One would like to start, it’s where we got that day and what we saw exceeded our wildest expectations :-). If for any place can say that is magical, it is precisely the island of Chiloe. To get there, we decided to hire (with the help of Dorothy and Miguel from Once Upon a Time in Chile) a car (CLP 29000 ~ 180 zł / day) in Puerto Montt. It was a bull’s-eye. The Korean technology called Kia Morning was not a perfect design for gravel roads on which we travelled, but we had to admit – it was not that bad.
The schedule of the day we had a pretty tight because the car rental lasted much longer than we expected. Getting to Chiloe, including a ferry ride (10000 CLP ~ 60 zł) took us some 2.5 hours. We knew we still had to make it to the bay of penguins – Monumento Natural Islotes de Punihuil. The road to the western end of the island was amazing. The winding and narrow roads was like a hairpin, embellished with spectacular views. We laughed that we know where was shot the image on the wallpaper of Windows XP. It was just wonder. At the end of this road, just before the bay itself, the asphalt ends and you drive straight to the beach :-). We even wondered whether we landed in the right place. After driving a few hundred meters along the beach we were sure of it. The man operating one of the boats, which was just going from the shore, began waving at us to encourage us to choose his company which organized “penguin” cruises.
Chiloe is the only place in the world where you can meet both Magellanic and Humboldt penguins. Therefore, we got on the boat which was already sailing away.
However, also on this side of the world money rules (CLP 8000 ~ 48 zł per person)! The boat again nailed to the shore, to the “delight” of people who already spread comfortably out. However, when other passengers saw Mania with us, the atmosphere on the board became more relaxed. Mania started staring at all the new people around, there was no sign of anger around us. Everyone started to be more interested in Marianna than what they see on the rocks :-). We must also commend the organizer because he had a life jacket even for the youngest participants of the tour. Twice as big, but thanks to it has fulfilled an additional function – protected from the wind. Because of the rush we forgot to wear our own jackets :-(. Despite the fact that in Chile was the beginning of the summer, weather in Chiloe has its own rules. In this period it mainly rains and it is windy, and the temperature does not exceed 18 Celsius degrees. We had so much luck that the sun was shining, but the jacket was necessary anyway.
Mania, what we could have foreseen, was more interested in water hitting the side of the boat than penguins themselves :-). On the contrary, we were very happy to admire dozens of these animals lying on the rocks, in the vicinity of numerous kinds of birds. This time we all had the opportunity for the first time to watch the penguins in their natural habitat. The tour lasted about 20 minutes. We think it was enough, given the terribly cold wind.
We left the gulf about 6 p.m. That day we were going get to Castro, a city located approximately in the middle of the island. Chiloe is famous for also another attraction – a small wooden churches scattered throughout the island. On the way to Castro, we wanted to see one of them, located in the village Tenaun. It seemed that we already had seen some most amazing views, but the sunset was the proof we were wrong, presenting its great magic.
We also had plenty of time to admire the scenery, because the road to Tenaun is real bumpy and stretches for about 30 km. Marianna did not need much time to fall asleep in the shaking car and she slept almost all the time :-). Tenuan is a small fishing village on the Gulf of Ancud, but what a village! I called it end of the world – magical, mystical, dormant with a blue wooden church in the middle of the village. All of it looked like we were in a fairy tale. The best part is also the fact that we were completely alone there. We even weren’t afraid of the vision of traveling back those 30 km in a shaking Kia car :-).
To Castro we got about 10:30 p.m. We had no accommodation. What the guide advised, was without prior reservation completely infeasible or the price was inadequate to the standard. They offered us a room without a window with a shared bathroom for 35000 CLP ~ 210 zł. Eventually we got to the hostel Cordillera, which maybe was not of the first class, but it has had a private parking space, which – when looking at the surrounding area – seemed to be necessary. Also important was the fact that the room was not expensive (25000 ~ 150 zł), had a private bathroom, and the price includes breakfast.
The Castro village in the daytime looks as bad as at night. The only attraction of the town there are houses on stilts, located on the waterfront – palafitos. It is said that it’s best to look at them from a boat. We went down to the waterfront, where there was also a huge fish market with many different products. The vendors from the local stalls were selling all kinds of seafood and fish (fresh, dried, marinated in vinegar, in all kinds of marinade), but there were also fruits, vegetables, long dried algae and various souvenirs (woolen socks, sweaters, felt beads, wooden toys, et al.) which were hidden between fish. All of this seemed quite unusual.
It did not take long and one of the man offering various tourist attractions found us and started to insist to take advantage of his offer.
From the beginning we wanted to escape from Castro as soon as possible, but we found that we give this city another chance – we sail for the 3000 CLP ~ 24 zł per person to see palafitos.
Right after we sailed away we saw seals making circles close to the shore :-). One of the fishermen started one minute earlier disposed of the remains of gutting the fish, hence the sudden gathering. Our mood has improved, and even Marianna had the opportunity to take a boat trip once again. We started talking to other trip participants about Mania, how old she was and how much she had already seen, where we were already in Chile, where we’re going, and that in Poland there is snow and winter, and that Poland is not Russia and our languages are not similar etc. In general, the presence of Marianki much faster can break the ice and make contacts with others, we noticed it even during our previous. The palafitos faded into the background :-).
However, we have one recommendation, if you have to stay in Castro you have to go and see palafitos, if not, drive further :-). We will step out of the line a bit by writing that
towns on the Chiloe island are horrible and you should avoid them as much as possible. Therefore, we were very glad that we had a car and we did not have to make any of the cities a starting point for our organized tours.
We left Castro village going back to the north, but on the way we turned to Chepu. The road to this village is of similar quality like this to Tenaun :-). Not the village itself is an attraction, but a dead forest located in the area. After salt water from the tsunami caused by the earthquake in the 60s of the twentieth century invaded the island, most of the plants withered.
You can see a huge expanse of withered boughs of trees till now. We could not, unfortunately, come closer to the forest, and the tour to this place which was proposed by local tour boat for only 20,000 CLP ~ 120 zł per person effectively deterred us.
If you are already on Chiloe, you must try a local mix of seafood, chicken, pork and sausages served with potatoes in three different forms – curanto. It is being prepared inside a pit dug in the ground where heated stones are placed and all the above ingredients are cooked on them. You bury the food and the stones, you must wait a few hours and after that time, you can dig it out and serve the dish. The Lonely Planet recommends in Ancud only one restaurant where they serve this dish – Kuranton. Unfortunately, the opinion that was given by Lonely Planet (we want to believe it) definitely lost its value two years after the publication of the guide, because the restaurant serves reheated food :-(. Until now probably the worst served food that we ate was in Ancud.
This was a small unpleasant touch at the end of our visit to Chiloe. But in our minds remain completely different images. The images of a beautiful, magical island, which is full of color and is dramatically different than the rest of Chile. Therefore, if you are planning to visit sometime Chile, do not forget about Chiloe.