After our never ending boat ride to leave Patagonia, we arrived on the island of Chiloe.
Each time we heard about Chiloe, people, or books told us that it was a very different and special place in Chile, so we were very eager to see it by ourselves! And yes, we can confirm it felt different from the Chile we’ve seen so far. The island is very hilly, and green, very different from the high mountains and deep valleys we experienced when we were in Patagonia. The vegetations looked different as well, everything was very green here. And because we’re on an island, there is actually a lot of seaside small towns, harbours and colorfuls boats everywhere!
We stayed in the biggest city on the island, Castro, which is also very central. And it was also the first “real city” since we left Ushuaia almost a month ago. With some traffic, but also lots of vendors in the street with fresh products from the boat or from the fields, and a lot of other products. Full of small shops, bakeries, butcheries, fruits markets… it felt good to be back to civilisation as the places we crossed in Patagonia so far felt more like small villages, or fully dedicated to tourism cities. Here it was just full of people, and activity. And the tourism business was more than diluted into this ordinary city life feeling.
We spent a full day walking around town; the hill tops gave nice views of the seaside and coast, and the small streets offered Chiloe’s typical architectural features. Most of the small wooden houses have a distinctive wooden cladding on the outside walls. These traditional shingles are seen all over the island, and always come in a wide vairety of colors.
In between some coffees and pie slices, we also went to see the San-Fransisco church on the main square. It is a big and tall wooden church, with very nice interiors, as well as not-your-everyday-church-colors outside. Look at this purple and yellow facade!
Finally, we ended the day by walking down to the seaside, to get closer to Castro’s maybe most famous sight, the Palafitos. After seeing every second hotel, cafe, or restaurant in town called Palafitos-something, Merima really started to wonder what it meant. Well you have to go down by the shore to see it. Palafitos are wooden houses, built above the water. At low tide, they are standing high above the sandy ground. When the tide changes and the water comes back, the outside terraces transform themselves into jetty and docks that you can access with boat. As every house is painted in different colors, it makes for a very nice view, best observed from the opposite shore. Because if you start to get closer, and walk in the street between the palafitos and the sea, you can’t realise how they are built, as they look like any other regular house.
Chiloe is one of the wettest and rainiest places in Chile. It is said that it can rain up to 3000 mm of water per year. Well, we witnessed some of that too. If our first day in Castro was mostly clear, the second day offered some authentic masses of rain! We planned to go away from the city to have a look at Chiloe’s National Park, a bumpy one hour ride in minibus away. And from the moment we went in the minibus, in early morning, to the moment we came back in town later in the afternoon, it rained.
It rained continuously, and we got wet. But we did hike too. The little information we could gather before going to the park was not accurate enough, as we wanted to do a long hike, but realised it started 20 km away from the park entrance. That 40 km walk to and back the starting point, plus the 25 km hike, that was a bit too much. So we settled for some shorter hikes, the only option available actually. Maybe that was a better decision for our health too, because after one hour and half of the first path we were drenched. The hike was nice though, going into some very dense native forest, with different kind of vegetatation than what we’ve seen so far. If the temperature had been a bit higher than 12°C we could have imagined ourselves in the amazonian jungle without any effort. Somebody optimistic would have even said that the rain, the wind and the low clouds surrounding the park gave a very mysterious atmosphere to the day.
After 90 min of walk, we were back at the starting point, wet to our bones, and we decided to eat our lunch in the only dry place available: the one room informative museum which had no electricity, nor any staff to be seen. After a very quick lunch we decided it was time to move again, to prevent us to catch pneumonia. So we put on our wet jackets, and return into the rain for another half an hour. Just the time needed to catch the minibus heading back to Castro. And guess what, as we reach town, the rain stops. Typical.
The sky cleared, which brought amazing light and views of the seaside again. We took a small walk close to the harbour and the fishmarket, and it opened up our apetite for some nice and fresh crab stew and crab salad for dinner!