We left on the bus at 7:30 AM for Tacna, southernmost city in Peru. The six-hour ride cost 35 soles. "The Constant Gardener" with Ralph Fiennes played on the trip through desert with absolutely no vegetation. When we arrived in the border town of Tacna, we found a local eatery for lunch and found the train station open at 2:30 in time for the 3:30 train for the port of Arica, Chile. Cost of train was 7 soles. We filled out paper work to cross border, got stamped out of Peru by Migracion in the station and were on our way.
A most rickety old dusty train it was, but a real adventure to cross the border into Chile this way. Since we could find a bus that would continue to beach town of Iquique, we got a taxi to the bus terminal and hopped yet another bus to Iquique. This time cost was $5 US for 4-hour ride. So now we've finally made it to Chile and seen the Pacific side of South America.
Then the trouble started: a midnight arrival and taxi driver and I went to over 10 hotels before any of them had a room for us. Finally we got a room at Hotel Fontana, downed a bottle of vino tinto and thankfully had bread and cheese before bed at 2 AM. There's a lesson here: don't try to eat up too many miles in one day, don't arrive without reservations, and find enough time to eat!
This town has a feel like La Habana. We were amazed at how seedy this waterfront city seemed at this late hour. I wondered if most of the hotels we were visiting weren't hot pillow joints. We saw whores on the street, sailor bars, old buildings of wood like Key West.