We landed in Castro, the main town of Chiloé, having escaped the chaos unfolding in Santiago and headed to our hostel “La Minga”. After dropping our big bags into our little room, we set out to start exploring!
The landscape of Chiloé is very much like that of Dartmoor, rolling green hills covered in the yellow gauze flowers of spring, running to meet the coastline of Cornwall but with far fewer people. Add into the mix beautiful houses and Churches of painted larch wood, an abundance of wildlife and the weather to match England in early spring.
Chiloé is a traditional island with an extensive history of folklore relating to witches, souls of the dead and the ocean from which many people earn their living, famed for its UNESCO world heritage wooden Churches. The Larch wood, grown on the island, is used to make tiles for the outside of homes and churches due to its waterproofing qualities. Also, houses are built raised from the ground below them, to protect from flooding, make them more earthquake resistant, but also so that houses can easily be picked up and driven or taken by boat to live somewhere new! This practice is called “La Minga” and so we discovered our hostel was not named after an ugly Chilean person.
On our first full day, we travelled by bus to a village called Tenaún, known in Spanish as “the place where houses sail” due to the practice of La Minga and houses travelling by boat. From here, we walked through some beautiful countryside to the waterfalls of Tocoihue, along with a new furry friend who insisted on leading us all the way there. Throughout the 6 mile walk we kept encouraging our new amigo Perry to head home as we were worried that at some point we would be leaving her, but despite Alexz shouting “vamos” several times, she stayed by our side. We spent some time at the waterfall, which we had entirely to ourselves, with flask of Yorkshire tea before heading back. We had been told that buses were infrequent, but hitchhiking easy, so decided to give it a go. The first car we tried pulled over! However, this was now the point we were worried about, as Perry would be alone. We had to jump in the car but looked back long enough to see her looking around for us. We reassured ourselves that because she clearly knew the way to the waterfall, this was a route she often took with tourists and that she would easily find her way back home. In the car were a friendly older couple, who thought we were journalists, and happily took us to the ferry port to continue our day onto the smaller neighbouring islands.
Stood awaiting the ferry, with not much of a plan as to how to carry on, another couple in a car called out to us and offered us a lift to our destination of Achao! After a conversation in broken English and Spanish from both sides, we learnt their names were Andres and Mirza, and they lived in Achao. Clearly proud of their island, they insisted that not only they give us a lift to their home in Achao, but they would take the scenic route and onward past their home to see the rest of island! Unfortunately a recent car accident had left the locking mechanism of their rear passenger door somewhat lacking, and what little function remained continued to decline as we exited the car each time for photos. However, Andres was not to be defeated from being our tour guide, and insisted on making do with a reel of cellotape to hold the door shut. It did not make do and Emma clung on to the door for the right hand bends. We asked if we could buy them a beer or give some money toward the ferry crossing, but they insisted they wanted to bless our travels and that was enough for them. Good people.
Our second day was less jam packed and didn’t go quite so smoothly. We visited the national park of Chiloé, an area of wetland home to an array of wildlife. After our hour long bus, we hopped off to see the gate locked shut with “Cerrado” (closed) across it. However, this was day 3 and we were now seasoned travellers and expert hitch-hikers, so over the gate we went. Turns out it was closed due to excessive mud and a distinct lack of critters at this time of year…
On our final day before moving on, we travelled to a hostel in the northern town of Ancud, called Submarino Amarillo. As the name suggests, the building itself was bright yellow, although not a submarine, and run by a dreadlocked Beatles fanatic and his partner. That afternoon we had a fantastic boat trip to see the bird colonies out at sea, including the nesting site for the Homboldt and Magallanes penguins. Alongside the penguins, we saw sea lions, Turkey and Black vultures, steamer ducks, red leg cormorants, sea geese, buff-necked ibis, kelp gulls, chimunga caracara and a ringed kingfisher. We had a great laugh with the hostel owners who came along to translate for us, and afterwards, they invited us to a craft beer festival for some 8% local stout and tapas. As these things go, it escalated to drinking neat Araucano, an equivalent to Jagermeister but made using only herbs and spices from Chile. When it came to pay the bill, the bar were unable to give us all our change, and so decided to pay us the remainder in pieces of local chocolate, which by Emma’s account was a fair deal.
Shazam’d in the car on the way home from the boat trip