Antofagasta, Chile’s second largest port city (after Valparaiso), was our first port in Chile.
Chile has one of the strongest economies in South America, and you can feel it. It seems to function like a first-world country. It’s also a lot cleaner than the other places we have been to in South America, except for Buenos Aires.
Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and, as it happens, most of that copper is sent around the world through the Port of Antofagasta. That’s our ship in the background, with bales of raw copper plates in the foreground, waiting to be loaded into containers and shipped abroad.
And here’s how that copper gets to port…..
One thing I noticed traveling in South America is that every port we are going to is a working commercial port that makes space for us to dock. We use the same “parking lot” and “parking space” as the commercial vessels – oil tankers, cargo ships, etc. There is no such thing as a cruise port in South America.
This town, that you never heard of, was quite large with a bustling city center full of shops. It was the first port we had been to where you can tell they don’t need us.. There was no craft market by the pier or anywhere else. Guess they don’t get much tourism…. In fact, it was hard to find ANY market in the area around the port…..
…..except for a colorful, shore side fish market…..
…and wherever we went people were shoving spoonsful of ceviche in our faces
As we walked to the fish market we noticed pelicans lining up for fish..
Right in front of the market was some people who were trying to sell their “junk”. I thought of you Bonnie!!!
There were pelicans…….
….. even jelly fish…..
…… all waiting to eat the scraps..
We walked further along into the main square (LIKE ALWAYS!!)
And in every square there are always the usual statutes.. but this time they looked like laser cut, very interesting..
Although Antofagasta is a port city on the Pacific Ocean, it’s also located in a desert most of us have never heard of, the Atacama Desert, the most arid and barren desert in the world. The Atacama Desert stretches from around the city of Pisco, Peru and extends south to the center of Chile.
Antofagasta is also in an active earthquake zone. Kal went outside the city to see a rock with a hole in it called “La Portada”, which for some reason is the symbol of the city. The rock lies in the ocean surf not far offshore Here is what it looks like from the observation platform above the shore line:
A more panoramic view….
….and from up close….it’s much bigger than it looks…..
But it could only be observed from the platform on the surrounding cliffs; you couldn’t take stairs down the cliffs to the surf because it turns out that the area is so geologically unstable, there’s a good chance the earth will shift while you’re trying to go down the cliffs.
Kal also got a chance to see the local ruins in Antofagasta, called the Huanchaca Ruins .Now when you hear about “ruins” in this area rich with Inca and pre-Columbian history, you think you’re going to see something old, right? Well, these “ruins” are what’s left of a silver mining and smelting operation from the start of the 20th century.
If you look closely you can see the present-day apartment buildings right behind the ruins.
It’s always nice to see government, business and institutions of higher learning coming together to cooperate in projects that benefit the local community. One such example is in Antofagasta. The local government wanted to create a museum that would tell the story of Antofagasta from its geologic and prehistoric times down to the present era, when mining and other activities vitalize the city. They found a partner in the Universita Catolica del Norte (Catholic University of the North) to provide the learning side of the partnership, but they had no money. So they granted a license to build a Casino and Resort called ENJOY right opposite the Huanchaca Ruins and the new Museo Desierto de Atacama (Atacama Desert Museum) built right in front of the Ruins.
The doormat on which you clean your feet before entering the museum mentions the FUNDACION RUINAS DE HUANCHACA – the Huanchaca Ruins Foundation, the entity created by the casino, the university and the casino to raise money to maintain the ruins and the Atacama Desert Museum. The deal with the local government was, “We give you a license to run a casino; you pay us a lot of money to maintain and develop the ruins and the museum, the university provides the academic knowhow, and everybody wins (except for the casino losers….”).
Oh by the way – the casino has just been built, and guess where ! It’s right across the street from the museum. Hooda thunkit? Guess they want to watch over how their “contribution” is spent.
The museum was actually quite interesting, but the one unexpected exhibit was this:
Apparently NASA tested its Moon Rover not far from here in the Atacama Desert and donated the vehicle to the locals as a goodwill gesture, and here it is !
As with nearly all Spanish Colonial cities, the Plaza de Armas or Central Square of Antofagasta is filled with statues and fountains and lawns and gardens – and it even has its own version of a Big Ben in the heart of the square.
Some images from Antofagasta that we’ll remember:
Will we ever come back here?
Why not ?