Well, on the off-chance you find yourself in this bustling mining town at the northern end of Chile make sure you bring your Spanish phrase book. This town is on the edge of the Atacama desert and has until recent times thrived from nitrate mining. More recently it's copper mining activities have ameliorated it's fortunes. So much so that Holiday Inn, McDonalds and Domino's have arrived. Not that I could afford to visit the last two franchises, not with my waistline! I arrived at this Holiday Inn during a transition phase I presume. The builders were in and there was brick-dust everywhere. And the screaming drills seemed to wait until both me and the receptionist opened our mouths to talk. Eventually I checked in and asked where I could eat healthy food. They told me onsite they had a food shop or I could visit the myriad of local restaurants that have sprung up to serve the transient business community of mining industry people. It's not a tourist town, nor is this a tourist hotel but it is a winning format for an easy decision about where to stay. You know Holiday Inn and this one, albeit a work in progress, was not really different. The building work was to improve the hotel with a spa and pool area so maybe next time I visit there will be less drilling and hammering and more splashing? I opened the door of my room to be happily unsurprised that this met all my expectations. I also got a sea view (see photos). The local road noise was light during the early evening and certainly not a problem to me as a weary traveller, once I shut the window and switched on the air-con. A lovely shower (be quick as you are in a desert) and I was ready to eat. Downstairs I was pleasantly surprised to hear silence. The builders were told to stop at 6pm. I ordered a salad from the limited food available, some fresh fruit some bottled water and in celebration of my first visit to Chile a stubbie of the local beer. It was fantastically fresh and really tasty. The vegetables in my salad literally danced across my tastebuds with a wholesome quality I have not exerienced before. After a quick log-into the wi-fi and update of my messages and emails I slept like a log.
I arose, refreshed and determined to take my first swim in the Pacific. So I got ready quickly and drew the curtains to a murky gloom which kind of took me by surprise. I waited, but it never got brighter. Neither could I face a breakfast, the jet lag was kicking in. It did however get warmer, so I went on the "promenade" and found my way to the waters edge. There was a funny smell in this area and the seawater looked less fresh and natural than the froth from a sewage outlet - so as my mind raced over the various diseases I might catch from immersing myself I decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and I merely got in up to my knees. Job done - sort of. The hotel had a late check out facility (for a fee) if you had a late flight and wanted to hang about. And the staff were polite and "normal". All in all I would say I was unsurprised by the reliability, normality and efficiency I encountered. Even on the edge of a desert - Holiday Inn do it again! Well done chaps and thanks for a great one night stay.