Trip Start Sep 05, 2007
38Trip End Feb 24, 2008
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Where I stayed
Backpacker's Hostal Iqnique
There's a really long pedestrian street (Baquedano) that has nice houses along it that I liked. There are palm trees down the middle and wooden sidewalks (almost like a boardwalk) on either side. It was quiet though when I saw it, not too many people walking there. The whole street is really clean, surprising since there didn't seem to be any trash cans (I had to hold on to my ice cream wrapper for a while)
The hostel I stayed at (Backpackers' Hostel Iquique) was right next to what is supposed to be one of the nicest beaches in town. So I managed to get some sun there as well.
Here in Iquique, I did a couple of things I'd never done before -- paragliding (Iquique supposedly has some of the best, if not the best, conditions for paragliding in South America) and sandboarding. The city is surrounded by big desert hills and sand dunes and we drove to one of these for paragliding. There was a flat area from where various paragliders were taking off. Since I'd never done this before, I obviously did a tandem flight, which means there was an experienced glider up there with me (15 years of experience overall, 10 years of being an instructor), doing all of the work. All I had to do was sit back and watch the scenery. It was a lot of fun overall, but my stomach didn't feel great while I was up there. The way the wind pushes you around and the necessity to turn a lot when the wind is not too strong can make you feel nauseous. We flew for I think close to half an hour and then landed on a beach
The next day I went sandboarding for a couple of hours. I arranged it through the hostel, there were four of us going and one guy from the hostel was our instructor. We drove to a massive sand dune on the edge of town, where the activity would be taking place. Overall, it was fun. It's said to be more like surfing than snowboarding -- I don't do either so it didn't make much difference to me. There are two main problems with sandboarding though. The first is that there are no ski lifts or anything -- after you do your run, you need to walk with the sandboard back up the dune. The second is that you end up with sand everywhere (especially if you fall) -- in your ears, pockets, socks, etc. But I'm glad I tried it out, definitely a nice rush when you start picking up some speed.
Today I took a bus out to a place called Humberstone, less than an hour away from the city. It was a town built in the 1870s to process nearby deposits of nitrate. This actually made it quite a rich town, reaching its peak in the 1940s, but it was closed in 1960 due to the development of synthetic nitrates. Now it's like a well-preserved ghost town. It's pretty cool, a bit creepy, with all the old buildings and various rusty metal objects around. There was even a pool built out of a ship's hull. To get back to Iquique, I got on a bus that was heading that direction. There weren't any seats, so I had to stand -- but because of this, they didn't charge me anything.
Tonight I'm taking a bus at 11:30pm to Calama. I should get in at 6:30-7am and then I have a connection on the first bus to San Pedro de Aatacama at 8am. Planning to spend a few days there until heading back to Argentina.