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Puno, Peru to Putre, Chile

Plaza de Armas in Arequipa
Moving around South America is easily and cheaply accomplished with buses, and once again we opted for a 6-hour bus trip from Puno to Arequipa.  Spending 2 days in Arequipa, we explored the inner, historical center of the city, but didn't plan any hiking in the surrounding mountains.  After being at the high altitude of Puno, we needed a little recovery time.  Elevation in Arequipa is just shy of 8,000 ft, which would actually make it a fairly good point for adjusting to the altitude for someone traveling to Puno.

 
We departed Arequipa in the afternoon for a 5-hour bus ride to Tacna, and back to sea level.  Since we were arriving at the end of the day, we had made arrangements to spend the night, and planned to travel into Chile the next day.  Dozens of buses cross the border daily, so we showed up at the bus station the following morning without a ticket, and a few minutes later climbed on board a bus to cross the border into Chile.  The trip from Tacna, Peru to Arica, Chile took roughly 3 hours.  Going across the border was straight forward.  Upon arrival at the border, all passengers disembark with their luggage, go through security and customs, and then reboard the bus, which had driven to the Chilean side of the border.  Arriving at the bus station in Arica allowed us to book a ticket we were going to need on our return to Arica later in the week.  After securing the bus ticket, we headed by taxi to the airport to pick up our rental car for the next leg of the trip.
 
Heading to Putre, we were going back up to 11,500 feet.  We figured we would adjust a little to the altitude change on the drive.  We were told by the rental company that it was a 1 1/2 hour drive, the owner of the hotel where we were staying in Putre, had warned us about delays due to road construction, and told us the trip would be 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  We were leaving the airport around 1PM, so we had plenty of time, we thought.  Driving in Chile is generally a positive experience; the roads are not crowded, highways are in good conditions and signage is excellent.  That being said, about 30 miles out of Arica, we hit the first stop for construction.  Two and a half hours later, when the road reopened, Alan attempted to start the car.  Nothing!  We had a dead battery in the middle of the Chilean dessert with overnight temperatures dipping into the teens, no cell service, and the closest little village maybe 10 miles behind us.  Turns out that in checking out the rental vehicle, Alan had inadvertently left on the parking lights.  Without going into a blow by blow account, we did arrive at our hotel in Putre a little after 9 PM.  Once we got beyond the roadblock, we were on curvy, mountainous roads in the dark, something we would never plan to do.  But, the darkness hid the sharp drops off the mountain sides, which was probably a good thing!

On road to Arequipa

On road to Arequipa

El Misti Volcano

Vicuna on the way to Arequipa
Volcanoes on approach to Arequipa
Mining operation outside of Arequipa had a surreal look
Archway in Arequipa looking onto the Cathedral in the main square
Chachani Volcano outside Arequipa

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