Iquique is a surf town. The hostels all rent boards, the taxis have roof racks and lessons are available far and wide. In the event that you don’t surf, the other activity there is paragliding. Any time of day you can look at the ocean and see the break, thick with surfers, then look toward the dunes crouching behind town and see the chutes of the parasailers gliding across the desert. What the guidebooks don’t mention is that Iquique is a bonafide cowboy town. It’s former “main” street, north of all the coated-glass, high rise condominiums, is lined with wooden store fronts. Many of the buildings have a second story facade, the boardwalk is just that, a wide wooden sidewalk on both sides and an old steel frame, wood paneled trolley runs the length of the street. It’s beautiful and nostalgic and makes me think of those tiny clapboard towns that sell dream catchers in the Pacific Northwest at the end of the Oregon trail. Most of the buildings are now occupied by municipal offices, one is a college, some are restaurants, others are undergoing extensive renovations and some are completely defunct covered in graffiti, bum excrement in the corners, with broken windows and peeling paint. The street is largely untouched by tourists, they’re either clamouring on the sand in wet suits or airborne.