Friday, April 10, 2009

The Beginning of Chile

Arica´s small buildings jut out of the surrounding desert like they were pushed through dirty saran wrap. Sand gathered around the sides of buildings, especially those on the edge, creating small slopes - replicas of the mountain sized sand dunes holding the city to the coast.

Walking through the streets, haggard palm trees every twenty feet, the town gives an impression of an old, yet still classy beach town. Hostels and hospedajes have chipped sea green and aqua blue paint hanging off the walls. Wicker chairs, with their cushions finding their way through the broken bottoms, sit in the corners and around the check-in counter adorned with pictures of a city´s heyday. The strict Chilean housekeeper, wearing her stained white apron, spout off prices and availability in a mumbled spanish.

The trip to the beach was on foot and wrapped around a sand cliff. Up high above, a huge concrete statue- perhaps a war hero, or a saint, or Christ himself- peered down, while vultures circled over head and grains of sand trickled down the cliff wall onto us.

On the other side of the cliff, the splash of the ocean hit hard against the coast. Huge concrete structures were layed all down the shoreline, piled ten high up from the beach to the road. Seemingly there to protect the land from erosion, these massive things resembled giant concrete anchors or grappling hooks belonging to the statue above. Maybe he used these to reach his final resting place up on the sandy hill.

The beach of choice sat in front of a seasonly abandoned restaurant. Umbrellas made from palm trees sprouted up brown and lifeless along the coastline, offering shade from the cloudless sky. The restaurant and shore had ghosts of tourists and beach-goers from the months just before. The few of us that decided to enjoy the view could sense phantoms beers being drank en masse and the spirits still playing volleyball on the sand.

In autumn, the wind off the water seems to sting very slightly, forcing you to reconsider the choice of wearing a bathing suit. But it doesn´t full on yell about the decision, just gives you a bit of guilt of defying the idea of changing seasons. Happy with the choice, and out of spite for oceanic doubt, we tested the water. Warm after months of sitting under the sun, and bathing in the Pacific Ocean, the start of a trip through Chile and Argentina had begun.

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