Friday, March 8, 2013

Chiloé, an Enchanting Island

Last week I went to Chiloé, a large island off the Southern coast of Chile!  Chiloé is full of rich fishing and agricultural traditions, including its interesting and ominous folklore.  Its 118 miles long and 40 miles wide, making it Chile's 2nd largest island.  There are national parks, two main cities, and many small towns, islands, and bays, as well as lush rolling farmland.  It rains most of the year, which is great for agriculture there.  Supposedly there are over 100 varieties of potatoes grown on Chiloé!

Veggies, herbs, teas, and seaweed at the markets

I traveled all around the northern part of the island.  First I was in Ancud, a quaint city in the north that is relaxed but somewhat touristy.  In the regional museum, I learned that the city was flattened and flooded by the infamous Earthquake of 1960.  They've done a great job of rebuilding, because you can barely tell now.  The city has cafés, lots of vendors selling woolen and wooden artesanía, bakeries, and a cute central square.

Street art in Ancud

On my first day there, I went to a Penguin Colony at the Islotes de Puñihuil.  From September through March, penguins from two different oceanic currents come to breed on these small islands.  There are both Magellenic and Humboldt penguins - it's rare for them to be found together.

Penguin facts:
-They mate for life (but if the male dies first, the female finds another)
-New couples make new houses (nests), while old couples always return to the same one each year.
-They live 25-30 years.
-They can swim 80 meters below the water's surface, and eat underwater.
-They are so cute when they waddle down the rocks!

Near Puñihuil Beach

Laying seaweed out to dry - a gelatinous component of the algae is exported for use in cosmetics, food, etc.


Penguin domain

Then I visited several small fishing towns along the northeastern coast.  Most towns have a wooden church, going along with the longstanding carpentry and architectural traditions of the island.  Several of the Chilote churches are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Most are very simple, with meticulous woodwork, and others are more ornate on the insides.

ANCUD - quiet northern city:

Church and museum in Ancud

Models of traditional Chilote Churches

Native wood used in carpentry

These are antique designs that priests on the island wore.  I think that the pastoral part of the culture is represented beautifully here.

In the church courtyard

DALCAHUE - small coastal town:

Dalcahue's port

Dalcahue's wooden church, facing the water

Colorful gardens

The streets of Dalcahue

CURACO DE VELEZ - a tiny speck of a town on the island of Quinchao:

To my surprise, they have wi-fi in the town square!


ACHAO - Quinchao Island's largest town, with the oldest church:

Chiloé's oldest Church, built in 1740

At the end of the trip I went to Castro, Chiloé's large bustling city.  It is the industrial, working man's town - with lots of traffic and hole-in-the-wall shops.  It's the kind of place that has a veterinary office in between two butcher shops.

Castro's Easter-y church

The streets of Castro

Castro is famous for its palafitos, or raised wooden coastal houses.  They are funky, colorful, and some are falling down.  I went on a short boat ride to see them from the water - the best way!


Yes, I used a camera effect

I left Chiloé full of good seafood and memories of cute animals and nice people!  I definitely recommend a couple days on Chiloé if you can make it down to Chile.

Milcao - typical food of the central region.  It is made of cooked potatoes, grated raw potatoes, flour, and pieces of meat, then fried.

Cazuela Chilote - a stew with potatoes, carrots, corn, and about 5 different types of seafood. Delicious!

The sunset as I left the island on the ferry.  I even saw 3 dolphins jumping and flipping away into the distance - a sighting that I probably couldn't have gotten on a planned or paid tour.  

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