Wednesday, February 23, 2011
We left the ship at 8:30 am with trained dogs alerting their handlers if anyone was taking any food or fresh fruit off the ship. That was a first. But luggage was searched in other ports and some people were severely reprimanded if food was found in their bags. One of our group received a citation.
Joaquin was our guide today as he introduced us to Arica, the driest city on earth: 0.4 mm or rainfall per year, if they are lucky. National Geographic did a program on this city. Despite this lack of rainfall it is surprisingly green. Water comes from the Andes and deep wells irrigate the land for growing all kinds of crops, including tropicals. Agriculture is the main industry and a factory making fish meal. Tourism is becoming more important to the economy. Because of the constant temperature and dry conditions, seed companies are based here for testing new varieties and storing seeds. Because there is no rainfall, there are no insect pests. Arica is called “The Garden of Chile”. Joaquin considers Arica an ideal place to live; the only disadvantage is the distance between other cities. People come from Peru to work in Arica, where wages are better and more opportunities for employment. They do not need a visa or passport, just an ID to cross the border. There is a Coca Cola bottling plant and huge Coca Cola letters are on the side of a hill.
Relations between Chile, Bolivia and Peru are fragile with disagreements about water, resources and access to shipping.
Once out in the desert, the landscape is extremely bleak: not a blade of grass, bush or tree, just hills of sand. But there is a golf course! It is all sand with areas of painted stone and sand to design the course. You take your green with you: a section of artificial turf that you lay on the ground and pick up after your drive. Joaquin said there was a very little rainfall recently and we could see white patches of salt in spots. The temperature was a comfortable 70° with a light breeze. I expected the surface to be sandy, instead it was very hard, compact and stony.
We were on our way to see some amazing sculptures in the middle of the desert by Pampa Chaca, one of the best sculptors in Chile called the Tutelar Figures, composed of two groups: the Ancestors, and the Origin of the Ancestry. They are homage to the Andean People who crossed the Andes and the desert and created a long-lasting culture. According to Andean tradition these people have a divine origin, descending from the Sun and the Moon. The first sculpture was “Mother Earth”
and the second “Planet Earth”.
High school students were at the second group of “A Man” and “A Woman” and danced in colorful costumes. They invited some of us, including me, to join in a dance.
Before returning to the bus we were treated to a box lunch, called by the Brits, Elevensies (but it was just a little past 10:00 am), and what else? Pisco Sour!
We also stopped to view geoglyphs, drawings made on hill slopes. These are much like petroglyphs,
which are carvings on walls. It was fascinating to see these amazing drawings that remain without being blown or washed away. But without rainfall, there is no erosion and there is very little wind.
Next Joaquin guided us through the Archeological Museum with mummies preserved in sand, dating back to 5000 BC, making them the oldest mummies in the world. The museum also had other artifacts, and what Joaquin called Aztec Gold - the weavings.
Our next stop was St. Mark’s Cathedral designed by Gustave Eiffel, made of wrought iron and wood and built in France but assembled in Arica in 1876.
The bell of the church it replaced was recovered recently and is on display in the cathedral.
We stopped at a central market surrounded by stalls of handcrafted items and a central area with colorfully clad dancers.
A shuttle to the ship is located close by and will make it convenient to return to the ship independently after lunch.
Lunch at Lo Nestro began with pisco sours, a plentiful buffet of vegetables and mixed dishes with a barbecue of beef, turkey and chicken and wine.. I should have chosen the chicken, which was much better than the very tough beef. The bus took us back to the market after lunch for those that wanted to do more shopping, and then to the ship for those not interested in shopping.
I enjoyed relaxing on deck until the ship set sail at 6:00 pm for General San Martin, Peru.