I woke up and pulled back the curtains of my hotel window and saw massive waves rolling in and pounding the beach. It was an impressive sight. They were waves that reminded me of the ones I had seen on my visits to Hawaii. I tried to open the windows but they are sealed shut. I jumped in the shower, got dressed and headed to the beach, a block away.
Swimming was banned. Boating activity curtailed. A surfing competition postponed.
Iquique is home to extreme water sports, but the extreme weather kept aficionados on land. Many of them, young and tanned men and women, just sat on the shore and gazed at the ocean, looking bored.
Surfers who jumped at the chance to “hang ten” were under strict orders to use jet skies to get out to the waves. Paddling out was an exercise in futility and dangerous, one lifeguard told me. Lifeguards were on duty to warn surfers – the only ones daring enough to venture in – to be cautious. Flooding was reported in several cities along the coast, including minor street flooding in Iquique. Residents flocked to the beach with cameras to record the huge waves. And for most of the day, the sky remained gray, though there wasn’t a drop of rain.
I spent the day walking on the beach, then headed inland to the center of town. Walked the length of Baquedano Boulevard, a pedestrian-only street lined with colorful colonial houses now occupied by businesses that include restaurants, gift shops, language schools, museums and tour agencies. Then I headed to the port, where fishing boats were firmly anchored. The rough seas were expected to last through Sunday, although the lifeguards said they had noticed a gradual calming. Good. I just might get my beach time in after all.