Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Regretting Iquique: Stories from A to Z

On Monday at noon, I checked out of the Antofagasta hotel and got a cab to the bus depot. This would be my first time doing a bus trip alone, without either Bruce or Forrest. I felt anxious and nervous until I got settled on the nice, luxurious bus. It was five hours to Iquique.

My anxious face

Passing through a small town along the way

So much of that route is desert

Halfway through the trip, the porter brought a box dinner for each passenger. It was grilled chicken breast, tender and well-seasoned, on rice with a roll and a little cup of jello. 

When we arrived at the Iquique bus depot, cabs waited outside. I approached one and showed him the address of my hotel. It was only a few blocks away. 

When the driver pulled up, he said, “This isn’t a very good neighborhood. Be careful.” That set me right off worrying. 

In the narrow, cluttered lobby, I felt even more uncomfortable. The place gave off sleazy vibes, and the desk attendant questioned my reservation. I showed him the email on my phone, and he turned away to climb the stairs behind the front desk. 

He was gone awhile. Shortly after he left, a thirty-something man came downstairs followed by a woman. They looked irritated as they passed by on their way out the front door. Later, I realized they were probably in the double room I had reserved, and the hotel attendant had made them leave. 

When the attendant returned, he asked how many nights I wanted. Although I had booked it for four nights, I hesitated, thinking maybe I should only book tonight. But I was here and didn’t want to go searching tomorrow for another place, I didn’t know the city and felt alone and lacking in courage, deserted by my typical spirit of adventure and confidence. I had already stood there waiting for thirty minutes on my feet and was sick of the whole business.

“Four,” I said and paid with cash, since I didn’t want to hand over a credit card. The guy beckoned for me to follow as he carried my luggage upstairs. 

My room had that same feeling of discomfort and uncleanliness, and I wasn’t convinced the bedding had been changed. I asked him for two clean towels and if the sheets were clean. He said yes, but I didn’t believe him. The bed was made poorly, and the sheets and blankets were thin and worn. 

That first night, I slept on top of the bedding fully dressed in my leggings and sweatshirt, using my long, hooded sweater as a blanket. I barely slept, feeling vulnerable and hating this place with its foul smell. I thought about checking out tomorrow but had already paid. This was the first night, Forrest was arriving tomorrow, then only two more after that. 

I saw a text from Forrest on WhatsApp. He was at the Atacama Desert but had been unable to see the Planetarium since he didn’t have an appointment and they were already booked up. He also had not been able to find a couch-surfing situation but had gotten into a nice hostel. 

I was happy and relieved to hear from my son and exchange a few texts. The night sky alone was worth the trip, he texted. He was getting so much Spanish practice. A lot of Europeans were at the hostel. He's jealous of how they all speak so many languages. He wasn't coming tomorrow after all but the next day.

After that, although disappointed that I wouldn't see Forrest as soon as expected, I didn't feel as alone at this sketchy hotel. When he left Atacama, he was coming to Iquique, and we'd head for the border. 

Everything would be better once Forrest arrived.


  1. I honestly feel like taking (another) shower after reading about your hotel.
    But, yes, if kiddos knew how much their communication fortifies us maybe they's do it more often.

  2. How unpleasant for you. It's horrible to think that things are not really clean.

  3. Another well-told story! We stayed in a hotel one night that was crappy. The next night we went elsewhere though this was not the same as the area you're in. This was easy to switch. Sounds like you're in for a fun time with your son. Here's to new adventures!

  4. So brave on going it alone even for a single night! On one trip with friends (another female and one male), we were turned away at one hotel even though they had vacant marked on the sign. And the hotel we were able to get into - the bathroom door had been clearly broken open and the sheets were short sheeted (I was the tallest, the other two didn't know until I said so and they lifted the sheets and discovered they didn't go the the end of the mattress). We slept with a chair under the door and the male insisted on taking the bed position closest to the door. Fun times. Thank you for that memory. (The two were some of my best friends ever.)

    1. Erin, great memories, right? Hotel stories like this are probably why airbnb is so popular.

  5. You are so brave! And surely this hotel experience was character building!

  6. Oh my goodness you are brave!! I can't imagine doing anything like this alone! You always have been a trail blazer!

  7. Wow. You are definitely brave. I might've been once, but those days are long gone. I would've surfing the net for a safer place to stay. I do know what it's like to sleep in your close all night on top of the blankets. I had a stay like that once, after I'd heard the rumor that the very hotel I was staying in was a tourist spot because it was said to be haunted. Then a few humorist gals went into detail on the personality of the male ghost that might be visiting us. I was with my husband, and he got a good nights sleep. I, on the other hand, did not close my eyes once. :-|

    1. Debi, I've never stayed anywhere with a ghost or a rumored ghost. My fears are always about real life people who might prove dangerous. I don't know if I'd be afraid of a paranormal situation or not.

  8. I got the creeps reading about that hotel. Brrr, and you were all by yourself. I hope things improved when Forrest arrived and that he didn't have a further delay.


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