Heading south on a Pullman bus along the dry coast, we made the 6.5 hour journey to Antofagasta. There was not really a whole lot that we knew about the place except that it was a good distance south and it was a coastal city so maybe some more beaches to bum around. Weirdly, we had to all pile out of the long distance bus at the Antofagasta region where they unloaded all our luggage and we went through security before reloading us all. It is the same country so why they did this is a mystery. We arrived at the bus station and caught a 5000 CHP taxi to hotel RQ Stay. Well it took a little bit since the hotel was new and the taxi driver didn’t know exactly where it was. We finally found it right across from a huge USA style mall (with very USA style prices). The hotel smelled like new construction and the room we got was an efficiency apartment. It looked so brand new, we could’ve been the first guests in this room. We got settled, walked around in the immediate area and bought some food at the grocery store in the mall for our first homemade meal in our very own kitchen: spaghetti and meat sauce, simple but quite good.
The next morning we made our way up to the small breakfast on the 28th floor, saw the skinny rooftop pool and had quite a view over the entire city. Antofagasta is not really known as a tourist city, but an industrial port city where they process mining products, such as copper, thus giving the city one of the highest standards of living in Chile. We walked to the city square with the cathedral and old post office. It was quite nice with lush trees, flowers, a fountain and lots of people just enjoying the day. After a quick visit to the cathedral, we made our way down to the sea shore and the fish market. As we walked through, we enjoyed watching a lazy sealion in the water below waiting for scraps, lots of clam/oyster type items, and of course fish of various types and sizes. There was no swimming beach here, only a small area for kayaks and fishing boats. We finished the tour with a “walk by” of the historic train station (since it was closed that day), and a walk through of an art space and adjacent history museum (which was all in Spanish but we managed to learn that the Bolivians weren’t able to support the troops this far which is why they lost the area to Chile).We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets; there are some decent pedestrian areas and markets. We wanted to stop to quench our thirst, but couldn’t find anywhere that you could just order a drink – you had to order food as well.
Since we had to leave at 7:30 am to head to the airport, we asked the hotel to order a taxi. We saw signs that Radio Taxi was 15,000 CHP to the airport, but after the receptionist made the arrangements, she told us it would be 20,000 CHP. We balked a little, but decided to let it go. Breakfast was supposed to start at 6:30 am, but they still only had a plate of meat, one of cheese and some bread out by 7:05. Having gotten a good idea of the dry northern Chilean Pacific coast, we were off to Santiago.