We first touched land in northern Chile in the port of Arica which calls itself “the land of the eternal spring”, and for good reason. With its temperate climate and terrific beaches, it was an inviting way to begin our eight days in Chile.
[Arica is a real, working port just south of the border between Peru and Chile. There is no cruise terminal just like everywhere else we traveled along the western coast of South America!]
Leaving the port and driving inland toward the Atacama Desert, we found ourselves in a new world. On the edge of the desert, 17 kilometers outside Arica, we come upon the Presencias Tutelares sculptures, emerging from the desert landscape.
Funded by the state arts council, the behemoths are the work of Arica sculptor Juan Diaz Fleming, and evoke a sense of the region’s pre-Columbian civilizations. Then we head inland.
Like a moonscape, the sand stretched out for miles as we made our way into the Codpa Valley. As we drove further inland, cacti began to dot the landscape and deep in valleys we could see small villages clinging to the river. We were making our way toward one of these villages: Codpa where we discovered a tiny, isolated community deep in a valley where time seems to have stood still.
A local shaman introduced us to a local ceremony and we wandered the streets wondering what life must really be like living in such an remote spot.
But our Chilean adventure was just beginning. The next day we visited the Elqui Valley farther south, then it was on to the magnificent, cosmopolitan city of Santiago. But that’s a whole story on its own!