19 – 22 February – Stuck in Arica (North Chile)

The best plans of mice and men…..My aim was to head north at a cracking pace to Peru. The roads are excellent…No ripio here (Hooray!)….only endless desert!

Well, I made it to Arica  OK which is on the northern tip of Chile…700kms from San Pedro. Quite a big ride.

I was all on track…. then I heard the news that the border had been closed due to rain having shifted land mines; Literally hundreds of the wretched things had floated down the mud and ended up near the main Chile – Peru road.

So I came to a grinding halt.

I had booked into a Hostel over the internet (actually somehow I had managed to book two different places ,both for the wrong days: I need a secretary!)

Then my luck changed. Just as I reached the hostel I was approached by an Austrian guy, Philipe. He and  an Aussie girl form Brisbane, Susan, are travelling together.

Philipe (Austrian) and Susan (Aussie from Brisbane)

He has this amazing 20 year old BMW 100 GS (1000cc) which has been modified and has a sidecar. He calls it Mr CHURCHILL as it smokes and drinks and never gives in…. Susan is riding a 200cc bike which she bought in Chile. She didn’t know how to ride a bike at that time!

They have both been travelling 14 months and together they have been riding around Chile, Argentina and Bolivia for about six months. She is selling her bike now, and he is shipping the BMW back to Europe. Then they are going off somewhere…Maybe Nepal, maybe Vietnam, maybe Colombia. The world is their oyster!

Susan and Me on Philipe's amazing BMW

So, I have had some great company to keep me sane. Susan and I went off in the BMW to a  Museum that has the largest collection of “Mummies” which was interesting.

G - strings are NOT a new invention (3000 years old)

Necklace

However  what was more fun was riding in the sidecar! Everybody waves and wants to take photos of the bike. If you want to be incognito DON’T get a bike like Philipes’

It’s a very nice Hostel and I have also met two nice ladies about my age, Jan and Charlene and today some more bikers arrived!

Arica is not a bad town but after a day or so I had seen the sights. The main one is El Morro. It is this huge rock that dominates the town. A wonderful natural defence. The town used to be part of Peru but in the “Pacific War” between Chile, Bolivia and Peru, (around the 1880’s) El Morro was stormed and Chile won the war. There is still friction between the three. Bolivia lost it’s access to the sea and Peru lost some territory. In the 1970’s Chile laid all these land mines that are now causing chaos.

El Morrow. Scene of a major Chilean victory in Pacific War of 1880"s

Arica from top of El Morrow

Those that know me know that I have read all Bernard Cornwall’s books about the fictitious character “Sharpe” . The books are set in the period about 1780 – 1830. Sharpe is a British soldier who fights through India with Wellington and then through the Peninsula War against Napoleon. After 1815 Sharpe is at a loss and joins up with Admiral Cochrane who is a Scottish Sailor who was kicked out of the Royal Navy and becomes a hero in the Chilean War of independence with Spain (Cochrane is NOT fictitious). The books are historically accurate (except for Sharpe) and where circumstances require some modification, Cornwell tells you. (unlike Hollywood that changes history and doesn’t seem to care!)..The books are a great read and poor Merry has followed Sharpe’s exploits with me in Portugal Spain and India!

Anyway…I thought Sharpe and Cochrane were at this Battle of El Morro! Well, he wasn’t! he was long dead! So, If you’re reading this and have nothing better to do…read the last book in the series and let me know where the battle was that Sharpe and Cochrane so convincingly beat the Spanish on behalf of Chile!

I have just heard that the border has opened so tomorrow I’m off to Arequipa, Peru. I dread the customs queue but at least I’m back on the road

Take a look at the picture below. I took a taxi to the top of El Morro. For some reason I gave the taxi driver a little Koala bear (I carry these as gifts…people love them) He was so thrilled, he took the little Chilean off his windscreen and insisted I keep it!

Given to me by the taxi driver

 

 

 

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