Trip Start Dec 02, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, January 28, 2008

  Finally on terra firma after the Navimag experience, we hired a car with new Aussie mates Bec and Evan and headed to the Islands of Chiloe. It being an island and all, meant another ferry! Happily this one took all of 20 minutes so my sickness episode was left at sea.

Chiloe was for me reminiscent of Uruguay in terms of its status as a tourist destination. Both places are immature in this respect yet steeped in culture and history so there is a lot for the new tourist wave to enjoy. This relative youth to tourism means the people of the island haven't yet tired of their modern age invaders and are still happy to receive visitors- even the gringos... They demonstrate great pride in their culture and geography, and seem thrilled to be showing it off. They are gracious hosts and you can't even buy a sandwich without being presented with a souvenir gift.

The key tourist attractions on Chiloe are the National Park, stilt houses, wooden churches (some 600 in total!) and penguins. Having arrived on the main island and been nowhere near a boat for all of two hours, the four of us were craving the open sea so headed to the 'penguinarium' Arriving at the beach we were met by a man on horseback who informed us that to get to the fishing boat which would take us out to see the sealife we (well, Piet) must drive the Toyota we had hired across the sand. Oh, and while we were at it, could Bec and I budge up and give him a lift across too? We duly obliged and made our way to some choppy waves (sea-hardened now- not a wave of nausea) and saw some beautiful birds. More interesting perhaps, was witnessing the fishermen arriving back on land. They attracted huge crowds of seagulls and the odd tourist to view their catch. As you can see from the photos they seemed to have done quite well!

Day two on Chiloe was spent driving around the islands, visiting the wooden churches and people-watching, or rather having people watch us. On several occasions children new to this tourist lark just sat and stared at us, good practise perhaps for some of the remoter parts of Asia and Africa we travel to later in the year. The churches themselves were very simple but interesting structures, each one different from the last. We all found the most surprising thing to be the odd internal decoration (well by British/Australian standards). Obscure mannequins dressed to represent the Saints, depictions of Christ with salad forks in his head, a traditionally dressed St.Michael holding a baby in a pink shell suit...

Chiloe, like most of continental South America is a Catholic community. The islands' cultural history, however, is full of myths involving strange spirits, witches and goblins. Today the islanders celebrate these traditional tales alongside their Catholic faith and the majority of the churches contain murals depicting Christ surrounded by mystical characters.

Our final day on the islands was spent on the main island, within the National Park. The park was lovely but we had all just travelled from the breathtaking Torres del Paine, so sadly Chiloe's offering was never going to compare. We enjoyed a good walk, a delicious bowl of the traditional dish curante (fish, shellfish, chicken, potatoes and sausages, served with a broth and salsa like salad) and a good night's sleep knowing that the next day meant another lengthy coach trip and all the fun of the Chile/Argentina border crossing for what felt like the thousandth time.
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