Isla Chiloé

We have taken a big bag of food for the crossing from Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón on Isla Chiloé. Chiloé is the second largest island in South America after Tierra del Fuego. The thirty hours on board pass by rapidly: the view of the fjords and the innumerable waterfalls is amazing. The first day the wind weaves a thick blanket of clouds between the islets and forest but the next morning we are awakened by the first rays of sunlight and we can enjoy the rest of the trip with clear blue skies. On the way the ferry moors at a hand full of ports of small islands and villages without an access road. From the deck we catch a glimpse of the places where the clock seems to be ticking at a very different speed. The colorful houses are connected with long wooden passways, lacking any kind of roads. The only option is transport over the water.

In the evening we reach Quellón and camp with a nice view of the harbor and a few volcanoes that loom up from the mainland. We do not seem to have to worry about rain and wind in the coming days. Four kilometers south of Quellón, the Panamericana ends, the long north-south connection that starts in Fairbanks, Alaska. We visit the monument at the end of the road and receive a certificate promptly. We are looking at each other for a moment and start dreaming about what it would be like to cover the entire route. Something for later maybe? We continue our way towards Chonchi, but our ride comes to an abrupt end when the driver decides to take a different route. We stranded halfway up and feel a little shitty. After a while a small truck stops offering to take us in the back of the closed cargo area. We are about to politely decline as the doors of the cargo area swing open and Ines, Theo and two Chilean hitchhiker compañeros greet us! Somewhat speechless we climb into the truck. On to Chonchi where we visit the first wooden churches. The island is home to a number of small wooden churches that are of great importance due to their architecture and history and of which in 2001 sixteen were placed on the Unesco World Heritage List. On Isla Lemuy we set out a two-day walk to get a taste of the remote island life and visit three churches. We end our day at a secluded campsite near Detif on the southern tip of the island. At the top of the cliff we enjoy the view and make up for the walk back. Once back in Chonchi we get to taste the famous Licor de Oro and put the seafood and curanto on our list of dishes that we still have to try.

Chiloé is an island of myths and legends, everywhere there are figures with special powers and qualities. Often romantic or sexual in nature and in the past a very useful way to explain some surprising pregnancies. One famous legend about a cliff on the west coast of the island where a skipper connects this world with the hereafter inspired an artist to the Muelle de las Almas: a bridge to nowhere. We visit Cucao and Muelle de las Almas together with Andres and his mother Rebecca, who were kind enough to take us from Chonchi to the coast earlier in that day. The two seem to like our company and after having spent most of the day together we are invited for lunch! On Andres’s advice we eat ceviche, raw fish and seafood prepared in lemon juice and onion. We are a bit hesitant at first, but the freshly prepared ceviche is delicious. Especially with a hint of merkén, typical spicy Chilean herbs. Together with Rebecca and Andres we toast on our hundredth travel day. We stay overnight at the campsite in Cucao and go for a walk at the enormous empty beach and realize that we are on the ‘other side’ of the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

The sales representative who offers us a ride in Cucao appears to be willing to adjust his route a bit after a small confusion of tongues. In this way we can pick up our luggage in Chonchi and then drive to Castro, Chiloés capital. We visit one church and the cathedral, try fresh seafood and fish in the harbor and plan a last stop on the island in Ancud. Chiloé has developed its own identity within Chile through its rich history, fisherman’s life and special nature. The fresh fish and seafood were in any case one of the highlights, so we ask advice in Ancud for eating curanto. Traditionally prepared in a hole in the ground, a bottom with glowing hot stones, a layer of shells and mussels covered with large leaves of the Nalja plant and finally large pieces of meat and sausage to cook for several days. We eat the curanto de olla, prepared in a stone pot in the oven. Just a little easier to prepare and certainly not less tasty. An appropriate and tasty farewell to Chiloé, but not without a visit to the museum about the aforementioned churches of which we eventually visited seven: The other connecting factor of our stay on the island.

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