The next morning in Arica, we went to buy our "permission to circulate" on the roads in Chile. It cost around CLP$100.000 (around US$200), I think. Then Dimitri went to the aduana, as requested.
At the customs office, Dimitri learned that the fine for taking the car out of Chile for more than 6 months (without permission) would be $360. Of course he started negotiating. The chief decided to reduce the fine to the minimum of 10% of that amount or US$36. There was nothing on any of the papers we got when we left the country that would have alerted us to this problem. You're just supposed to know these things!
He also learned that it was illegal to drive our car from Chile to Peru. It is permissible to drive to Bolivia or Argentina. And from either of those countries it is perfectly legal to drive to Peru. Geeez!
We also bought 95 octane gas and it was a whopping US$5.76 a gallon(CLP$.749 or US$1.44 a liter).
We finally left Arica at 11 a.m. and we arrived in Antofagasta at 6:30 p.m.--about 6.5 hours, having done 718 km. We were moving! The road from Calama north had been re-paved in the year and one half since we last traveled this route, fortunately (because it had been one of our worst in our South American roadtrip experience).
We descended and climbed 4 gorges/quebradas which made the drive interesting. We went through a native forest/bosque nativa which sprouted right up in the midst of the sand at one point.
The terrain was called Pampa del Tamarugal and most of the time it wasn't too pretty. The temperature varied from 32 ° down to 13 ° C.
We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn (which "is the southernmost point reached by the sun during the summer; on December 21st it shines from directly above signaling the start of summer in the Southern Hemisphere" from Chile A Remote Corner on Earth Travel Guide, Empressa Cochrane, Turismo y Comunicaciones S.A. 1992.
We really didn't want to stay at the Hotel Antofagasta again since we didn't enjoy it in May 2007. Click here to read what we said about it then.
We were greeted with horrendous traffic when we descended the mountain into Antofagasta. The coast road was being diverted and the traffic on the parallel and perpendicular streets was in gridlock. We followed a truck around and thought that we were going around in circles.
We were going to make a U-turn when Dimitri spotted a sign to La Marina Hotel. It was a new-looking high-rise building and, instead of making a U-turn, we made a left and drove to it. The price was CLP$40.000 for a one-bedroom apartment overlooking the water. And it had wi-fi. (Hotel Marina de Antofagasta, La Cañada 15, Barrio Historico, Antofagasta, fono: (56-55)224-423, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and web: www.hotelmarina.cl). Of course, there was no heat. But Dimitri solved that by going to the car (in the gated and locked parking lot) and getting our heater. It was, by far, superior to the Hotel Antofagasta. And there was a restaurant connected to the hotel.
We had a wonderful meal at Marina Restaurant De Antofagasta and it wasn't even too cold in the unheated room. It cost CLP$26.400 and we shared everything. We started with Erizos al Matico (sea urchin with lemon, onion and parsley on the side) for CLP$6.800. Dimitri had a delicious Sopa Marinera (CLP$4.800) which was loaded with all kinds of tasty shellfish. One was lapas which was a sea snail and delicious. For our main we shared a corvina in a salsa de jaiba (CLP$11.000). The jaiba/crab were real pieces of tasty crab but the fish was too dry (and anyway we were too full to enjoy it). We also ordered steamed spinach (CLP$1.600). We had a half bottle of Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon (CLP$2.200) and it was good. The service was good and the waiter friendly. After such a long day of driving, we relaxed and had a good time.
The breakfast, the next morning, was horrendous. One of the worst breakfasts of any hotel, anywhere (until Copiapó the next day, that is).