04.08.10 – Arica, Azapa valley

I have now re-entered Chile with more confidence in the language than 6 weeks’ ago, and no longer intimidated by the impossible Chilean speed and accent. However, the fact I’m re-entering Chile means that my travels in South America on this trip is coming to an end soon.

And that was getting me a bit down, coupled with feeling a bit bored in Arica, since I had finished walking the downtown area yesterday evening, and there was nothing particularly interesting to see in the downtown area except for some buildings.

The next day, took a colectivo to Azapa valley, a strange place in such a dry area: this is a valley that is lined with olive plantations and olive oil processing plants. I was not expecting to see such greenery in this arid land. Wafts of olive oil scent permeate the air, providing a delicious sensation as I dragged my feet in dust while walking under the midday sun, as if I were in a Western movie.

Checked out an interesting pre-Columbian museum that houses some Chinchorro mummies. If you are there, be sure to check out an annex to the compound where mummies are laid in a sealed room with a viewing window in ward-like baby cots, which is both eerie and amusing at the same time. The aridness of the climate in this region has helped perserved some important archaeological sites, including these mummies. After visiting the museum, I walked passed more olive plantations and up to the small town San Miguel, where rows of houses – not unlike some of the simple houses you see in Malaysia – line the streets in a laid-back atmosphere with the occasional child’s cries amidst domestic humdrum.

Went back to Arica city to stock up some supplies for my forthcoming trip to San Pedro de Atacama, since I heard everything in San Pedro is more expensive. It was quite interesting to walk in markets where the roofs are made of straw mat, providing ventilation without the fear of rain. Also went up to El Morro, the giant cliff that dominates the downtown landscape of Arica. Great place to catch a sweeping view of the city below while waiting for sunset.

And yet the aridness of the city landscape, while exotic to me at first, was beginning to bring me down. I can’t wait to catch my night bus to San Pedro de Atacama, even though the Atacama region is known to be the driest part of Chile. Will the trip be worth it? I will soon find out.

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