Our journey from Cusco to Calama (16 – 26 January)

After our long hike to the Machu Picchu we spent 3 more nights in Cusco doing laundry, resting and reorganizing ourselves before we started to move forward towards Chile. We took several bus rides to accomplish this. We needed to reach Calama from where we had a flight booked to Punta Arenas, Patagonia. Since previously we had taken 21-hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco and this was very tiring, then this time we decided to split the distance into several bus rides.


The first bus from Cusco to Arequipa went quite smoothly. We bought the cheapest ticket we could find among many of the bus companies. Only thing was that the bus was late 1 hour but this seems to be common in Peru. At the bus station, we took a taxi to our hostel. Since the place was rather like a guest house, with no signs or anything, just an address then the taxi driver was very confused where to go despite Jaanus was showing the way with google maps. All the way to there he insisted that there is no hostel on that address.


They say that Arequipa is the most beautiful city in Peru. We could tell why because the city was surrounded by the mountains. Unfortunately, it was a bit foggy and cloudy so we could not enjoy the full beauty of the mountains. The old town of the Arequipa is also beautiful and worth to visit. Most of the houses are with light colored stones and the central square or Plaza de Armas was decorated with palm trees. The city is famous for its monastery which is one of the most visited sights.


Bus from Arequipa to Tacna was supposed to take 6-7 hours but in the end, we made it to Tacna after 10 hours. This was because our bus broke down. So, we had to wait for a new one for about an hour. At first, we weren’t really sure if there will be a replacement bus because many locals went for the other buses which were passing by and bought a new ticket. In the end, the replacement bus made its way to us. The funny incident was when everybody had to take their bags from the luggage hold, but the bus driver was unable to close the hatch of the luggage compartment because he was too short. He jumped around and was already starting to climb on the tire to close it when Jaanus just reached out his hand and closed the hatch for him. This made everybody laugh. In Estonia, we don’t feel that we are somewhat tall but here in Peru, we look over everybody’s heads.


After a few hours, our replacement bus also broke down. Luckily this time it was only minor and bus drives were able to fix it and we could continue after 30 minutes. Finally, we made it to Tacna 3-4 hours later than planned.


We spent a few days in Tacna doing nothing else than just resting after the bus rides. Next challenge after this was the border crossing from Tacna to Arica, Chile. We read that it could take a lot of time because they might ask to open and search all the luggage. Common practice is that you take collective which takes you to the other side of the border to Arica. At first, we thought it is a minivan but it turned out to be a regular car. The driver takes 5 passengers and handles and assist with all the paperwork needed. In the end, the border crossing went very smoothly and nobody even bothered to search our bags.


Thereby we made it to Arica earlier than expected. At the bus station, we decided we take the first bus to Calama. Unfortunately, the first bus was 2200 hours. So we had a whole day in Arica. We did not mind that because Chile is very developed compared to other South and Central America countries we had visited. For over a long time we could enjoy some food we had not had in a while. For example, we bought cheese and yogurt which were not so widely available in Peru.


The bus ride to Calama was also quite smooth. For the first time, we decided to buy the VIP tickets so we could have bigger chairs and better sleep. In the end, we just watch tv series from the laptop and did not sleep much. Thereby when made it to Calama we were still quite exhausted. We arrived at 8 o’clock in the morning and walked to the hostel. Although check-in time was only on 11 we were allowed to use the common area and kitchen. Kaija used this time for having a nap and Jaanus was just chilling.


In Calama, we also spent a few days before our flight and we did not do much because we were exhausted and just wanted to have rest. We spent most of the time in hostel talking to other travelers and made preparations for Patagonia. Many travelers also stopped there who either was going or just came from Patagonia.


With this our bus adventure in South – America become to the end and probably we will not take any other long bus rides. For backpackers, the buses are a convenient way to travel because tickets are relatively cheap and the buses are more or less comfortable, even the cheaper ones. By taking the night bus you can save the hostel money. But it could happen that the next day you are still exhausted and the day is wasted. Like happened to us :=)

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