Day 37

Exploring the island of Chiloé

In a turn of weather events quite the opposite of Chicago, Temuco’s daily high for this weekend was 100+ degrees. So we decided to head south to the island of Chiloé.

Chiloé is a large island about 7 hours south of Temuco. We decided to give Lemmy a break after a few tough weeks of driving and we took the overnight bus. We had heard that the overnight buses here are very nice, and we agreed! The seats are super comfortable and recline pretty far! We rented an Airbnb in a family’s home and it was right by the bus terminal. We just needed a place to sleep, so it was a great home base to jump off an explore different parts of the island. We freshened up at the house and made our way back to the bus station to explore Chiloé National Park.

It was perfect timing, because as we arrived, we found a bus that was headed towards Cucao in a few minutes. It was a little over an hour ride there, and pretty cheap! We were running on fumes as we hadn’t had any breakfast (or for me, coffee), so I was starting to struggle. Then, like an angel from the heavens, a woman jumped on our bus selling apple empanadas, and I’ve never been so happy.

That’s something I don’t think Nick and I have really mentioned before; but Chile has an entrepreneurial spirit. Anyone can sell anything anywhere. It’s pretty great. While you wait to pay tolls, there are lots of different people selling water, soda, baked goods, fruits, snacks, car cables, window screen shades, it’s great.

So we had that empanada and I snagged a coffee at the bus stop and we headed into the park.

We beat the rush, and it was really nice to get some walking in surrounded by beautiful scenery. All of the paths were mostly walkways, so it wasn’t too strenuous. But we felt like we had gone through so many different types of environments; tropical, forest, desert/beach, it was really nice. We finished at the park in about 3 hours and headed back to Castro.

After that, we hopped to another bus going to Delcahue, which is about 30 minutes north of Castro. I had read on a blog that Dalcahue is a cute little port town that often gets overlooked because it’s a jump-off point to take a ferry to other islands. So we wandered towards a large boat structure next to the artisan market that was bustling with people.

Inside the boat was about eight different restaurants, all family-owned. I had wanted to try paila marina and Nick had wanted to try cancato. What are these things? Paila marina is Chilean seafood stew (which, since Chiloé is an island, they’re known for their seafood). The flavors were really good. Cancato, on the other hand, is basically salmon pizza, but not with pieces of salmon on pizza. The salmon itself serves as the crust, and you add garlic, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and herbs on top. It was absurd.

After wandering around the artisan market and the town, we headed back to Castro. I had wanted to see the palafitos, or bright little houses on stilts. We snapped a few pictures at a mirador (or lookout area) and found an adorable place for ceviche. Nick and I ordered some ceviche, split a bottle of wine, and continued our rummy game. We were pretty dead from the early bus, so we headed back to the Airbnb. Especially since we were headed to Ancud early in the morning to see some penguins!

We caught a 7:40am bus to Ancud, which is at the very northern tip of the island. From there, we were looking for a tour of the islands of Puñihuil, where two kinds of penguins gather during the summer. We found a nice little stand in the bus terminal and booked a tour for 10am.

The buses are really a nice way to travel around the island – the views along the way are beautiful. The island is filled with quaint little farms in between small fishing ports or towns. Chiloé definitely has it’s own culture. It has a lot of influence from Germany and Spain, and is known for their wooden architecture.

We arrived to Puñihuil and were able to get on the first boat out to navigate through the little islands. I really enjoyed the tour – Nick and I sat at the front and the tour guide, even though he was speaking all Spanish, would stop and make sure we could understand what he was saying. The penguins were super cute and it was another beautiful day in Chile, so being on a boat was nice. We saw a lot of different kinds of migratory birds as well.

After the boat tour, we headed up to the restaurant near the end of the beach. There was another mirador and we had some time to kill. We were a little reluctant to pay $1500 CLP a person for it, but boy, was it worth it! We got to the top and there views on views on views! And lots of condors and larger birds that were nesting towards the top, it was beautiful. We stayed up there for a bit then headed down to our van to head back home.

We decided to ask our tour bus driver if he would drop us off at a town called Quetalmahue, just 10-15 minutes from Puñihuil on the way back to Ancud. He agreed, and there we stopped to try a traditional curanto.

Curanto was offered a lot of places on the island, but not all of them are traditionally prepared. The Chilote way is to bake it in the ground with stones and leaves. We had found a restaurant on the water through a blog and headed straight there.

It was perfect timing, as they had just started to prepare the curanto. The women were so nice and let us help with different parts of it and let us take pictures of the whole process. It was a perfect way to pass by the time. We were one of the few in the restaurant, so we continued our rummy game while we waited for the curanto to cook. When it was ready, the waitress brought out a heaping plate of shellfish, potatoes, and meat – it was fantastic!

Nick and I were getting a little nervous, as we were planning on taking an uber from Quetalmahue to Ancud, but couldn’t seem to find any cars that were available. After about 20 minutes of trying, one came from Ancud to pick us up, haha. Success! We were dropped off in the town square where they were having a dog costume competition. It was meant to be.

By the way, it’s going to be really hard to not come home with a dog. As you can see from many photos, there are strays everywhere (which we have been tempted to take many) and this competition at the square also had puppies available for adoption. Someone was even giving away puppies FOR FREE AT THE GROCERY STORE.

We wandered around Ancud a bit. It’s a very charming town. The temperatures were starting to rise more and more, so we decided to head back to Castro. What we thought was an air conditioned bus definitely was not, so that was interesting. We were happy to get off that particular bus, haha. We stopped for dinner after to kill some time before our night bus back to Temuco.

We very much enjoyed our quick jaunt to Chiloé! We were able accomplish a lot in two short days. And I’m sure there’s more to experience if we’re able to go back. We are also excited to move into our new apartment today (Sunday), which is a bit roomier than our other place and has storage furniture (unlike our old one, which caused our apartment to look like the aftermath of a tornado most of the time). We’ll plan to give a tour this week!

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