after visiting the Nazca Lines several days ago, i managed to fall intensely sick with a simultaneous bad cold and eye infection (probably from my contact lenses). after trying to work through the local pharmacy, who managed to give me some cold medications that really screwed up my stomach without doing much of anything positive for me, i finally looked up the correct methods for eye infection treatment on the internet (it's a bad sign when google and wikipedia are your most available sources of medical advice), and bought the correct prescription medication at the pharmacy with a dosage schedule derived from the manufacturer's drug information sheet.
i then hopped on a 14-hour bus ride south to Tacna, which is Peru's closest border town with Chile. from there I took a 2-3 hour ride on a "collectivo" taxi, which turned out to be a giant old Chevrolet lined with a plush red interior and 4 other passengers across the Peru/Chile border, and arrived in the Chilean town of Arica.
after the run-downness of the town of Nazca, Arica was a wonderful change. prosperous town, nice pedestrian mall, lots of services, and (most importantly to me), plenty of friendly optometrists with good facilities to get the eye infection thing straightened out with. after a few days recovering from everything, i hopped on another bus further down the Chilean coast to Iquique.
Iquique had been recommended to me by another backpacker as a great place to stop at, but i haven't found the real soul of it yet. it's been a ok place to spend a few days between here and Santiago (i'm heading down there to connect up with my flight to Rio on the 13th for Carnival!), but i wouldn't really recommend it unless you're either with someone else or are very fluent in Spanish, as this place is definitely off of the backpacker circuit. it's nice just to be somewhere and mesh with locals, but with my primitive spanish skills, communication isn't that great. (note to self: DEFINITELY spend time taking spanish lessons before returning to Latin America).
tomorrow afternoon i hop on my 24-hour bus ride down to Santiago on Tur Bus (luckily i was able to get a seat on their "Cama" service, so at least i'll have a plush ride, albeit an extremely long one), and then get about 18 hours there before taking off for Rio.
in case you're wondering why i've been plunging so quickly south from Peru, i've been doing this in order to make it down to Santiago for the Rio flight. as a result, this has been one of the only times on the trip that i've really felt "stressed" to make it somewhere at a certain time. of course, this is the price of trying to attend a very popular event like Carnival in Rio, which requires all my other plans to bend around it in order to make it happen. and rushing like this when you're really sick is definitely not a lot of fun either.
i'm sure it will be worth it, but i definitely feel like i haven't been able to give Chile nearly enough attention on this trip. i would definitely plan to spend more time in Chile and in different areas next time i come here.