Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A quick tour to see more of Chiloe

[Kyle]After filing our official report to the Armada of our overnight boarding, we picked up our rental car and soon started our extended island tour by driving up the unexpectedly nice freeway to Ancud, and then taking the road from there to the Pacific coast.

Coastal Drive to North-West Chiloe

That road ended abruptly at a beach. It didn't stop, it just went onto the beach. The big attraction there was a penguin colony on an island just off the main island. It was so entertaining watching them all lining up in their jackets, being herded toward the boats. I'm talking, of course, about the tourists. We skipped the fee. We know where to find penguins.

From this beach at Punihuil, tourists are 'carted' on to boats for a trip to the islands to see the Penguins
We didn't have the time to join them, but we did enjoy the spectacle

From the beach, we joined a loop road too rough for the tour buses. We stopped at a vista that was annoyingly fenced off (we assumed private) until we figured out it was a restaurant and camp ground and we could take a walk to the viewpoints for only $1.50.

Wow! How lucky were the owners to have access to that view? We were so grateful, we had lunch at their restaurant to give them more of our dough. It was totally worth it. We had an amazing view and left waddling out like it had been Thanksgiving. Not bad for $15.

We returned the way we came to Ancud. This town seemed almost as big as Castro, but seems to be unable to replicate Castro's charm. It has a very nice central district, but as it's the first real town for ferry traffic coming from the mainland, its bustle comes off more as congestion.

Ancud & the fascinating Museum set in another UNESCO church

We found the main museum closed and after a bit of wandering around, found another one run by an organization whose mission it is to maintain and restore Chiloe's UNESCO churches. I was a bit suspicious of what we'd find inside, but it turned out to be just wonderful. Along with the usual artifacts one would expect to find in a museum, they had scale models of each of Chiloe's many UNESCO churches. Only one half of each model was finished with an exterior. The other half showed all of the framing and structural features involved in making such large spaces. Accompanying them were very good descriptions and examples of different types of joinery used and the various types of wood involved, including how the skills are derived from and shared with shipbuilding.

Next, we stopped briefly at Feurte San Antonio, now a lovely park with a few old cannon emplacements around the perimeter. This was the site of Spain's last stronghold in South America before ceding it to the locals for independent rule.

The remains of Fort St Antonio

Back on the road, we found a rather disagreeable stretch of awful dirt road that stretched for what seemed like a hundred miles (but was probably twenty) to the town of Quemchi, which we took to pronouncing “Cream Cheese” It was worth it. If you go to Chile, go to Chiloe. If you go to Chiloe, go to Cream Cheese. You'll love it as we did. It was all of the cool stuff about Castro with fewer waterfront drunks.


We then took a side trip to the town of Tenaun, home to Chiloe's only three-spired church. The town was also very lovely in its own sleepy way. Maryanne remarked how sad it was that if it weren't for the big church, they would be all but forgotten and have few visitors at all. Actually, that and they have the ferry to Mechuque, a lovely little island out in the gulf nearby. More on Mechuque later.


We had one more place we wanted to stop before going back to Castro and returning the car, a waterfall on the way that a guy at the tourist office in Cream Cheese told us about. The signage in the vicinity is really not the best and we ended up on a long odyssey on a one lane dirt road before we realized we must be going the wrong way. As we were looking for a place to turn around, we came up upon a Pudu grazing alongside the road. Maryanne asked why I had stopped and then I pointed him out. Pudus are the world's smallest deer. They are rare and threatened and are endemic to Chiloe. We had never expected to see one as they are generally reclusive and live deep in dense forest areas, but there he was. He was about the size of a small Doberman, with teeny-tiny little horns. He didn't bolt immediately, but stayed a few minutes regarding us while we snapped away, trying not to spook him. I'm sure he was curious about us as well. We may have been the first Hyundai ever to drive that road.

We were lost - and found a Pudu

We eventually looped back and found the waterfalls for which we had been looking. They were beautiful, with an impressive drop, but the density of the crowds admiring them and feeling that we didn't have the luxury of time to kick off our shoes and wade in somewhat detracted from the enjoyment.

We eventually found the waterfall

And one last stop at Dalcahue

After getting back to Begonia late, we slept in the next morning without having had any unwanted visitors. We raised the sails and found the wind to be blowing exactly the opposite direction from the forecast.

{Maryanne: Chiloe is a large island, but much of it is hard to access park/wildfife sanctuaries. With only a day of car rental planned, we had to make a route that would maximize what we would see. If we had longer it would be fantastic to actually do several days of hiking and camping in the parks. Mostly our schedule in Chile is limited due to passage needs and cyclone schedules later in the year (along with our 3 month visa) and our wish to be back in New Zealand by the end of 2018 - still, there was plenty to enjoy.}

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