This port is at the so called “waist” of Chile, the narrowest part of the country between the ocean and the Andes. Coquimbo is next to the larger city of La Serena and both are popular tourist centres due to their white sand beaches and pleasant climate.
While we waited (literally) hours for the shuttle to take us into La Serena, we walked over to a bustling market. A large area offered a multitude of goods (including swords that looked like they were taken right from some poor swordfish) and, further on, a crowded fish market with small restaurants above up rickety stairs. It was here that I wished that my gut was not quite so sensitive because I would have loved to try one of the huge variety of ceviche dishes on offer beside whole fresh fish.
Once in La Serena, we wandered down a busy shopping street to the main square, Plaza de Armas which was teeming with families enjoying the small market stalls, sketch artists and snack kiosks. The recommended museum, the former home of ex-President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, was a peaceful respite which included not only photos and memorabelia from his time in office, but also local art indicative of the area. Videla was president in the late 50s to early 60s and helped draft the country’s current constitution.
The broad avenue on one side of the square is significant for the marble statues all along the centre Boulevard. They are copies of famous nude Greek statues, donated to the city by Italy. Locals have dubbed it the “Park of the Bare Behinds”.
We drove close to the ocean between Coquimbo and La Serena through a large, relatively barren area scattered with just a few tall apartment buildings. The first few floors of each of these buildings were boarded up. It was a bit of a puzzle until the guide informed us that there had been a tsunami just five months previously. Earthquakes and tsunamis are so common in this region that they are just an accepted part of life.
Just before leaving the port our ship was “attacked” by a pirate ship laden with local tourists. Captain Hook threatened us in Spanish over a loudspeaker and his crew or captives (not sure which) waived and shouted “hola”!