Goodbye, Peru. Hello, Chile!
With the new year came brand new adventures in a brand new country: Chile!
Our last two days in Peru were spent driving, beach camping and parting ways with a country that was good to us in so many ways. Despite having to say goodbye, the thought of starting the new year in a new country felt great. So that’s what we did!
The night before we planned to cross, we indulged in one last Peruvian beach wild camp and cooked a meal of fried rice, with as many fruits and vegetables as we could use up. We hard boiled our eggs with ocean water, cleaned out the fridge and made sure to get to bed early. The next morning, we had an early start to pack up, wash dishes, make cups of tea (we were out of coffee) and head towards the border. The curvy road was reminiscent of the California coast with all of the rocky, sand colored cliffs dropping off steeply into the ocean. We made our way through stretches of road littered with hills and cacti to one side and more cacti and ocean on the other. It was stunning.
Shortly before reaching the border at Tacna, there were two surprises:
1) Groves and groves of olive trees growing in a place where you wouldn’t expect anything to be able to grow at all.
2) Chile was two hours ahead.
After a little bit of confusion on how to begin, we got the process of crossing into Chile started at about 1:30pm (3:30 Chilean time) and by 3:30pm (5:30 Chilean time), were cruising towards Arica. Here’s a run-down of how things should go (as of December 2017):
- Go to the Chilean side, don't stop at the big 3 story building on the Peru side. Park, go to aisle 1 and just after you pass the booth, there’s a luggage screening room on the left where you get the declaration form. **IMPORTANT TIP ALERT**: Make sure you check the box for having plant/animal products even if you don't have any. Just in case they do find something they can't fine you if you checked the box. We forgot about some veggies in our freezer. Oops.
- Go into the casino, to the second floor and buy the document for pasajeros from the cafeteria lady for 5 soles and fill it out. Get in line at aisle 1. First guy will stamp your passports (exiting Peru and entering Chile) and your pasajeros document and send you to the next window (Police) who will do a few more things and stamp your document.
- Then you go to the Aduana windows for vehicle control on the left side of asile 1. Go to the Peru window first where they will cancel your Peruvian TIP and stamp your pasajeros document before sending you to the next window for Chile Aduana. There they give you the Chilean TIP to fill out. After all that is squared away you pull up to asile 1 with your rig for inspection.
- First the agricultural guys come inspect the vehicle with a dog for fruits and veggies. They stamp your pasajeros document and then the Aduana guys (red vests) come over and inspect it before giving their stamp.
After that, with all your stamps you're good to go. You'll drive to the exit and give the guy there your pasajeros document with your stamps and then you're home free in Chile!
Everyone who helped us at the border was super nice and helpful. Despite initial confusion, we found the process to be a breeze.
We arrived in Arica in late afternoon, did some grocery shopping at the Lider and made our way to the beach to relax. We were elated to be in Chile and had a dinner of snacks and wine to celebrate. Arica was different from many of the border towns we had seen so far. The people were incredibly kind and the town, itself, was beautiful and safe. The driving was so much more courteous than what we had become used to and there was barely any honking! Locals kept asking if we were in town for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. When we asked what those celebrations entail, they all mentioned a fireworks show. We decided to stick around and see what this fireworks show was all about. The day before New Years Eve, we went back into town to finish up our list of errands so that we could secure our spot on the beach, stay put and celebrate.
The section of beach that we camped on was a good distance from town and had a perfect view of the [cliff]. The only other people we saw were the occasional surfers who would roll up, surf for the morning, leave, come back for the evening and leave again. Most nights, we were the only ones on there but we were bracing ourselves for it to be packed with other people on New Year’s Eve. To our delight, we ended up being the only people watching the fireworks from that part of the beach. Not only was this spot quiet but it gave us an incredible view of the main fireworks show along with a couple dozen other firework shows. It was absolutely spectacular. We couldn’t hold in our excitement as we popped open some bubbly and cheered loudly. We didn’t know what it was but Chile felt darn good and we drank it all in. Literally.