by Janna Elwell, CCI Greenheart Travel Volunteer in Chile
After 3 long days of busing, I have safely arrived in Cusco! There were times I was sure I had permanently lost feeling in my legs as a result of sitting for 26 hours straight (and that was only the first part). Despite that, I am thrilled with the exposure to both Chile and Peru that it gave me. I was able to see some of the most amazing landscape changes: lush farmland into the cascading mountain ranges of the Andes, stunning coastlines, and the rolling sand-dunes of the desert, as we got further north. Chile truly does have it all.
The first part of the trip was from Santiago-Arica, about a day and a half bus ride. Once in Arica, after re-acquainting myself with the task of walking, I asked a nearby attendant where I could find a collectivo to take me to Tacna, across the border in Peru. Before I knew it, I was being ushered into a car that definitely appeared to already be full…but alas, the bucket seat (the one awkwardly situated between the driver and passenger seats) was waiting for me to squeeze myself in. I honestly wish I could have gotten a picture of this, although it should be pretty easy to imagine. A 5´6 blonde, American girl stuffed into a 4-door sedan with 5 other Latinos, none of which could have been taller than 5´. Even hunched over in the smallest space of the entire car, I dwarfed all of them. So this is how we were situated for the 2 hour drive across the border! I loved every second of it though; the Chilean music blaring through the car as I laughed and talked with the others.
We had to go through customs and immigration to get into Peru, which, in comparison to American border control, was more like hopping a fence. The officers lacked the incriminating stares and excessive questioning, instead merely lounging around and smiling as they ushered people this way and that. The entire process took about 5 minutes, and, in the end, the immigration officer who helped me gave me his email address haha. These frescos are everywhere.