So you may have read the title and you may be wondering what kind of border I could have crossed?!
Well you read correctly, I, Samantha Eloise Hickman, have been crossing borders left right and centre! Such a daredevil!
Ok, so I won’t lead you on any longer, the only border I crossed was the Tacna-Arica border between Peru and Chile! (a ha… I’m so funny).
Yes… I’ve crossed the border into another country, I can finally say I’ve stepped outside the boundaries of Peru!
(I’m sorry to all those disappointed they aren’t reading about some wild antics that Sam has got up to 😉 , but even if there were… I have to be somewhat censored, my family is reading this 😛 I will leave you to wonder if there is any more depth to some of the stories I tell on this blog 😉)
So the time had come. I was nearing the allotted 90 days that I had been stamped as I arrived in Peru in January so I had to figure out a way to get to the border and try and sweet talk the official border stamping people (don’t know what else you’d call them) into letting me stay in Peru longer, so I can continue living and volunteering here.
I had the option of Peru/Chile border, the Peru/Bolivian border, or the Peru/Ecuadorian border!
I decided on the Chilean border that went into Arica, a small little beach town on the coast of Chile.
So the one thing you hear about, but never fully appreciate until you’ve been on a 22 hour bus ride from Lima to Tacna, is how much distance there is between the prime locations in South America.
There is a lot of beautiful uninhabited nothingness, which is of course, vast and incredibly stunning. But this also can wear down your patience as you search for the smallest indicator of arrival at your destination in the seemingly endless desert.
Despite being told it was a routine, easy trip, I was a little nervous for some reason ?!
The instructions seemed simple enough;
(Arrive in Tacna, get a collectivo to the border, sign the papers, cross the border into Chile> Stay in Arica a few days> return and get your Visa stamped again for Peru)
but I guess seeing it was my first solo trip in South America outside of Lima, I was a little nervous I was going to make some sort of mistake and get into some trouble a long way from home.
You know that feeling when you see policeman and even though you haven’t done anything wrong you start thinking about that time that you wrote a naughty word in some drying cement when you were 12?
Imagine that, at the border crossing with all the immigration officers and all you can think is I SWEAR I’VE GOT NOTHING TO HIDE, YOU CAN CHECK MY BAGS THERE ISN’T ANY DRUGS. Then you start doubting yourself and thinking about anything that is in your bag that might actually be prohibited or illegal even though you checked it 100 times.
Ultimately I had nothing to worry about and I passed through to Arica smoothly where I then went to stay with my friend Ricardo who lived on the top of the hill overlooking the plaza in Arica!
He was the best host and showed me around everywhere in Arica.
We went out for lunch, went to the beach, made a rico vegetarian lasagna (his own recipe) and we also went out to some pool rooms for the night and versed each other (we ended up drawing in games won and lost before we got kicked out of the pool rooms at the end of the night, will have to do a rematch to decide the winner next time we catch up 😉 ).
Arica was actually my favorite part of my week, such a peaceful few days to myself away from the city.
But I had to start making the long journey home at some point, so I decided quite spontaneously to go to Arequipa on the way home.
Ricardo took me to the collectivo station early in the morning and made sure I got to the border again safely, then I was off on my own again.
So here came the tricky part, apparently there are these new regulations that are slowly being enforced that you can only stay 6 months of one calendar year in Peru, so I had already stayed 90 and needed more than the 90 that they were going to give me.
So here comes in sweet talking Spanish Sam, I was pretty chuffed with myself after this effort.
So I got to the border stamping man, (just my luck I got the scariest most angry looking one).
I then watched him as he looked over my documents thoroughly over the lens of his spectacles, his unwavering, intimidating gaze darted to mine as though trying to unsettle me. His eyes shot back and forth from the passport to the computer to my face until he found the page in the passport and stamped it with 90 days.
My eyes widened and I exclaimed in Spanish Only 90 days? Can I at least have 4 months?!
To which he responded sharply and unforgivingly that I would be overstaying my allotted time period in Peru and he couldn’t do anything about it and that if I wanted to stay longer I would have to overstay my Visa.
I then got out a few documents trying to convince him that I would be staying for a good reason…I won’t go into the whole interaction, but basically after a determined conversation with the hard faced border stamping man, sweet talking Sam triumphed, and border stamping man’s stern brow relaxed momentarily and he gave me what I swear was the hint of a smile as the side of his mouth curved ever so slightly upwards… he then did a few taps on the computer and used his pen to change the 90 in my passport to 180. SUCCESS!
I had to refrain from fist pumping as I walked through to the other side onto the Peruvian border.
Anyway..from there I took a 7 hour bus to Arequipa, I arrived my hostel at 6pm (which turned out to be a hotel, Somehow I had confused the booking with another one I had seen, but anyway, I still got my own room and it was comfortable).
I was a little disappointed because there was no one to hang out with 😦 , everyone was just presumably in their rooms or doing other things out and about, but no one seemed very friendly or open to chilling out with me, it was like a ghost hotel!
Well, this ghost hotel was close to the Plaza de Armas, so I went for a walk there at night to try and get my bearings, although I realized that as it got later I had to be more careful as I roamed the streets (blonde, white, foreigner etc…).
I started feeling a little anxious, so I tried to stay to the main roads away from any leering creepers. I find they have different ways of heckling foreigners in different places, in Arequipa it seemed the way to do it was hissing, yes you heard me right, HISSING.
If only I could give you a voice recording of what it sounded like…it was so attractive, made me feel so special… (not ha ha)
For a lot of the creepy men/taxi drivers/young men in la calle, the only alluring fact is that you’re foreign and blond/white; you could be wearing a hessian sack and would still be subjected to this form of, what I think they think is, flattery?.
Just a heads up to any guy who has ever had any confusion; hissing or heckling at a girl will never get you anywhere (well if you’re trying to get my attention it certainly won’t 😛 ). If there was any chance of you genuinely getting her interested attention, then that will be replaced with disgust as she watches you sitting slumped back in the passenger seat of your car letting out a chorus of weird grunts of Oyeeeee bonittaa, Que caliente *makes kissing sounds at your face* (and hisses if that’s what floats your boat).
Not exactly painting of picture of a potential suitor to me.
If you’re trying to pick up, I think you can find somewhat better methods that will attract your chosen target.
I know it is hard to avoid and almost impossible to change in this somewhat Macho society, but a woman is not a walking mannequin to be sexualized.
Anyway, I can’t change a universal culture singlehandledly, so my vent is over, respira, exhala, déjalo.
Moving right right along.
The next day I went for a walk early in the morning, Easter Sunday, I imagined that everything would be closed but on the contrary, Arequipa was positively bustling!
As I was walking, a young woman from tourist information office approached me and offered me a special deal on a bus tour to the countryside for 20 Sol because it was Easter Sunday.
I accepted and then proceeded to go on this brilliant little countryside tour to all the most beautiful spots and viewpoints!
I had the bus to myself, bar a few people. It was a beautiful Sunday morning drive!
I had a few really beautiful Monday morning where I got up early, around 7am and I walked to the plaza and sat there for a while, just drawing. I’ve been trying to get back into some practice so I thought what better environment to use as inspiration.
I had to leave eventually: so I got my bus late Monday, bracing myself for the 17 hour bus ride home.
But there was one more tiny complication though before I could rest easy in my own bed.
The bus terminal I thought I was being dropped at was called 28 De Julio/Paseo de la república, which I recognized as being really close to where I lived!
Sweet I thought, how convenient… even though I had never remembered there being a bus terminal there before, I thought I must have just missed it.
Anyway, I got dropped off, and as I hauled my backpack on, excited at the prospect of a comfy bed, I suddenly realized that I didn’t recognize anywhere around me…I was understandably confused as to why I wasn’t a 5 minute walk from my home?!
So basically, the answer was that there are so many bloody 28 De Julio’s and Paseos de la Repúblicas in Lima, that I got it confused with the ghetto, creepy and very unnerving 28 de Julio in the city centre. GREAT!
I asked a security guard if they thought I could walk to Barranco from there, and he laughed at me, he didn’t even answer my question!
Anyway, I eventually got a rip off taxi fare back to my apartment, and as I opened the door to my bedroom, despite all the bus time, the lack of sleep and exhaustion, it really felt like I had come back home for the first time over here 🙂 .
So there it is, my first solo adventure in South America!
Nothing too exciting but an adventure all the same. 🙂
Hasta luego ❤