Today’s call in Arica – Chile’s most northern town – was termed a “Technical Stop”, basically we weren’t getting off here, but instead a team of Chilean testers came onboard to do PCR tests on the entire crew and passengers onboard the Silver Whisper.
So, we were left with a tantalising view of this town on the edge of the barren Atacama desert. In the port around us, there was a strong smell of fish, and the harbour was busy with fishing boats, while the enormous amounts of seabirds dive-bombing its waters, showed you that this stretch of coastline is also rich in sealife.
Immediately in front of us was the huge wedge-shaped hill of El Morro, topped by what’s the largest flag in Chile. That flag’s so large because this was once a battlefield, when Chile annexed the town from Peru in the War of the Pacific in 1879.
When you’re looking at the beige landscapes of the lifeless desert behind the town, you may be wondering why anyone would dispute ownership of this land – but, of course, the Atacama is rich in the minerals that have brought Chile so much wealth in the last 150 years.
It would have been nice to get off the ship to discover more, but our view from the ship showed us the most important points of Arica’s story – a border town that’s grown quickly based on fishing, on historic battle sites, and on the bounties of the Atacama Desert.