Day 17 |
Oct 29, 2010


By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: S 29º 56.953’, W 071º 20.086’
Weather: Sunny with slight cool winds
Air Temperature: 20ºC

Today we were arriving into Coquimbo – a bustling port city and the capital of the Elqui Province. Coming into our berth was very scenic – Coquimbo is located inside a quaint little natural harbour with a backdrop of stark mountains. The protected harbour is why Coquimbo got its name – from a native word meaning "place of calm waters".

Our tour today took us from the port to the resort towns of La Herradura and La Serena. To get there, we followed the straight coastline. We drove past the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), which is surrounded by buildings of colonial architecture, and onto the seaside resort of La Herradura where we stopped for a scenic photo stop. En route, our guide was a local university student, and she told us all about life in Coquimbo and the history of the area.

Our second stop was at the white sand beaches of La Serena, where the iconic lighthouse monument is located. The seashore was beautiful, and many of us took off our shoes and wandered down to wade in the shallows. The beach was strewn with bright white shells, and of course I had a great time picking them up and telling our guests all about them. I’m always one to find something of marine biology to talk about!!!

The bus then dropped us off at the main square so that we could walk the seven blocks to the Archeological Museum, with its collection of Diaguita and Molle cultural artefacts. It even has an original Moai from Easter Island!

After the tour of the museum we spent a short time exploring a local handicraft market and bought up a few Christmas presents to take home! There was a lot to look through – ranging from Alpaca wool scarves, sweaters, gloves and shawls, to beautiful hand-crafted silver jewelry made with lapis lazuli, malachite, red coral and other local semi-precious gems.

Our final stop of the day was high on the hill overlooking the town at the La Serena University. The vista was really beautiful, and we took turns taking photographs of one another with the city and mountains as a backdrop.

But, for me, the best part of the day was yet to come – after arriving back in the port, I led a guided tour of the local fish market nearby to the port. This is an amazing market – one of my favourite anywhere in the world. I have never seen a market with so many odd and wonderful products. There were barnacles, clams of every shape and size, sailfish, congo eels, huge flounder, chitons and snails.

The weirdest of all were the tunicates (sea squirts) – these animals form huge colonies attached to rocks. When prepared, they look like wilted small tomatoes – bright red and gooey soft. But let me tell you – they DO NOT taste like tomatoes. One of the stall owners was telling how fresh and good they were, and invited me to taste one raw (they eat a lot of the marine food here raw), so not being one to refuse to try something at least once in my life, I slurped one of these down – YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!! It has got t be the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten – and I have tried A LOT of weird foods. I could not wait to get back on board the Prince Albert II for lunch!!

During lunch we left Coquimbo and sailed to our final port for disembarkation. The scenery leaving the harbour was very nice – with all the local fishing boats at anchor. The Captain had warned us that we were heading into some rough seas, and sure enough as soon as we left the protection of the harbour we started to list and rock-n-roll.

The afternoon on board was busy with packing, as tomorrow the guests are all getting off, and so am I – time for my vacation. (But I will be back onboard this special little ship again in January.) For the grand finale, we all met up in the Theatre for Lu Davidson’s (our photographer) viewing of the video she has been making of the journey. She is such a good videographer and photographer, and looking back at the places we had been, we realized how really wonderful this journey had been.