When I researched things to do in Iquique, one super touristy thing stuck out: a boat ride around the harbor. I’ve seen these tours offered in Valparaíso but never succumbed, always assuming they would be relatively uninteresting and uncomfortable. But something about being farther from home and feeling more like I was officially on vacation made me want to give it a try.
So we wandered down to the Muelle de Pasajeros, the passenger pier built in the early 1900s. On our way, we passed a little fish market. We weren’t buying, but the sea lions were lined up on the rocks waiting for any scraps they could snatch up.
The customs house, with its monument to the famous heroes of the Battle of Iquique, stands in contrast to the old-fashioned pier next door. The Battle of Iquique was part of the War of the Pacific, the war which took place between Chile on one side and Peru and Bolivia on the other. By winning this war, Chile won all of the territory from just south of Antofagasta to the current borders with Peru and Bolivia. It’s still something of a sore subject with the losers, especially Bolivia which is now landlocked.
But back to the present day. In which…I’m on a boat! With a mostly toothless man as my tour guide speaking a mile a minute – clearly our new friend Francisco has his speech memorized and gives it verbatim to every group of tourists, but not for that was he any less interesting.
Most of the ships near the Muelle de Pasajeros are charmingly run-down and colorful. But on the other side of the bay, it’s all seriousness with the line-up of active naval ships.
I include the following horrible picture to justify the fact that by the end of our hour-long ride, I was feeling ever so slightly sea sick. These boats looked great in person, but going over the waves as we headed out of the bay had us rocking enough that my little camera just couldn’t do them justice. Also featured in some of these photos: a spot from a drop of water. I’m basically a professional photographer, obviously.
We turned around at this buoy, which marks the spot that the Chilean corvette Esmeralda sank. If you just learned that corvette is a kind of ship and not just a sports car, you’re not alone. I only found that out in Iquique.
Anyway, despite winning the War of the Pacific, Chile only tied the Battle of Iquique. One of their ships grounded a Peruvian ship, but the Esmeralda went down. Yet for some reason this battle is super famous and a source of national pride. Whatever. Either way, the Esmeralda is important enough to get a buoy marking where it sank and a life-sized replica on the shore.
I was more excited by something in the water around the buoy: jellies! They were everywhere, but I still found each one exciting. They were less exciting the next day when I was in the water at the beach with them sure they were deathly poisonous (they aren’t) and going to sting me, but from the safety of the boat, I enjoyed them.
Our creature sightings didn’t end there, as the last spot we passed before returning to the pier was an outcropping home to millions of sea lions and pelicans. Millions is only a slight exaggeration.
It was hardly a luxury cruise, but I enjoyed my silly little boat ride. Part history lesson, part sightseeing tour, part plain old enjoying the fresh sea air, our Iquique boat tour was well worth $6 each.
Have you ever done a tour like this anywhere? Was it cheesy or enjoyable? Or perhaps both cheesy and enjoyable?