Sun, Oct 15 – Coquimbo, Chile is a port city, commune and capital of the Elqui Province, located on the Pan-American Highway, in the Coquimbo Region of Chile. Coquimbo is situated in a valley six miles south of La Serena, with which it forms Greater La Serena with more than 400,000 inhabitants. The average temperature in the city lies around 57 °F with very low precipitation.
The natural harbor in Coquimbo was taken over by Spain in 1550 in order to provide access to Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru. Five years later an uprising of local Indians totally destroyed and burned the village, killing nearly every Spaniard. During the 17th century, the city suffered continuous attacks from pirates, causing great fear among the population, forcing the defense of the city in 1700. In addition to attacks from pirates, the city experienced an almost total destruction resulting from an earthquake in 1730. Later, the gold and silver industry in the region led to the city's importance as a port around 1840 and many Europeans especially from England settled in Coquimbo. After the revolution in 1859 the city slowly rebuilt itself and is a major architectural and cultural center.
This is our first port in Chile and unfortunately we made a mistake by taking the shore excursion instead of doing a local taxi tour. Several of our friends said that they really enjoyed their tours; however, ours was rather boring. It didn't help that it was Sunday and Chile being a catholic country most everything was closed.
We arrived in port around 9 a.m. and it was totally overcast and ugly, but once we got on the bus and away from the port it was a gorgeous sunny day. Our tour guide explained that this is always the case at the port. She said you could drive five miles away and have lots of sunshine. We didn't really drive through or explore Coquimbo at all. This is a shame, because it looked like it was a pretty city. When we arrived on the ship you could see a set of stairs going up the side of the hill and they looked like piano keys. Unfortunately we didn't get any closer to them.
Our tour took us up to the top of Coquimbo to an overlook of the city and harbor and then to La Serena. We passed some very pretty beaches; stopped at a lighthouse on the coast and saw tons of people fishing; turns out there was a fishing contest going on that day. It also turns out that the lighthouse is not a real lighthouse. I asked our tour guide why then is it there, and she said that it is a "point of interest" for the tourists. Really? We then drove into La Serena which is a cute, quaint city. All the buildings are quite colorful,
Unfortunately you never know what you are going to get - we did get better at reading between the lines of the shore excursion description; but on the other side you never know what you are going to get from a taxi tour either. Live and learn.
When we got back we wandered over to the local shops outside of the port. There was a major fish market there and we wandered through it. We learned that the whole area had been hit by an 8.6 earthquake in 2015, and then was hit by a major tsunami. It wiped out the fishing industry and a year later, just as they were getting back on their feet, the whole area burned to the ground; talk about rotten luck. When we were there it looked like things were going pretty good. I really wish we knew what the different fishes were we were seeing. We wandered around a huge market area that reminded us of the Roseville Market; it sold everything under the sun. I think this was the best part of the day, just wandering around on our own!
That evening we all said farewell to our dinner mates, Donna and Jerry. They are leaving us when we arrive tomorrow in San Antonio, Chile. As I said earlier she is still working. We really enjoyed their company and hopefully will meet up with them again someday. It seems as though a third to a half of the ship is getting off in San Antonio.