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Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week 11

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

We arrive in Chile in week 11 of our 13-week Pole-to-Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions and explore the coast.

Day 71 - Arica, Chile

Country 60! We are certainly increasing our countries visited!

Today, we arrived in Arica, Chile's northernmost city, only 18 km from Peru. A port town with a population of 220k and surrounded by the Atacama Desert (also known for where fast fashion goes to die). Near the centre of Arica, a path climbs up to Morro Arica hill, with sweeping views over the coastline.

Upon arriving in Northern Chile, the landscape is a sea of arid scenery, the rich greenery we have left behind. You can feel the dust as you immerse yourself in the city and wonder about Summer; escaping is challenging.

We were fortunate to glimpse some of the desert drawings, such as the geoglyphs of the north Chilean desert.

We were on an excursion to taste the flavours of Arica; it started with a short drive exiting the city via the coastline and the enormous centrepiece, a large rock, to delve deeper into the desert to visit a local olive and tomato farm.

With a quick stroll through the tomato vines, olive trees dating back over 100 years, and a quick sample of homegrown olives, we enjoyed capturing some fun moments and settling into the peaceful oasis set up to soak up the morning sun.

Next, we visited the local farmers market; we enjoyed perusing all the fresh produce and purchasing a vibrant bunch of lilies (USD5) to bring some joy to our home, our suite on the ship.

A visit to a handicraft village followed the market, a replica of the Altiplanic town of Parinacota, located at 4390m high, and the commune of Putre, 200 km from Arica. We were offered a local Mango sour (incredibly sweet for our palate) and could peruse the craft shops. We strolled quickly due to the desolate atmosphere and rested on the bus.

Once all passengers were back on the bus, we were provided with a quick opportunity to explore the centre of Arica, which was filled with walking streets and eateries, along with a lovely church and a historic building that was the original customs house designed by none other than French architect Gustave Eiffel in metal and wood.

We spent the afternoon relaxing on the ship, devouring more delights from Fredheim and spoilt by another magical sunset as we continued down the Chilean coastline to our next destination, Iquique.

Fun facts:

  • Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous peoples of the Andes. In Inca mythology, she is an "Earth Mother" type goddess and a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes.

  • It does not rain in Africa; there is zero rainfall each year.

  • The Chinchorro mummies, the oldest mummies in the world, were recovered from the Atacama Desert near Arica, dating around 7020 BCE.

  • Chile's coastline is 6,435 km (4,000 miles) long.

Day 72 - Iquique, Chile

It was an early arrival into port, so the ship was as quiet as a mouse, as everyone was out and about on their excursions when we surfaced at about 9 am. Due to only having half a day in port, we opted out of the excursions as we didn't want to miss out on experiencing the life of now in Iquique by attending the historical-themed tour of the ghost town Humberstone, a UNESCO site, an old mining town with an alarming and sordid history, or the city highlights tour with a guide.

Iquique is a coastal city in northern Chile, west of the Atacama Desert, home to 200k. A prosperous saltpetre mining town in the 19th century, today it's a popular holiday destination due to the crystal clear Pacific beaches and a Spanish-influenced seafront casino.

We did it Wayne and Sal style and made our way to the old city (via a complimentary shuttle bus; being in a working port, it isn't safe to wander into town by foot).

We were dropped five minutes from the port in the historic district by the iconic 19th-century clock tower in Arturo Prat Square, the city's central plaza.

We gave ourselves a high five as we were exactly where we had planned on foot, a beautiful pedestrian street called Baquedano. A walking street lined with shades of pastel-coloured colonial-era buildings, now all operating as bars, cafes and restaurants. The first cafe we spotted we were in to order our morning coffee to continue our stroll through the beautiful street. The coffee was delicious, too! I think it was 4000 pesos, so USD 2 each. We made sure to withdraw local currency via an ATM in Arica to make life easier, although cards were accepted in most places.

We loved our morning walk; the weather was just below 20, so perfect; we enjoyed a sensational coffee and the coastal views as we reached the beaches.

Making our way back up Baquedano, we were hoping to visit a local barber; the last tidy-up was in Canada, so he looked a little shabby; he was closed. We had put our sights on a funky bar below the barber earlier, so it was now mojito time instead; I am sure it was noon somewhere!

We chatted away with our friendly bartender from Bolivia, listening intently to his inspiring story; his family immigrated to England and of nine children, they provided the youngest three the opportunity to study for ten years; now, he has returned and is in Chile studying Electrical engineering. We loved chatting and picking up the must-visit places when we made our way to Bolivia. We also enjoyed being in the moment and watching the local life.

Our onboard time was approaching, so we wandered back through the local markets to be shuttled back to the ship.

We arrived in time for a Lindstrom lunch for a scenic sail away as we left Iquique.

A special afternoon tea followed lunch with the Pole-to-Pole guests in Lindstrom. We were treated to a delicious array of savoury and sweet snacks, including a Hungarian-style crepe smothered with chocolate; who could say no?

After devouring all that delicious food, it was time to rest and enjoy an afternoon nap.

Day 73 - At Sea, Chilean Coast

Today was a relaxing day at sea, soaking up the last of the sun for a while, enjoying the views, dining, and playing the odd joke on our fellow passengers.

We overheard our fellow passenger Iain order sorbet of the day. We took this as the perfect opportunity to play a joke.

We quickly got the troops together, the lovely staff and asked them to play along. We decided on Salmon Sorbet, as it was a dish this evening. So they organised a little slice of cooked salmon on top of a scoop and innocently served to Iain with the commentary 'Sorbet of the day is Salmon' and placed the bowl before him.

Iain's expression was priceless, followed by a swift turn in our direction, and we were all in fits of laughter.

Thanks to the crew for playing along and Iain for being such a good sport; he even devoured the 'Salmon sorbet of the day'. Thank you, Iain.

It brightened everyone's day and filled us with laughter, especially with you devouring it; maybe it's your new favourite?

Day 74 - Coquimbo & La Serena, Chile

Welcome to our third destination in Chile, bordered by the Atacama to the north, Valparaíso to the South, Argentina to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is approximately 400 kilometres north of the national capital, Santiago.

We opted for the city highlights of Coquimbo and La Serena, a colonial city, so we went off the waiting tour bus to explore the highlights of both. The locals commonly refer to Coquimbo city as a city of calm and tranquil waters—pics through rose-coloured glasses (our bus had a pink tinge to the tinted windows).

Our first stop was overlooking the ocean for pictures of the beach, meeting local dogs and the immense wildflowers, and continuing to horseshoe bay and the coastline as we migrated into La Serena. It was an active ocean with waves becoming more prominent as we toured the road, a segment of Route 5, the longest highway of 48000km, taking you from the end of the world in Chile to Alaska.