15 October 2007

Iquique to Arica

August 27 | My GPS Route Data

On the way north to Arica I took a detour to Pisagua, first famous as a landing site for Spanish conquistadores, then a key port for mining industry, then a prison and death camp under Pinochet. A hundred years ago this was a bustling town of several thousand that hosted touring opera companies from Milan and stage actress Sarah Bernhardt. Today, however, only about 150 residents remain and the buildings are largely deserted and decaying.
The descent from the Panamericana at 3,500 feet down to the water’s edge is a perilous ride through canyons and along the cliff’s edge. Just before the descent, a burned out car frame lies in front of a sign that says “Accidente! It could have been avoided. We want you to live. A friend forever.”


The landscape becomes more dramatic as the Panamericana rides along the edges of enormous valleys and approaches the coastline, finally reaching Arica, Chile’s northernmost coastal city. Only a few kilometers from the border, the city here has more in common with Peru than with Chilean capital Santiago. In fact this land once belonged to Peru. The Morro overlooking Arica houses a museum celebrating the Chilean military’s capture of Arica from Peru.



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