The trip to Chiloe was pretty cool. It was a bus-ferry journey, so our little bus boarded a tiny cargo ferry to travel across the water to the island. Also, Sam and I couldn’t get seats together, so I was sitting next to a cute old ‘abuela’ (grandma) who proceeded to ply me with coconut cake, apricot juice, and everything she had in her lunchbox. Thus proving, once more, that Chileans are super hospitable (more than Argentines, in our experience).
Palafito life at Castro, Chiloe Island
Chileans are also supposed to be more reserved, due to their decades of dictatorships where they’ve been cut off from the rest of the world. Less firey than their Latin American counterparts. Whilst we’ve found this to be relatively true (they don’t party like Argentines, and they work really hard), they’re also really curious about backpackers and we’ve found Chileans are often really ma/paternal with us!
Iglesia de San Francisco, Castro
Anyway, Chiloe. So we arrive to the warmest welcome from our new Chilean mum and dad – Mirta and Pedro. They run a cute little B&B that’s won a ton of Trip Advisor awards, mostly because they’re just the loveliest people. They really went out of their way to help us… ‘mum’ bought me milk when I asked for some for my tea (Chileans don’t drink milk past childhood), ‘dad’ bought our bus tickets online when our card wouldn’t work as we didn’t have an ‘ID number’ (a hangover from the communist era), and a couple of times ‘mum’ let me use their bathroom in their adjoining house if there was a queue. The house itself was made entirely of wood panelling (like all the houses on the island, as they don’t import and just use their own natural resources) and was super cute.
They LOVE a bit of wood pannelling on Chiloe
On our first night on the island, we went out for some more comida rapida – opting for another pimped out steak sandwich ‘italiano’ and a ‘lomito’ (sliced pork sandwich) with avocado, tomato, green beans and chilis. Delicious! We also tried ‘salchipappa’ (fries with mayo and a fried frankfurter on top) and a ‘milcao’ (potato/flour cake stuffed with meat). Stuffed, we waddled home via the town square where we saw a fireman brigade festival going on, complete with old fire engines, a marching band, and all the brigade out in their finest outfits. Very sweet! I guess on an island where all the houses are made of wood, firemen are a pretty big deal!
Enjoying Chilean “comida rapida” (fast food) on Chiloe
Local firemen’s parade!
The next day we woke up to glorious sunshine, and decided to take the bus down to Castro, the island’s main town. There we saw ‘palafitos’ (colourful houses on stilts) down by a beautiful lake, surrounded by rolling green hills that wouldn’t look out of place in Britain. The town is a hilly network of roads dotted with pretty bright houses, and there’s a really famous cathedral in the centre of town that’s bright purple and yellow, with models inside of all the Unesco wooden churches that can be found across the island. They’re all pretty distinctive, made of (you guessed it!) wood panelling, with dramatic flumes, entrances and painted bold colours.
Iglesia de San Fransisco, Castro: the campest church I’ve ever seen
Palafitos, Castro: fishermen tie their boats onto these pillars when coming ashore and live in these bright fisherman communities
We also had an AMAZING lunch in a little arty cafe – the ‘menu del dia’ (menu of the day) where you’re given a couple of choices, and it’s super cheap. For about 3 quid each, we got fresh peppermint tea, salad, the most delicious salmon I’ve ever eaten (it literally fell apart into huge pink flakes) with gorgeous roasted potatoes, another pastel de choclo and fresh fruit for dessert.
SO happy to eat some salmon!!
We also went to a hilarious little museum in Castro where pretty much everything was in Spanish, but we saw dioramas of how the city was built, and mad photos of how they build houses – pulled upright by bulls! We bought yet MORE kuchen (one cake – strawberries in a cheesecakey layer over sponge and jam, traditional; the other a bright pink jelly cake filled with cream. Yum! We also tried an apple empanada… needless to say, no dinner later on!)
KUCHEN!!! The most delicious cake in all the land
On our second day on the island, we did the walking tour of Ancud that our hostel had put together, which was surprisingly beautiful. Ancud’s described in the LP as a ‘blustery and weathered town’ but we found it just as charming as Castro, and on the walking tour we took in food markets with giant garlic bulbs and vibrant colourful potatoes; an excellent museum with a replica of a navy boat and a giant whale skeleton; a picturesque bay with colourful boats; an old fortress complete with canons; live music in the town centre; and an idyllic little bay where we sunbathed on rocks for a few hours. We also had another menu del dia, for an almost criminal 2 pounds, with salad, chicken soup, and for me – AMAZING white fish in a tempura-style batter with rice, and for Sam a meat with bone marrow side, then homemade chilled rice pudding with nutmeg for afters. Yum!
They have a myth about a local “troll” who lives in woods and comes out to seduce and kill virgins. Nice!
The port at Ancud, where we stayed
Lazing at the bay at Ancud
That evening, to celebrate Valentines, we went to stuff our faces with ‘Curranto’, the national dish of Chiloe. Cooked in a hole in the ground covered with leaves, the dish consists of HUGE clams and mussels, smoked sausage, smoked ribs, chicken, and potato pancakes (green and white, from different potatoes) and a rose coloured potato to boot! We shared one and couldn’t finish it (the mussels were the size of my hand!) but the restaurant were lovely and accommodating despite this (and the fact we ordered tap water!) and the chef even came out for a little chat with us.
The insane feast of Curranto!
Warmed by the hospitality, sunshine and relaxation of the island, we boarded the bus back onto the mainland and up to Pucon, to climb a massive volcano!….