27 October, 2012

Day 112, 360km: To Antofagasta

After these three days in San Pedro de Antofagasta, I decided to move to another city to wait the next 3 days before my scheduled visit of the European Large Telescope. That would be an easy ride towards Antofagasta.

The road wasn't very exciting. Flat, trucks, wind.
 The road was punctuated by mining sites, some of which could be partially seen from the road.

First time I see mining advertising along a road
It seems to be a really enormous industry here. Hundreds of trucks and pickup trucks on the road. A road lined with advertising for mining, piping, drilling fluids and whatnot.

Eventually reached Antofagasta
Reaching Antofagasta, I was glad to see a relatively big city and thought that there wouldn't be any problem to find a hotel there. Oh boy was I wrong.
The first 5 (yes, 5) hotels I tried were all full for the next 3 days. Next, I went to an Ibis hotel I spotted along the way, thinking they'd give me a room because I'm French or something. (Ibis belongs to Accor, a french hotel group.)

The kind of reading you find in hotel lobbies in Antofagasta

Well, full. They did give me a list of the city's hotels though. I tried 3 more hotels on their list. All full. At that point I was starting to loose patience and concluded that driving to every hotel one by one wouldn't be a viable solution. I headed for the biggest, most expensive hotel in town with the intention of getting some assistance.
The staff there (Hotel Antofagasta IIRC) were very kind and helpful. The hotel was full of course, which wasn't really an issue considering the prices of the rooms there.
But they helped me with my hotel list and called one by one the 30-something hotels to inquire on rooms on my behalf. Really nice.

Now what is amazing is that ALL hotels on the list given to me at Ibis hotel were full. Seriously. Now of course it took them sometime to call every single hotel on the list so there was quite a crowd around me in the hotel lobby by the time they were done. The hotel's bellboy chimed in and explained there was another hotel not on the list.

My hopes were high! The front desk called them and ... suspense ... they had rooms! Great!
By that point I learned that there was a major mining related seminar being held in the city, so that's why all the hotels were full. Now considering this fact I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about the only hotel that would have room available. It was probably the shittiest, then.

Well it was. I was given the option to rent the room by the hour though, great flexibility. I denied and went back driving in the city. I figured that since it was close to 7pm by that point, some hotels might have had cancellations. So I drove back to the motherland, France, Ibis hotel.

The front desk was visibly surprised to see me come back, hotel list in hand. They gave a quick call and within a couple minutes told me that they now had a free room for me. Great. The next city being 250km away, I wasn't very excited at the idea of driving there by night!

Finally checked-in
The hotel list ... the handwriting says "FULL"
Treated myself to a burger to celebrate finding a room and off to bed!

Guillaume, comfy.

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