You know the 'ol maxim about driving 2,000 kilometers to Arica: you start out, then you get there.
Well, that's exactly what we did. We wanted to coincide our trip with our Kombi's old owner, and our new friend, Jose's trip up there and spend a day or two with him in his hometown. We arrived there the first evening a bit road-weary, but happy to see expanses of beaches, a chilled out surf town, and plenty of places to potentially camp right out next to the surf. As luck would have it, we got to play one of my favorite old games, "wrong way, right way", familiar to any friends or family that have visited me anywhere ever. To play, first you must go the wrong way (at least once), and then you go the right way. Equal parts stupid and unrewarding.
First, we wanted to camp literally on the beach so we scouted up and down the playa for an entrance where there were cars on the beach (don't look at their tires or the big 4x4 stickers on them, key to playing "wrong way right way"). Shannon got out, measured the sand was only like 2 feet deep or so, at worst, and then I gunned my little lady Masi from the dirt entrance straight out onto the sand. I must relate that those three feet we made it onto the beach were exhilarating. Unfortunately, if not for a kind passer-by with a tow rope, that's where Masi would still be since she apparently is a real no-talent ass clown when it comes to sand. Anypoops, we got pulled out (Shan1's first tow!), and headed to sands of less depth. We found some of those, only like a foot, at MOST, this time, and with a similarly glassy look in my eye I gunned Masi onto the beach for a second towing experience. This time we made it like four feet, at least. After that, we just wanted safety and no more digging and towing. So yes, we found a solid inlet road and set up camp maybe 45 feet from the where the waves were crashing.
Later that night, Jose and his girlfriend Marcela came to join us for a whiskey-by-lantern-light on the beach, we talked, then all retired for the night- not before Marcela told us that where we were staying on the beach was "really not safe at all". Ah well! Waves, beach, not-too-deep sand, what could go wrong?
KOMBI CAMPER ALERT: cover your damn cab air/intake holes with mosquito netting!
If anyone has read the above alert, they will notice that if you do not take caution and cover the cab air vents (obviously not the engine ones, although we saw Kombis with those painted over which kinda flies in the face of the whole "air-cooled" part of the engine) then intelligent 'squeeters will fly in, fly around your face and ears, and bite the fuck out of you all night long without any feelings or remorse or concern for your sanity. This night filled with mosquitoes and hatred for the insect world, was a terrible one. If I had transformed into a mosquito through some Kafka-esque magic, I doubt Shan1 would've spared me...such were the levels of pure and intense hatred toward those guys. I plan on tithing a part of my future salary to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, as I support their mission to rid the world (universe?) of mosquitoes #kill-em-all. At least, that's how I understand the mission of their charity. What I'm saying is that night was rough, you guys.
Well, we survived, woke up in the morning (as alive people do), and we were literally on the beach. NOT BAD. Vultures picking at trash piles aside (for real Chile, what the actual fuck), I was able to wake up in my Kombi, with my beautiful wife, on the beach, in Chile—and that does not a bad life make...no matter how many itchy bites one has on his face. From there, we met up with Jose for a tour of the city, a coffee, a visit to a surf hostal, and then said our good-byes to Jose as he was flying back down to Santiago that evening. We then drove out along the coast of Arica toward a nice little camping spot we found on iOverLander (shout out to this app—it's the bomb and please port over to 'Droid!). The spot was right at the mouth of a cave system along a coastal road (think PCH for the Californians) and situated only feet from the surf again. We parked up Masi, unfolded our table, cooked a delish dinner, and had a pretty solid night. In the morning, about 7 fishermen literally woke us up by banging into our Kombi with their rods and tackle and what I guess were bulky turtlenecks. Not cool guys. Also, lots of trash on the beach as the light revealed, the beach looked better in the dark.
We then spent the rest of the week in Arica, buying much-needed mosquito netting for Kombi cab intake holes, a tow rope for absolute crap performance in the sand, a sound system workaround for shoddy music choices on the FM tuner, and general sightseeing. Highlights:
- OLDEST MUMMIES IN THE WORLD: not even kidding you guys, these mummies are from 5,000 bc, putting those young studs from Egypt to shame
- Terminal Agro: Sweet open air market, Terminal Agro was the name, and selling life curiosities was its game (Beware wild packs of roving dogs though, they'll get ya)
We stayed a few nights at El Buey Surf Hostel, a place owned by Jose's friend, Giovanni. Super chill place, we had it basically to ourselves while there, and only minutes walk to a really nice beach named Playa El Laucho, right where a resto/bar called Tuto Beach is located. Freezing water, hot sun, not too shabby.
From Arica, our next destination would be Putre, where just above is situated the world's highest lake called El Lako Mas Higho...just kidding it's called Lago Chungara and don't look up whether it's the highest, everyone told us that it is and these colors don't run.