Destination

ARGENTINA & CHILE #9: CHARMING CHILOE ISLAND

Chiloe Island, a ferry ride away from the mainland of Chile, was a place I looked forward to visiting after learning about the native Mapuche people and their values.  During our home hosted dinner, Carolina told us her mother lived in Chiloe and described the island’s people as humble and giving.  As she explained, “Being wealthy [in Chiloe] is having a meal to share with family and friends.”

Chiloe, “Land of the seagulls” in Mapudungan, is an archipielago located at the southern end of the Lake District of Chile with about 40,000 residents.  It’s a rainy place; it rains 75 inches a year.  Fortunately, we didn’t experience any of it—well, except when we were on the bus for a short time.

After driving along the Pan American Highway, we arrived at the landing and embarked the ferry, bus and all, to Chiloe Island.

(For all photos, especially panoramas, click on the image for a full screen view.)

Once we pushed off, we were all permitted to vacate our vehicles and enjoy the one-hour crossing.  It was another lovely day, so we all went up on top to enjoy the views.  I always have my camera with me, so I took advantage and grabbed a shot during this quick pit stop in the head:

Following our arrival in the town of Chacao, we took a walk along the waterfront to the town square.  Along the way, we saw so many gorgeous birds, including this large beauty high up in the tree:

These are black-necked swans:

A unique characteristic of the architecture on Chiloe are the intricately cut house shingles.  Each builder has his own design, and locals can tell by that design who built which house.  The colorful buildings made me smile as did the warm and friendly people.

Translation: “Where the magic begins”

We popped into the community center to see what the local crafters were selling, and I had a wonderful interaction with a fiber artist who didn’t speak English.  Thanks to Jay, a fellow member of our group, I was able to learn the price of this adorable sheep and complete the transaction—only 2,000 pesos, which was just over $2!  The fun part, though, was trying to communicate with her in my limited Spanish.  I knew just enough to tell her how beautiful her work was!  She was flattered when I asked for a photo, and she made my day.  Her sheep keeps me company as I write these posts…

As I photographed the gigantic Chilean flag in the square, Andrea came running up to me and Bruce and exclaimed, “Come quick!”  She didn’t want us to miss an impromptu performance by a young music and dance group that was on tour.  They delighted us as well as the locals, including this woman and these shop owners who warmed my heart:

Mary, giving stickers to the children

Following our visit to Chacao, we made our way through the rugged, windswept island to Castro, the capital of Chiloe Island.  We checked into the Enjoy Chiloe Hotel, which was a huge surprise given that Andrea told us not to expect it to be as nice as the Radisson in Puerto Varas.  (Evidently, she had received some complaints from past travelers, something I could not understand AT ALL after we arrived.)  Just look at this floor-to-ceiling view from our room!  Our jaws dropped!  We looked around and tried to figure out what was not to like. Sure, there were some stairs going down from the door and closet area to the bedroom; and, the location wasn’t as walkable as Puerto Varas, but look at his VIEW!  Just wait until tonight…

Meanwhile, while admiring the fiber arts pieces on display throughout the hotel (which made my heart sing, because my mom used to create beautiful fiber arts pieces), we made our way to the restaurant for a delicious lunch—with a VIEW!

Time for a laundry stop!  I handwash our laundry as we go, so we took a pass, but on OAT tours, they always try to arrange somewhere for the group to have their laundry done along the way.  Drop it off, see the sites, and then return for a clean stack of clothes.

Our first stop was to see the Lady of Grace Church in Nercon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a wonderful example of Chilota architecture.  No nails were used; just wooden pegs, beams, and bent wood. 

Our tour of the church included the attic where we were able to get a look at how the church was constructed.  From there I found a hole large enough for my camera to capture this unique view.

Returning to the main square of Castro, we visited another UNESCO site, the Church of San Francisco, built in 1910.  It is painted yellow to represent the sun, and the purple trim represents royalty.

Going to church is the big social event of the week for residents of Chiloe Island, but they are also helping immigrants from Venezuela and Haiti to settle in Chile.

Andrea loves taking group pictures, so she took this cheesy shot at the Castro sign.  There were two ladies from Santiago watching, and they wanted a picture with our “Buena onda” (good vibes) group, so we invited Sarah and Veronica to photo bomb our shot as honorary group members.  They were a hoot!

More scenes around the main square:

The afternoon concluded with a visit to see Castro’s iconic palafitos—colorful homes built on stilts that have become Castro’s biggest attraction.  Andrea and Daniel, our local guide who was with us in Puerto Varas, had a friend, Hanover, who lived in one, and we were invited to stop by for a look.  Hanover built the house himself and used 80 stilts to support it.

Most of the house is built on stilts, which are not pictured. You will see many more palafitos in a future post!

Several of the palafitos had decorative hand-cut shingles like we saw in Chacao.  A very hard wood is used and lasts about 40 years.  When the shingle wears out on one side, they just flip it over.  Bright paint colors are used (except for the one below) to contrast the cold, gloomy, and rainy weather that usually plagues the region.  But look at this day! Our luck continues…

Hanover
Our “buena onda” (good vibes) group having fun on Hanover’s deck. The stilt side (water side) of the house is considered the front of the house.

Views from the deck:

Evening views from our hotel room:

Next up:  ARGENTINA & CHILE #10: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE RILAN COMMUNITY

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