Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tuesday through Thursday in Iquique: Stories from A to Z

 The next morning, Tuesday, I followed the same routine, finding it easy now to walk directly to the sandy beach and boardwalk. The sky was overcast, not sunny and blue as in Coquimbo, making it too chilly to sit for long. The waves were good for surfing, and I saw young men and boys out there with their surfboards. I spent a couple hours sightseeing around the park and beach area then returned to the hotel to work through the afternoon.

When I got hungry, I ate bananas, peanut butter and mixed nuts which makes a filling meal. In the evening, I watched Netflix until I was tired enough to sleep. 

Wednesday Forrest texted me that he wouldn’t arrive until that night, so could I go buy our bus tickets for Thursday morning to Arica. We would spend the night in Arica and on Friday, cross the border to Peru. 

Before heading to the beach that day, I walked to the bus depot and bought our tickets. That done, and with the prospect of Forrest arriving tonight, I decided to celebrate somehow.

 As I walked the now familiar route to the beach area, I wondered about stopping at one of the many restaurants along the promenade. They all seemed too social with crowds of people gathering to enjoy dining with friends. That would make me feel lonely and sad, sitting alone and friendless. I looked for something smaller and less social. 

Fast pass on the Hell Cafe

I ended up going into an ice cream shop across from the ocean, where I could sit at a table by the window and watch the surfers. It was delicious ice cream and so inexpensive compared to what this quality would have cost in the US. 

Today marked our second full week in Chile, having flown into Santiago two weeks ago. It felt like much longer since we had seen so much of the country. My stay in Iquique felt the longest of all. 

The ice cream did not satisfy as a mid-day meal, and I didn’t want more bananas and peanut butter. I noticed a place near the boardwalk that had tables outside and not many customers. I sat at a table and ordered a mixto fajita and a cheese empanada. Turns out in Chile mixto means hot dogs apparently. My “fajita” was cut up hot dogs in a slightly grilled tortilla. It was barely edible and the empanada not much better. No wonder there were no customers. 

I had crossed a barrier and gone out to eat by myself. I didn’t enjoy anything about it.

Forrest arrived that night around nine, came into the room and said, “This hotel stinks! How did you stand it for so long?” 

“It’s not just the hotel. The whole town smells like this. I have no idea why."

“It smells like a cheap, dirty apartment.” 

“I know.  It’s not an ocean or fishing smell, and it’s the whole town! At least this section of it. Sleep in your bag, Forrest, not on the sheets. The guy said they were clean but I don’t believe him. And there's been no housekeeping in my room despite being out hours every day. I never let the bedding touch my body. I even pull my hood up so I’m not touching the pillow.” 

“Why didn’t you change hotels like you thought of doing?” 

“Oh, I don’t know. I had already paid and didn’t want to bother.”

 Forrest laid his sleeping bag on top of his bed and crawled inside. “How’s the WiFi?” 

“Not bad.” I gave him the three passwords for the three different floors. “Sign into all of them. If one doesn’t work, another one usually will.” 

I went right to sleep, feeling happy to have my son again and knowing tomorrow we were leaving Iquique. 

In the morning, Forrest left to wander around town. I had my usual morning routine of writing to get my head on straight for the day. I took a long shower since this was one of the best ones we had so far, with water hot enough even for me. I packed my things and worked on my computer until it was time to go. 

Forrest came back and said, “The bus depot is close enough we can walk.” 

I wasn’t interested. “I’ve walked enough in this town. Let’s just get an Uber. It won’t cost much since it’s only a few blocks.” I couldn’t wait to get on the bus and drive away from Iquique.

 “It could just be this neighborhood,” Forrest said. “I’ve been propositioned twice already. Once last night and this morning in broad daylight.” 

“You’re not the only one! Some aging prostitute approached me the other evening around six on my way back to the hotel. You can see why I want out and to just get an Uber.” 

“Fair enough.” He picked up his cell phone and put in the order. 

Once on the bus and out of town, I felt such a sense of relief. “That city bothered me, Forrest. It didn’t have a good feeling about it. I’m glad to leave.” 

“In retrospect, you should have just gone to Arica the next day when you realized how sketchy the place was. We could have met there. It really didn’t make sense for me to backtrack and meet you in Iquique.” 

“I wish we’d have thought of that, except I already paid in cash and I don't think he would have refunded me anything."

"Yeah, there's that."

"Forrest, you want to hear something weird? Up and down the promenade near the beach area, I kept seeing middle-aged men with adolescent boys that didn’t look like father-son relationships. One or two I wouldn’t have remarked on, thinking oh it’s his dad who he never sees who came to town to take him out shopping, buying him these new shoes he's so excited about or taking him out to lunch. At first, that’s what I thought. But I saw this whenever I went out. There couldn’t be that many rich, divorced dads coming to town to spend time with the fourteen-year-old son he never sees and buying him stuff.” 

Promenade and park, Iquique

“That is weird,” Forrest agreed. 

“I wonder if Iquique is a center for sex trafficking, or at least that part of it. Anyway, I don’t want to think anymore about it. Tell me about your time in the Atacama Desert.” 

“I was able to get into a nice hostel full of Europeans. How the heck do they know so many languages? Most of them are fluent in four or five. Their native language, English of course, then usually Spanish, French and or Italian. It’s sickening. They’re required to take English classes in school from like first grade up, then they learn these other languages as they go.”  

“I would love to be multi-lingual like that. I took so much French in college and really took to it, but what good does it do if you’re not traveling to the country? I’ve forgotten most of it. I can barely even speak Spanish anymore. Since Dad died, it's like my brain stopped working.” 

“You could travel all over the world, Mom, and learn other languages. It would come back to you.” 

“I’d like to! I want to go to Egypt while my editor still lives there. Want to go to Egypt with me, Forrest?” 

“That would be cool, but once I graduate, I have to get an internship then find a job. This trip is my time off from being responsible.”


  1. What a relief to leave that unpleasant town.

  2. It's more than Cafe Hell, the whole town seems like it should have been named thus.

  3. Wow. Some places are best no revisited, right? :-)

  4. Yikes! Glad you weren't there very long. Egypt sounds intriguing........

  5. I rather hope nobody from Iquique ever visits my blog posts trashing their city. To be fair, I was in this one area that perhaps wasn't so good.

    1. I think I need to go somewhere- even your smelly trip intrigues me🥰

  6. That was quite the trip. I hate traveling and have never been outside the US and don't plan on going anywhere but here now. I don't mind traveling vicariously through all the people who love it and post pictures of their travels.

  7. Do you ever eat Mejool dates with peanut butter and apples? Oh my gosh, I love that combo. I also bananas with those as well. Cut up hot dogs. Oh boy.

    1. I like peanut butter with apples even more than with bananas, but I've never tried them with dates. I do love to eat dates with walnuts.

  8. Travel is full of adventures but you could have done without this stop. I had to look up Iquique - travel sites seemed to have positive things to say but - yuck.

    1. Alana, There were pretty areas near the beach but overall the place felt off to me.


Comments are welcome!