I got a Flores bus from Arequipa to Tacna, which was advertised as taking five hours, but actually took six. The journey south was through very rugged terrain at times, the road clinging to the sides of valleys seemingly made entirely of golden scree. Then we went into the desert proper, and I had my first views of all-encompassing, horizon-hugging nothingness, only broken occasionally by the waltz of power cables across the landscape.
I met a very nice couple on the bus, Amy and Cody, and they were going to Arica as well, so we tackled the border together. Arriving at Tacna you need to cross the road to the international bus station and find one of the many people asking if you want a colectivo to Arica, which is basically a taxi which they fill with people and then go. It cost us 20 soles per person.
They take your passport from you to print off a small form which you need at Chilean immigration. Keep that safe!
It's 20km to the border from Tacna, and then a further 20km to Arica once you're in Chile. Despite being directly south, Chile is in a different time zone, and due to daylight saving time we lost two hours, despite my iPod insisting Chile was only an hour ahead. There is a digital clock when you go through to prove Apple wrong.
Then our driver took us to the bus station in Arica and dropped us and our bags there. The three of us bought tickets for our onward journeys, Amy and Cody to San Pedro, and me to Iquique for this morning.
We walked along the beach, just in time to see a gorgeous sunset, and had dinner near the main plaza. Arica is a really relaxed surfing town, and I liked it a lot, even though I was only there for one night.
It was also really nice to be back at sea level, as for the last four weeks I've been at least 2,500 metres up in the mountains. But oddly I didn't feel any different, other than not being out of breath after taking two steps. I guess I had properly acclimatised to the thin air, which I suppose is a good thing.
Right now I'm lying on a very comfortable sofa by a window overlooking the front patio of my beach-adjacent hostel in Iquique, and tomorrow I'm doing a tour to the nearby mining ghost towns and oasises. No complaints my end.