Friday, July 25th 2003 – Day 157

Friday, July 25th 2003 – Day 157

I thought we would be arriving earlier, but we arrived in Iquique, Chile at 4.30am in the morning. Iquique is Capital of the region. But is a port and mining centre. It gets little to no rain.

Located to 1,845 kilometers to the north of Santiago, it is sand and desert with no greenery.

The temperature of the water fluctuates between the 19.49 Cs in summer and 15.6 Cs in winter, whereas the environmental temperature is of 25 Cs average.

Anyway, I wondered what to do this early. A few other passengers had the same idea so we asked to stay on the bus. No problem, so about half of the passengers slept on the bus until 7.30am. Great. I then went to the Tur Bus terminal. When I am sleepy like this, I find it hard to make up my mind on the next destination. It took me 40 minutes to decide on La serena which is a 17 hour bus journey (this after my 15 bus journey I had just left). Tur-bus have a good reputation on comfort but are not cheap. The ticket was 13,800 CP (12 EURO).

After that I walked to the port area. There were some nice colonial houses but when you see lads playing 3-card trick at 8.00am in the morning, you know you are in a port city. There were alot of shady characters here as well. Just as you enter the port (the biggest exporter of fish meal IN THE WORLD), was a tiny beach with sea lions. Before South America I thought these exotic creatures, but these were situated just two minutes from the city centre. I was standing two metres from them. They are lazy (but massive) creatures and I enjoyed watching them. I walked around for an hour and went on the NET for an hour (500 Cp – .60 EURO). I had breakfast in the local Mercado which was great as it is the first time I have had beef for months. It was a great big beef burger with all the trimmings and black coffee. I felt great after it.

There is little to see in the town and its pretty ugly. Iquique is a major destination for Chilean travelers because of the Zona Franca (Free Zone). It is the country’s biggest duty-free shopping center. There are beaches south of town (with a new Casino), year-round beach weather, Georgian architecture, and a laid-back (a lot of unemployment) atmosphere.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile (25-07-2003)

I decided to hitch to Humberstone as all the tours would have left early this morning. You walk to the main road (Ruta 16) just 20 minutes from the city centre. I took a left by mistake and went towards the trade free zone which I recognized. I turned back the other way. I got a lift nearly straight away from a woman who was driving a truck (gas bottles). She chain smoked the 1 hour drive to Humerstone but I enjoyed it as many people were driving quads and paragliding.

Humberstone is an abandoned nitrate town (closed 1956), east of Iquique, Chile. The admission was 1,000 CP (1.23 Euro).

“Let us imagine a city, artificially constructed in the middle of nowhere. People are brought in from thousands of miles away to live and work in this simulated “City.” Each family is provided with a “House,” all of which are neatly arranged in rows. The men work twelve-hour days of hard labor, while the women take care of the house, go to the “Market” and prepare their family’s meals. The children walk to the centrally-located “School” and then play at the “Playground” or swim at the “Pool.” The workers are paid, not in cash, but with vouchers that they can use to buy food, clothes and “amenities.”

Humberstone does not possess an air of death; it was not the site of a giant massacre or a deadly epidemic. Actually, once the owners learned that a chemical substitute for saltpeter had been discovered, they closed the mine immediately, literally flipping the switch, walking away from the city, leaving it as it was. Thus ended the “White Golden Age” industrial boom of northern Chile, forcing thousands of families to flee their desert city in search of new lives. Today, strolling the streets, it almost looks like just a quiet Sunday; the doors of the theater are open, the market stalls are empty and the noise of the mine has ceased.

For eighty-eight years, in this very spot, people were eating, crying, singing, making love, drinking and dying every day and for that reason, it is hallowed ground”. Taken from here.

This was great. I had the whole town to myself. It was quit and pretty amazing as I visited the church, theatre, hospital, school which are intact and time warped.

This is translated.

“The operation of the saltpeter – sodium nitrate or nitrogenates began per 1810. Its first use was like explosive, and its first market, Peru. Little later their fertilizing properties were discovered. In 1830, and to be used as installment in agriculture, the first boardings to Europe and the United States were made. As of that year, its demand grew of explosive way. The only zone of production was the Pampas that extend from the zone of Tarapac? to Antofagasta by the south. She filled with European, Chilean and Peruvian investors, and of labor contingent of these last nationalities. The difficulties caused by the strong Chilean presence in a territory that was under the Peruvian and Bolivian sovereignty, and the magnitude of the interests in game, caused the call War of the Pacific (1789-1884), by virtue of which the region was incorporated to the Chilean territory.

The saltpeter was a fundamental element for the development of agriculture at world-wide level. It was, also, a crucial activity for the economic, social and political development of Chile. Around this activity, made in desert solitudes, it was developed a productive system and a unique form of life, characterized by the creativity, the tenacity and the effort.

The Office Salitrera Humberstone, call originally the Palm, was constructed in 1872 by the Peruvian Nitrate Company. Per 1889 it constituted one of the greatest salitreras of Tarapac?. The Great Depression caused the paralyzation of the tasks of the establishment, that were started again per 1933, once the Office happened to be property of the Company Salitrera de Tarapac? and Antofagasta. To the reopened being it was red-baptize like Office Santiago Humberstone, in honor of the English chemical engineer who adapted to the industry of nitrate the called system of elaboration Schanks.

Between 1933 and 1940 Humberstone reached its maximum development, arriving to lodge a population of 3700 inhabitants. 1958 the Company Salitrera de Tarapac? and Antofagasta entered an acute crisis and finished dissolving; Humberstone was closed definitively. The office, along with the others of the call Nebraska Group – Santa Laura, Nebraska, Small Rock, Keryma- was auctioned in 1962, adjudging to its property an individual.

The Salitrera Office Santa Laura was constructed in 1872, by the company Barra and Riesco, adjudging it to it in 1897 the company Foelsch and Martin. In 1913 the office paralyzed its activities, resuming them in 1915, after replacing the old machineries by others, of Shanks system, that improved the productivity. In 1920 450 inhabitants lived in Santa Laura. The office paralyzed for the Great Depression, being acquired by the Company Salitrera de Tarapac? and Antofagasta, sharing the destiny of Humberstone.

As much Humberstone as Santa Laura operated with the Schanks system of processing of the saltpeter. The process began with the pebble in a brick extraction to opened edge, of the deposits of Pampas. The mineral one was transported to the crushed milling and in chancadoras. Soon it happened to “the cachuchos” calls, iron pools with inner coils, warmed up with steam of boilers. In them the dissolution of the pebble in a brick took place – leaching -. the obtained solution, saturated of sodium nitrate, was clarify in “chulladores” called iron pools, where the flock was deposited by movement. The resulting broth was pumped to crystallization trays, obtaining itself the s?dico saltpeter; a new crystallization gives rise to the potassium saltpeter. The product that did not crystallize was used in the elaboration of other salts, such as iodine, borax, etc. The material that was left after the leaching – debris was lead in cars to the call “cake” of debris.

Santa Laura still conserves the own industrial structures of a salitrera office Schanks. It is the milling, of stone, Oregon pine and zinc, in whose interior three chancadoras subsist. It is also the great structure of pillars and beams of Oregon pine, that contains the cachuchos or pools of leaching, and a high chimney, of 40 meters of stop and 1 of diameter, in good state of conservation. It is the installation characteristic of Santa Laura, and constitutes a landmark within the barren landscape of Pampas. The call “Iodine House” conserves part of the used implementos to process this element. They are also still on a building that lodged offices, seven constructions corresponding to arsenal and factories, and the enormous cake of debris, that occupies an approximated surface of 300,000 square meters. Rest of the iron routes are conserved that united to each other to Santa Laura and Humberstone, and with the network of the salitrero railroad.

The camping of Santa Laura practically is dismantled, still on being left part of the school and a small sector of houses. Vestiges of the seat and sport fields are conserved. The House of the Administration is also conserved, with a contiguous park.

In Humberstone, although the industrial sector of the establishment has been dismantled and presents/displays a great deterioration, the urban part of the office gives account of the form of life of salitrera Pampas, and their planning and design reflect the concepts developed in the architectonic movements of the Industrial Revolution.

It is possible at the moment to appreciate the social, commercial and public center of the office, with the chapel – recovered -, the commercial center with his white arcade, the magnificent theater constructed in wood, the hotel and the social club, the great swimming pool with grader?as, the school, and the seat. He is interesting to add that these buildings count on good part of their alhajamiento: the theater conserves its armchairs, the commerce has its counter and bookcases, the hotel exhibits its great iron kitchen, etc.

Of extreme interest it is the House of Administration of the establishment, constructed in 1883. This building is characteristic of the English salitreras and only they are left still on two of its type: this one and the one of the office Iris. To the entrance of Humberstone it is the residential sector of the workers and employees. Although its state of conservation is not the ideal, the set, constructed in marinates and partitions and arranged in grid, are an excellent example of the pampino camping. The enormous cake of debris of the office complements these constructions, that evokes the great wealth that produced the work of his made an effort inhabitants.”

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone – Steel swimming pool (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone (25-07-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Iquique – Chile – Humberstone (25-07-2003)

I visited both towns – Humberstone and Santa Laura. The official website is pretty good too. It was nealy five pm when I decided to hitch back from Ruta 16. I got a lift within 10 minutes. They said they would leave me off before Iquique but I thought on the main road. After a while (man and wife), the couple took a side road. This is what I hate about hitching. I had no idea where they were going as they drove up and down mountains with no traffic and unpaved. We chatted though and they were cool. They left me off on a side road overlooking Iquique. Damn, I could see the city miles below on the coast but it was a 2 hour trek at least. Luckily a car came by and again I got a lift. From travelers, it seems Chile is the easiest country in the world to hitch because towns are so remote here and the weather so extreme that its a rule not to collect hitchers. Anyway, he was a young lad and was good craic. He drove me back to the roundabout to the town and I walked back in. I got dinner at the same place as breakfast.

More beef – a Chilean favorite called Lomo Pobre. Its a simple beef, 2 fried eggs and chips. Big portions. All for 3,500 CP (4.30 Euro). I had time for a beer in a spit and saw dust pub (600 Cp for a 500 Ml bottle, they all drink Crystal beer here), before catching a bus at 8.00pm for La Serena.