My last weekend in Peru for the time being was spent in Camana, a beach resort, quote on quote for Arequipeans ´playground of the rich and famous´. Certainly as Mat and I drove through the streets, we got the same reception as Djiango in the opening scenes of ´Djiango Unchained´ when all the locals come out of their houses, shocked to find a ´nigga on a horse´...this time it was ´two gringos on a motorbike´. Indeed, we took Mat´s Chiliean dirtbike Ellie on the three hour drive from the city, on barren and deserted desert roads, meeting and narrowly missing the odd dump-truck coming in the other direction. I´d been to the beach two weeks earlier but this time, we sorted out a hostal on the waterfront and spent the weekend lounging around, drinking beer, eating watermelon and chilling. I was in two minds whether to leave Peru and stay on for another two weeks but the rest of the continent was calling, and with a desperate urge to get back to sea level, abandoning the idea of La Paz for a while, I headed straight to Chile.
After a night with absolutely no sleep, I said goodbye to Arequipa and headed for Tacna, a stopover point in southern, southern Peru. One famous Wild Rover saying is ´Arequipa...you may check out but you may never leave´ but I took the plunge. Managing to confuse myself both with the exchange rates from Soles to Pesos when I got there and then the fact that you take what amounts to a Collectivo to border hop in, I met Jim, an Australian whom I travelled on to Arica and finally Iquique with. He was extremely helpful and was a calming influence when, remembering I´d lost my customs card that was given to me on arrival from Miami, lent me money to pay the authorities off. I didn´t end up seeing much of Arica but headed straight to Iquique with Jim in tow, arriving very early in the morning and breaking that golden rule of not arriving in a strange town with no where to stay at an ungodly hour of the morning. It was easy to find somewhere to stay though.
I instantly took a great like to Iquique. Realising that I´d missed some comforts of home (Cornwall), I felt at ease amongst the surf crowd. The locals were very friendly, gringos didn´t seem to stand out so much, the sea was warm and comparitively uncrowded. Everything was really chilled, something that Peru wasn´t in the same way. Feeling pretty spontanous, I decided to get my hair cut and dyed, taking advantage of the tax haven. More photos of that one later..! Getting back to the hostel, Jim left a note saying he´d left for Santiago (he´d spent a week longer in Chile waiting for his yellow fever vaccination to take hold) and was going back to Aus, suddenly I felt pretty alone and sort out Couch Surfing for people to meet. And finally having exhausted Iquique, I got a bus to San Pedro de Actacama.
Arriving in the famously the driest place of earth where its said never to have rained, (what a contrast to rainy season in Arequipa and Cusco!) I felt really exhausted and spent 45 minutes wandering around with my huge bag trying to find a hostel once again at one in the morning. All the hostels seemed to have no vacancies. Having little idea of the expenses of San Pedro, I pretty much leapt at the first open door insight, and meeting a lovely Brazilian couple who were my room-mates, fell alseep straight away. Turns out I´d found the best hostal in San Pedro, hostal Florida.