Chiloé, South America’s second largest island, is full of mythic places, creatures and stories. Located 40 km south of Puerto Montt, 180 km in length and 50 km in width, this island is a peaceful and very scenic place to hang out for a few days and see the quiet little towns with its famous wooden churches which were built over the past 350 years. Once again I am very lucky with the weather (around 30 degrees and sunshine with bright blue skies) as this place – facing the Pacific Ocean – usually gets hit by the strong winds coming from the northwest and blowing southeast over the Andes.
But Chiloé is not only famous for its churches, it also is full of “Palafitos” which are stilt-houses sitting on the waters of the many rivers. The difference between high-tide and low-tide can be up to 8 meters here so the stilt-houses rise high above the ground and give you an excellent view over the water. I was very lucky with my choice of hostel because it was a 10 minute walk out of Castro, Chiloé’s capital and I have stayed in this really lovely Palafito, enjoying watching the tides and lots of different birds on a balcony, and the whole interior of this house is made out of wood. Almost a bit of a Scandinavian feeling. And I was even more lucky to have the most amazing seafood-restaurant 2 meters away from the hostel (so I just had to look through the window of the balcony to see or smell what was on the menu!) I spent a few days exploring Castro and also some neighboring towns and small islands and got to see some of those simple and beautiful wooden churches (most of them were unfortunately closed) – one of them, the oldest of the island – was built in 1740 and its outside wooden shingles are kept together without a single nail (but instead with wooden bolts! ). I loved walking around for hours and watch the colorful houses – orange, blue, purple, red, any color you can imagine –it was a nice contrast to the last few weeks in the other areas of Patagonia. On my second-last day I had my first delicious Curanto – the local dish of Chiloé – which has its tradition going back a long way when the Chilotes heated stones over a pit until they got steaming hot and then cooked and smoked all the food (chicken, mussels, chorizo, pork, etc..) they had gathered for a long period in advance. I shared my Curanto with a great Spanish couple I had met that day and the dish was excellent. As a starter we got freshly made Empanadas with crab-meat filling – I was in HEAVEN! Tired and with a full belly we rode back to Castro and I relaxed with a bottle of red wine on my beloved balcony. A few hours later the amazing scent of freshly prepared seafood tickled my nose once again from the restaurant next door and I couldn’t resist going there once again – savouring warm crab-purée followed by honey-glazed salmon with a seafood risotto. I was in heaven for the second time that day. I guess I really made up for the previous day on the island where I had returned from a 2-day walk along the beautiful coast of Chiloé’s National Park (and no food for 24 hours). The National Park there is beautiful and the beach is immensely wide and long, with NO tourists, only some locals doing a BBQ on the beach along the dunes. Where the cold waters of the pacific hit the hot sand of the beach a wide stretch of mist and fog covered the beach, making this a very mystic and beautiful view. The island is a paradise for birds and I have the feeling that I must have seen at least 40 of the more than 150 species which can be found there. I walked barefoot on that beach for 20 km before I reached a half-moon shaped beach where the “refugio”, the accommodation for my overnight stay was supposed to be. I hadn’t seen anyone for 2 hours and there was no one to ask but eventually I saw a local family and asked them if they knew where the place was..I was only 100 meters away, hidden behind the dunes and happy that I had eventually found it. I was the only person staying that night and the area there was an indigenous settlement with people living with very little and in harsh conditions of this very exposed island. It was the first time that I got the sense of being really far away from our culture, actually experiencing the South America as I thought it would be.I am glad I made this long walk along the National Park because you don’t get 20 km of a 300 meter wide beach too often all to yourself (except for the many birds which accompanied me of course:).