Chiloe, the wildly misunderstood thumb of Chile, sits just under the country’s famed lake district and is something akin to stepping into a time machine and hurtling yourself back to pre-colonial times. The main island, Isla de Grande de Chiloe, is South America’s 5th largest island and is home to a bunch of hardy, seafaring people who developed a culture and identity independently of Santiago and mainland Chile.
After crossing on a ferry to the island, Chiloe’s first town, Ancud, is an anachronism of thrown together bits of plywood, cardboard and corrugated iron splashed in a rainbow of colours. Every building a contrast of it’s neighbour, every street a botched mess of delight. Ancud is a wonderful, decaying disaster that couldn’t be any more perfect. The streets are loud and the harbour and it’s decor couldn’t care less whether you’re a tourist or fisherman going about his day. It’s shamelessly crude, and I love it.
However, there was a reason we made our way to this little island, so we soon left Ancud and followed the Panamerican to Punihuil, where there is a huge Megellanic and Humboldt penguin colony. We hopped on a boat and chugged out and around three islands just off the beach where they all lived. Our guide was wonderful and catered all too well for us two who don’t speak a word of Spanish (sorry to the whole of South America for that, we’re useless). We saw loads of penguins. Tons of them. And if you love penguins like I do, it was heaven on earth.
After getting over the penguin excitement, we hopped back in the car and braved the worse-than-terrible Chiloe roads across wetlands and rolling hills, windswept fields and lush forests. We arrived in Castro in time for the sun to be setting over those gorgeous stilt-houses in the photo above, and to experience the tiniest slice of the city as we could squeeze in.
Castro embodies all the charm of Chiloe in one nice, neat little boisterous package. It’s charming and loud, quaint and rugged. It’s colours burst and trickle and it’s mystery is so full you can feel the island’s legends creeping past the gloriously colourful UNESCO protected churches and into your soul, turning you pagan overnight.
We were sad to leave Chiloe, it’s charm was infectious and people beautiful from the inside out. Until next time!