Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Arica, Chile (NGS Waitt Grant 2)

A photo set of our time in Arica here.

The weather continues to surprise.  This evening we had a light rain and full rainbow over the harbor.

We sat up on the roof in awe - when Catherine first came here in 1998, she heard about adults who had never seen rain, and now we've had two episodes in two days.  As I mentioned yesterday, this changes our trip significantly.  As made apparent from this ABC news dispatch from July, a small rain here indicates torrents/snow higher.  This said, Catherine is now comfortable with the concept that documenting rain, and possibly increased recent growth of the llareta is a far more compelling story than two more gringos climbing Parinacota.  


-Feel free to put the restaurant guide from your favorite guidebook away.  The people here are ambivalent about restaurants - at noon or just after they pile into a few favorite spots and eat.  So just follow the crowds and enjoy.  Dinner doesn't seem to be a big deal - apparently most people eat at home, or snack out on "completo" hot dogs, etc.  There is a famous ice cream place here, but we haven't made it because in our minds ice cream is for dessert and the place closes down before dusk.  

Today we followed the herd to "La Primavera" in a food court near the bus terminal - it was a mass of employees from the local construction/cell phone/mining companies ignoring every restaurant in the area except for this place.  Soon after we sat down (as in a few seconds), a perfect bowl of cazuela de ave (Chilean chicken stew) arrived.  I mean perfect - like the Platonic ideal of this basic local meal.  Great.

Here at the hostel, a few folks seem to specialize in taking an incredible amount of time to cook very simple meals, like a marinara sauce/pasta.  Yes, these folks are French; yes, they start cooking at eight P.M., and finish around midnight; yes, there is various plinking on the guitar and loud radio; yes, we call them "The Frenchies."  There is a certain element of an old blog topic, "the lotus eaters," here, and we'll leave it at that.  We've combated The Frenchies by taking a nap in the afternoon so we can stay up and work during their extended mealtime.

-Today is our last day in the lowlands (we hope), and we took time to visit the excellent Museo Archeologico.  We drove through fields of olives and corn to view mummies over 6,000 years old:

  And of course stopped to observe a 1953 Studebaker:

 and a bizarre 3-wheeled BMW Isetta from the same period (1955?) - the latter is one of those things where someone said "this is the future!" and (thankfully) everyone else said "no it isn't!"

I'd like to imagine that thing driving over the mountains to Arica, but more likely it arrived by sea as an olive/fish-baron's toy by sea.  This is of course the car in the Depeche Mode video "Never Let Me Down."

Yes, I can't believe I mentioned impossibly-ancient mummies in passing before moving on to a defunct city car.  The mummies were simply overwhelming - two millenia before the heyday of Egypt mummification, the people here were carefully preserving their brethren - in some cases children and babies - for the afterlife.  One sits and looks and it is difficult to comprehend through the gulf of time.  Easier to talk about defunct Isetta city cars.  

-Some of the area being pressed into service in the Azapa valley for olives/other crops defies belief.  The corn must be shaded, a huge undertaking.  Here are some olive tree saplings on a bare sand slope:

I also took some time to observe the ditches/diversion structures, which may be of no one's interest except me given my work in water rights/law.  The ditches are flowing well, given the rain. 

 But the government places signs all over advising to protect the water resource.  It is all quite tenuous on the Azapa, but working.

-We also visited Playa Corozones, where I was able to observe the impressive/massive cliffs leading down to the sea.  The cliffs seem quite complex geologically, with several types of rock overlaid by the ubiquitous sand - I would like to know more about how these came about.

-Unfortunately, there was little swimming due to a large number of jellyfish.  We tried to head north of town to some of the surf beaches, but they were there, too.

We engaged in a game of sorts with some local folks to see who was brave enough to swim in the water.  Catherine was the bravest, and was able to body-surf for a bit, but she also got two jellyfish stings - in some games, unfortunately, there are no winners.  More to come.

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