I suppose I'm a superstitious man to some extent, and when Friday the 13th rolls around, I keep an casual eye out of signs misfortune.
I didn't have to look hard today. I was in my bed, mostly awake around 6:30 in the morning, when it happened. It took a moment for my brain to process in the early morning hour—had I woken up before it, or because of it?
The muted sound of windows shattering in the distance—everything started to vibrate and rattle—it was an earthquake.
One of the last places I'd chose to be during such an event would be inside a concrete structure (of questionable quality), in a developing country. I ran to the window (that looked into my own hotel from the second story, but offered up a view of the outside through a partially completed wall) to see if any buildings were crumbling. Images from the final scenes of Fight Club flashed into my head. I should have ran for the street, but my brain was too busy processing it all.
I felt at least two strong shockwaves this morning—perhaps aftershocks from the one that awoke me… or maybe I woke up before all this started, my body alerted to an impending threat. Who knows—but an interesting way to begin the day.
Relocating to Iquiques
I took the quake as a reinforcing sign to get out of Arica (something I was planning on doing any way). I was (am still am) pretty miffed at the price of the bus between Arica and Iquiques, 330km to the south. Every company was charging the outlandish amount of P$6,000 (a little over US$11) for the 4&1/2 hour trip—double the price listed in my guidebook (info circa 2003). I could typically eat for at least half a week for the cost of that ticket.
The price was noticeably out of wack, as an 8-hour trip from Iquiques to Calama (my next destination) costs a reasonable P$3,000. With gas prices at less than US$1 per gallon, charging anything more than US$1 per hour for a bus ride is a rip-off.
While I'm on the subject (rant) of money and Chile, I'm going to say that I'm particularly turned off by the entire bang for your buck experience here—I feel like everything's twice the price that it should be, with half the return.
I'm so displeased by environment, and the quality that I'm getting for my dollar, that I honestly think I'm going to cut this jaunt into northern Chile short and get outta here. My Italian friend, Giovanni, is currently in the backpacker mountain town of San Pedro de Atacama, half way between Calama and Argentina. I hadn't planned on visiting it (as it's out of my way), but I'd rather say hello to him before he runs off to the capital to catch a flight than continue to cringe at my daily cost of living.
Nuts to this—I think I'll leave tomorrow. I'd rather spend excessive amounts of money in Brazil, than chilly Chile.
I'm still amazed at how I can bus for hours on end, seeing nothing by the most brown, desolate, dead, and ugly landscape, and then all of a sudden there's a massive town—a concrete oasis where there should be none.
Iquique is a large, but slender city, pressed between the Pacific Ocean and a massive 2,000 foot (600+ meter) wall of rock and sand. This town is trying hard to be a beach resort for Chile—I can smell surfers. I'd love to spend a week in one of these high-rise condos I see popping up along the shoreline.
I am moderately interested in hanging around town, but for the price of accommodations, food, and Internet, I honestly think I can wait until Uruguay to lay on the beach and get brown again.
My guidebook says there's a bus from Calama to Bolivia twice a week—Wednesday and Sunday. I plan on seeing Giovanni, and then busing out of the country by the middle of next week.