyed watching the many surfers out in the massive waves (we have missed being by the sea!). Aswell as its interesting history Iquique is also known to be one of the best places (due to year round good conditions) for paragliding. So we spent one afternoon throwing ourselves off a cliff. It was amazing!!!! The views over the sand dunes, sea and city were really cool. It was great trying to gain height in the air thermals, along with the gliding vultures. The closest anyone can get to being a bird.
Cosy little town near the Bolivian border. The main street was very touristy but it has managed to maintain its charm. We did a tour to a geyser field. The tour pick up was 4am (awful!!!), so that we could get to the geysers for sunrise. It was absolutely freezing when we arrived, minus 6. The first geyser only blew out steam so it was safe to stand close too, we even warmed our hands in the steam. The landscape was other wordly, dotted with geyser craters. Sadly most were only steam, and even the ones that shot water were small. We were expecting lots of really high water to be shot out. Apparently they do on some days. It was still really cool to see with the sun coming up. We had breakfast there, which included hot chocolate cartoons that were put in the geysers to heat up! We went to another site where there was a natural thermal pool, which we swam in. It was so bizzare the contrast between the freezing air and the hot water.
On the way back from the geysers we stopped at the coldest lake in chile, frozen on the surface and coverd in Giant Coots and Andean geese. The final stop on the tour was to a small hamlet, where we brought the best cheese empanadas from one of the houses.