|Even here, at Iquique which is a big port town, we see many casinos. Haven't commented on this but it seems from MX, El Salvador, Panama, Equidor, Peru, and now Chile this is quite big business. Also, now in bus terminals, we are having to pay a bus terminal tax of all things. Usually only 25Ç US or so but mainly just a hassle. Cloudy day, we catch the 10:30 am bus - Chile is noticeably diff from Peru in that bldgs are more apt to be painted (Peru they just leave bricks/concrete block gray, drab - if they paint at all just the front). Having just been thru vast areas of barronness, where mining doesn't affect the landscape much, I see why Peru & Chile are big on sucking minerals out of these otherwise lifeless lands.
After not more than half an hour, we're into the flat desert, clouds gone! Onward over mtns of rock/sand totally barron...valleys w/ less and less water and finally only 'rivers' of only rocks and boulders. Up, down the area and vistas are huge! Then flat flat flat again. Suddenly on flat, dry, rocky landscape - trees! Well, tall (10-12') bushes! Everywhere! What's this all about? Can't explain it, a total surprise.
From Pullman Bus Station we got a colectivo to Backpackers Hostel Iquique. Nice folks, gal said no room at the moment but she managed to make room...dbl for 7000p ea, shared bath. This is first HI hostel we've found. After spending the afternoon ckg out options (tours, colectivos,buses) to visit various places we finally got back to hostel & gal suggested & arranged car rental - only 10,000p/day...the 'cheap' tour was 18,000 ea! We also bought bus tickets to Calama for 4:15 Sat afternoon ($16 US for a 7 hr ride)
Pica-Sacavon Restaurant...got our Pisco Sour. The vicuna was domesticated they think, 6000 yrs ago but that's when last climate change occurred and large herbivors began to appear til now.