03.08.10 – La Paz to Arica

Took a 6am bus from La Paz to Arica, which is in the north of Chile. Kind of missing La Paz and its chaos a bit as the bus drove up to Alto city, where I catch one last glimpse of the Bolivian capital down in the canyon at dawn.

The bus drives through flat plains on comfortable paved roads passing by vistas of snow-capped mountains. By 930am, we reached the Chungara border. Chilean customs are known for strict controls, but I managed (with some kiasuism) to clear immigration and customs earlier than the rest of the pack. While waiting for the rest, I busily took photos of Chungara Lake, Parinacota Volcano and hungry gulls. At 4517m above sea level, Chungara is one of the highest lakes in the world, even higher than Titicaca Lake (although Titicaca is supposed to be the highest navigable lake).

While waiting, I also spent my last 5 Bolivianos on a sopaipilla (a fried dough that is a typical Chilean snack) and a mate de coca.

But the wait turned out to be more than 2.5 hours because a passenger’s belongings were being subjected to tight scrutiny. Dude, is this your first time travelling to Chile?

The bus tumbled pass dramatic gigantic arid mountains, with not even a blade of grass in sight. So uninhabitable, inhospitable and starkly different from the Andes range I have seen in Ecuador. And yet at the end of the journey is the populated seaside city of Arica, Chile’s northernmost city.


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