Isla Chiloe

Ancud Ancud was my first stop on Isla Chiloe. I spent ages watching seals, or were they sea lions? bobbing about between the boats. The island couldn't hope to live up to the tourist guide hype but was enjoyable nonetheless. It's claimed the island was the visual inspiration behind Lord of the Rings... Meanwhile, back in reality, I'm sorry now that I didn't follow the dirt perimeter road along the East coast rather than take the inland highway. The coastal towns were a highlight with their wooden buildings and fantastic 'Chilote' churches.

Dalcahue was one such town. Its handicrafts market had far and away the loveliest handcrafted um... handicrafts I'd seen in Chile. No room on the bike of course! The fishing boats were again beautiful, although the nature of fishing has changed. It is now mostly industrial Salmon farming. Many coves on the sheltered East coast are crammed with fish pens.
Boat at Dalcahue

Castro Castro is the islands capital. I just passed through, stopping to look at the Palafitos (stilt houses) on the mud flats at the edge of town, at a supermarket and finally to look at its huge garishly coloured wooden church.

At Chonchi I kicked my heels up for a few days. Staying at Hospedaje Esmeralda, I asked the owner why there were telegraph lines running down the centre of the beach. Turned out that an earthquake in the sixties (I think) had lowered the old waterfront homes into the sea. A street used to run where the beach is now.

Following the beach North along the coast one day I walked to Vilipulli, a speck of a village with the most beautiful Chilote Church (pictured).

From Chonchi I headed to Quellon, the southernmost town. Most of the way was through a landscape that seemed only recently cleared for agriculture. Tree stumps dotted scrappy fields. I was rushing to meet the supposedly once weekly ferry to Chaiten and so missed out on a visit to the National Park on the west coast.
Chilote Church - Vilupulli
Chilote Church - Vilupulli

Chilean fjords Of course, the ferry wasn't there (I'd phoned from Chonchi on the day to make sure it was sailing) and no-one knew exactly when it would turn up. It still didn't front the next day so I jumped on the Transbordador (freight boat) to Puerto Chacabuco and decided I'd ride North up the Careterra Austral after I'd circumpedaled Lago Carrera/Buenos Aires. The boat ride was fun, calling at a few islands en route. The fjords are stunning. This picture, taken at dawn, shows a Puerto Montt based tourist ferry cruising past us.

All text and images copyright Syd Winer 2004