Antofagasta & Coquimbo, Chile

Long time, no see.  Before getting into today’s subject, I wanted to correct my description of Mollendo, which I derided the other day as an ordinary Peruvian town.  I have since learned that it is a seaport (once an important one) & one of the top resort towns in southern Peru.  Rich folks from Arequipa have beach homes here and there is a castle, which is now apparently owned by the Catholic Church.  We (obviously) didn’t see any of that, but then we didn’t stay very long because I was still feeling pretty sick then (much better now, thank you).

Anyway, on Saturday, January 21, we docked at Antofagasta, our first stop in Chile.

21 Antefagasto from departing ship 

As you can see from the mountains this is still on the edge of the Atacama desert.  There is a town not too far away called Calama that has never recorded a drop of rain.  In the late 19th century Chile fought a war with Peru & Bolivia over this area, with the result that Chile has sovereignty here but Bolivia (which has no coast) is guaranteed a trading outlet at ports in northern Chile, including Antofagasta & Arica.  Chileans & Peruvians don’t like each other very much to this day.

This is important because in this area of Bolivia is a place called Potosi, which was basically a volcanic mountain of silver.  While most silver ore has less than 5% silver, the ore at Potosi had more than 50%.  Nearby was another mountain full of mercury, which is used to extract silver from ore.  The Spaniards, true to form, basically enslaved the local Indians & forced them to labor in the mines, most of them dying quite quickly.  We were told that in some of the Indian graves from that era, when the bodies decomposed what was left was a pool of Mercury beneath the skeleton.  Anyway, Potosi accounted for about half of all the Spanish silver exported from America in the 16th & 17th centuries, which basically doubled the money supply in Europe (and also, incidentally, in China where the Spaniards traded it in Manila for porcelain & silk) & apparently also paid for the Hundred Years War.

After the wonders of Peru, Antofagasta was really not a very interesting city.  Here is Mary in the Plaza Colon (Spanish for Columbus) with the dome of the Regional Library in the background.  There was also a fountain and a clock tower.  The clock tower was contributed by the British community here & is said to be a miniature copy of Big Ben in London, but really looks nothing like it (it does have 4 clock faces).

01 Mary in Plaza Colon in Antafagasto Chile 04 Fountain in Plaza Colon 02 Big Ben clocktower in Antefagasto 07 Clocktower with strange evergreen 

We noticed quite a lot of dogs lying around the streets, some with collars some not, some looking mangy and some not.  Also, I think this is a statue of Ferdinand & Isabella, although it wasn’t labeled.  It is at the edge of Plaza Colon, on Avenida Jorge Washington.

05 Mary & dogs in pedestrian mall 09 Statue in Plaza Colon, possibly Ferdinand & Isabella

Here we are leaving Antofagasta where a small lighthouse sits at the harbor entry, occupied by lots of birds, mostly pelicans.

24 Mary looking at water as ship sails from Antefagasto22 lighthouse in Antefagasto harbor entrance 

23 Birds (mostly pelicans) near lighthouse

After a sea day we docked in Coquimbo, Chile, on Monday,  January 23.  Coquimbo & its sister city La Serena are resort towns on a beautiful bay.

08 Boat in Cocquimbo harbor  02 Cocquimbo harbor

Coquimbo is built on the steep hills surrounding its harbor.  On top of the hill where the ship was docked is a huge & very ugly building called the Millennial Cross.  Built in 2000, as the name indicates, it memorializes the Pope’s visit to South America.  You can go up & look out the windows (we didn’t).  The other major landmark in town is, weirdly, a mosque on a hill.  We are told that this does not represent a Muslim community in Coquimbo, but was built primarily as a tourist attraction.  We’re not sure whether this is true but speaking as tourists it doesn’t do much for us.

05 Cocquimbo 20 Cocquimbo from La Serena

48 Cross atop hill in Cocquimbo 53 Mosque in Cocquimbo

The hills are so steep that the sidewalks look like Lombard Street in San Francisco.

42 woven sidewalk on hill in Cocquimbo 46 Houses on hill in Cocquimbo 45 Houses on hilltop in Cocquimbo  42 woven sidewalk on hill in Cocquimbo

They must not get many cruise ships in Coquimbo; they sent out a band to greet us in the morning (way too early) & to send us off in the evening.  Not the world’s greatest band, but it was a nice gesture.

43 Band to bid ship farewell in Cocquimbo

We took a van with a few other people for a personal tour.  He took us to a spot called Drake’s Castle, where Sir Francis Drake supposedly built an encampment while pirating Spanish ships along the west coast of the Americas.  We believe he camped here, but we don’t necessarily believe he built the castle-like structures.  However, its a lovely spot, with rock formations, beautiful flowers & bay views, & a rock full of sea lions.  I guess in some circumstances people will pay just about anything for a bathroom (it’s really about $.50).

17 harbor from drake castle  10 Sea Lions on rock at Drake castle

18 white flowers at drake castle15 Rick at Drake castle 

14 cactus at Drake castle12 Sign at Drake castle - Banos $250 

We then drove around the bay to La Serena, a beach resort.  We stopped at a wimpy lighthouse on the beach then drove up a hill to visit an old fort (still run by the army) built, we were told, by Italians.  We were told that a lot of Italians emigrated to this part of Chile at the end of WWII (while the Germans were going to Argentina, I guess), but this fort is a lot older than that.  There was a pool with a marble sculpture brought from Italy & some nice Italian marble benches as well.

56 Lighthouse in La Serena from ship 19 Lighthouse at La Serena 21 Cocquimbo from La Serena   55 Castle in La Serena from ship

32 Fort overlooking La Serena 30 Two beauties - Mary & Italian marble statute at pool at fort  27 Rick & Mary at fort, overlooking La Serena Chile29 Italian tile bench at fort

We went on from there to a shopping square,with artisans, souvenirs, barbers, hat stores, etc.  We stopped at a grocery store, mainly to use the bathrooms.  Here is Mary in the van with our friends Bing & Barb & a sign for parking for expectant mothers.

23 Mary in van at La Serena with Bing & Barb Parking for expectant mothers

The shopping stop was a nice little square with a fountain in which kids played.

35 Market near La Serena, with fountain

Lots of colorful items for sale, some artistic & some not so much.

36 Indians vs. Conquistadors chess sets, market near La Serena 39 Needlework hangings at market near La Serena

38 Table of souveniers at market near La Serena  39 Needlework hangings at market near La Serena

 38 Table of souveniers at market near La Serena39 Needlework hangings at market near La Serena

And finally, for you towel animal fans, here are a couple more:

57 Towel Animal - Shrimp (we think) 25 towel squid

One response

  1. Janet Laughlin & Joe Murph

    I’ve never seen anything so beautiful and colorful!!!!! Miss you!!!
    Janet & Joe

    February 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm

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