1000km semi-cama and more...

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, April 6, 2007

After a luxurious (huge reclining seats, snacks, videos) overnight bus ride of a 1000km or so, we arrive in Puerto Montt, a fairly nasty port town. Luckily, there was a bus waiting to take us to the island of Chiloe , a place considered culturally unique in Chile due to its relative isolation from the mainland. Traditionally rebels, the people of Chiloe were the last people to surrender to the Spanish Crown in 1826.
After passing through a landscape which through the foggy bus window appeared green, hilly and windswept, we arrived in the town of Ancud . Our cheap little B&B had a great view over to the harbour and was run by a very businesslike but humorous elderly lady and her downtrodden bachelor son.
Lunch of incredibly fresh, tasty salmon and hake followed at a busy wee restaurant which seated perhaps 15 people at any one time. Wandered around the coast, the beach and the old fort, all the while being barked at by packs of stray mongrels. Some gypsy-type caravans and tents were the only spot of colour in an otherwise greyish town.
Arriving in Castro the next day (the principal town of the island) was a more colourful experience, with clear skies, and water reflecting the multi-coloured wooden stilt houses (palafitos, see photo) and fishing boats at the entrance to the town.
A tip from our guidebook led us to a family-run hospedaje where we were greeted warmly by Roxsana at the door of her little wooden house which was kind of like a tardis (for Doctor Who fans), much bigger on the inside than it appeared from the outside. Cosy little place with a narrow staircase and the constant danger of Ed head-butting the light bulb in our room.
Asked for a lunch recommendation and Roxsana invited us into her dining room where we quickly recovered some Spanish conversational skills to get us through the lunch with her husband, father - Luis and Victor, a friend from Santiago . Our mouths water even now thinking about that lunch; seafood soup, then giant mussels stuffed with tomato, cheese and herbs secured with a wire that Anna never could remove. Luckily Luis was on hand to help out. Our wine glasses were refilled several times while we chatted about work and travel and devoured the next course of salmon and rice, finished off with a homemade strawberry desert.
Pottered around the markets where we bought the alpaca wool patterned caps with ear flaps which figure in most of our photos from now on. A brief, cold boat ride in the harbour took us as close to four sea lions sunning themselves on a buoy as we ever want to get. They are kind of cute, in a fierce-looking way but smell a lot like fish-flavoured cat food x 10.
That evening, drinking pisco sour (a type of grape brandy from the north of Chile served with lemon juice ) with our hosts, Victor tells us about his tour to Europe in which he seemed to have seen as many of the worlds great museums and art galleries in 30 days as it took us 5 years to see. He threw his arms in the air as he described the trip as a "un baņo de cultura, un ducha de cultura!" (a bath of culture, a shower of culture!). This phrase had us giggling and became a permanent addition to our Spanish phrase collection.
Before leaving Chiloe for Puerto Montt, we visited a quaint fishing village called Chonchi with wooden mansions in decaying at various rates. A typically Chloean church of bright blue corrugated iron featured in the town (see photo), almost rivalling the corrugated iron mauve and orange cathedral in Castro for assaulting the eyeballs. A return to Puerto Montt confirmed our original impression of this town as miserable and nasty.
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