So after a fairly uneventful bus ride from San Pedro with the nice Tur Bus drivers making sure I got on the right buses and stuff I arrived in Iquique. Then I got a taxi to my hostel via waiting a while on the seafront for the chilean football supporters to celebrate their world cup qualifying victory which was random but fun.
Then upon arrival at the hostel even though it was lacking a meter apparantly had non-negotiable fares. Additionally the fare was twice as high as the quote on the hostels website (which apparently only applies to “radio taxis”, which must be a bit like private hire in the UK except with an even larger price premium for taxis on the street.) so I wasn’t particularly happy about it (the matter was further confused by the driver not using standard Spanish numbers as the Chileans love to do and the driver misunderstanding what uno mil means when asking about the price) I just assumed the taxi driver had joined the large number of dishonest taxi drivers worldwide who especially try and rip you off on arrival in the given town.
Anyhow the next day I headed into Iquique itself to see what the town had to offer; it has some fairly nice and free museums on the region. It also has an opera house which wasn’t free but had a lot of decaying British architecture which was interesting to see as a snapshot of what Britain could be like today. Maybe without the EU and the recent British governments it would be like that today.
The reason these buildings (there wee others aside from the opera house) look British is that they were built when Iquique was the worldwide leader in nitrate production and the managers of the nitrate companies were British. From the 1870’s nitrates mined here in northern chile were used for fertilizers before the Haber process for doing it artificially was invented by the Germans in world war one.
One of the old colonial buildings also had an excellent photo collection of modern contemporary photos taken at everything from Pinochet lying in state to government officials looking at scantily clad women to a child running through the police line at a protest.
In the afternoon I sat on the beach and rested in my room. To be honest I’m glad I only spent a day in Iquique as although it’s not the least exciting place I’ve stayed there isn’t much to do in the city itself except what I’ve done and then to take a one day tour of the nitrate towns.