November 2, 2011
I woke up 5:00 AM so I could watch soccer practice before I left. Hogar Belen has a soccer team in the second division in town. I told the guys I would watch, every year they rise in the rankings and hope to move to the top division someday. At 6:15 AM I took off again on the 2.5 hour trek to Tacna. Ever since Arequipa, I had been seeing signs that said, “Peligro, zona de neblina”. That means “danger, zone for something”. It also said to lower your lights as well. But I could not for the life of me figure out what neblina was. I was in the middle of the desert, with no vegetation, animals, anything! Was it sandstorms? High winds? Locusts?
Well, Wednesday morning I found out. Somehow, in the middle of the desert, there was intense fog. It was so thick in places I had to slow down to 20 mph. My helmet faceguard kept filling up with water, and it was cold. I never would have guessed.
I got to the customs offices but did not go in. I had gotten an email from my guy in Lima saying I should call this agent in Tacna. So I called him and he told me to come to his office. I didn’t understand the directions, so I told him to email me. That is where my electronics saved the day. I have a cell phone, gps, and a USB stick with internet on it for my netbook. I used all three to figure out where to go. If I had been missing one of those, it would have been a long morning. It made me think about when I travel to other countries and have only the gps with subpar maps loaded into it.
Anyway, Oswaldo was INCREDIBLY nice. He dropped everything to help me with the complicated process of exporting my motorcycle. The mistake that the guy in Lima made way back in August was a big one. We filled out papers for a few hours, then his secretary found a hostel for me very close, with a discount! I sat in the internet café while they cleaned a room for me, then unloaded. I really needed a laundromat at this point but there weren’t any nearby. The shower was hot but it was just a stream of water straight down. I did not care. I watched some satellite TV and crashed.
Thursday morning I headed in for more paperwork. We dropped the bike off at the customs station for an inspection and I sat in his office for 4 or 5 hours. During this time he copied some Latin music on my flash drive, looked at my pictures from the entire trip, and I got a little blogging done. His secretary brought me lunch as well!
At about 2:00 pm, we headed back over to customs and I got the bike. I headed off to the border. Waiting for me was a man named Pachito. He was in the parking lot and helped me through the complicated process of exportation. Everything went smoothly and every agent I dealt with was interested in my story and helpful. With the final few stamps I was off.
Entering Chile wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. You basically just pull up, stop and ask someone what to do. I got the papers filled out and got the Chilean stamp that I am pretty proud of. It was 15 minutes into the town of Arica. WHOA. It was total culture shock. The streets were clean, well marked, traffic laws were being followed, people wore Western clothing, there was even a Shell station! The buildings were nice and there were strip malls and chain stores. I had forgotten what a developed country looked like. But I missed Peru, I missed the girls, and I just wanted to get home. So I drove around for an hour and headed back for the border. Usually, you can’t just go back, but remember Peru thought I left on October 31, so I was all good. Heading back over both borders went smoothly and by 8:00 pm I was back in the hostel. The only problem was that I had to park my bike inside the hostel this time and I lost a chunk of tire driving up the steps into the tiny doorway.
Friday morning we finished the final papers in Oswaldo’s office. I grabbed some wine at the local market and presented it to the entire office. I then paid the bills. This was bittersweet. The people in Lima didn’t tell me I had to hire more agents and customs officials at my expense to rectify their mistake. BUT, customs and Oswaldo charged me way less than usual. Everyone thought that my story and what I am doing down here is great and wanted to help me out. This was huge since I was getting low on money and I didn’t have any way to get cash. Now is a good time to say THANK YOU so much to everyone in Tacna. Without exception, every person I dealt with and talked to there tried their very best to help me.
I headed back to Moquegua for one last goodbye at Hogar Belen. I stayed long enough for some soup made with all the shrimp we caught and goodbye to Arturo. I hope I can return someday. Please visit their website, and maybe you could possibly be interested in a donation as well.
The way back to Arequipa was mostly uneventful, except for the fact that my engine started making a weird noise in 4th and 5th gear. Hmmm, not good but I just wanted to get home. I pulled up to the monastery around 5:30 pm and waited for Vanissa to get out of work. We grabbed dinner at a vegetarian restaurant and talked for a long time. It was so interesting to hear her stories about living at a monastery in Lima and about her life in general.
I found a nice hostel in town and crashed. These long riding days really take it out of you.