Published: February 16th 2011February 16th 2011
First a correction: Castro is the name of the city, not the island. The island is Chiloe. We took the tender in after lunch even though it was still raining off and on. The walk up to the main square was really, really steep, but worth every step because the most beautiful church I've ever been in was up there. From the outside it looks dreadful, but the interior is breathtaking. It is about 100 years old, but designed like a European Gothic cathedral. Except that it is made entirely of wood, not stone. That's because the area is densely forested -- it is their main export -- and there isn't any building stone around. All the buildings are wood, with clapboard shingles that are painted in many colors. Because it was pouring when we came out of the cathedral, we decided to go back to the ship, but discovered a huge handicraft market along the way. You cannot believe how many thousands of woolen sweaters, hats, gloves and socks were in there! Hugh felt lucky that I only bought two hats.
The next day we were in Puerto Montt, a small city founded by Germans a hundred and fifty
years ago. We went on a 7 1/2 hour tour which took us halfway up the 8000' Osorno Volcano to the ski slopes there. Of course, since it is summer, the slopes were bare. Just a lot of volcanic gravel. We also stopped at a the Petrohue River rapids and had lunch at a quaint hotel in the town of Ensenada. After a refreshing Pisco Sour, the official Chilean drink (which packs quite a punch,) we had a delicious meal of fresh local salmon. Much of our trip was driving along the third largest lake in South America, Lago Llanquihue, which is pronounced sort of like "Yankeeway." It had areas with cabins along it which reminded us of home. And rows of eucalyptus trees, my favorite. We also stopped in a beautiful town called Puerto Varas which Hugh thought looked like any number of European resort towns. The German influence here was very strong. Lovely roses that were actually fragrant were planted all over the place.
Today we are in Valparaiso, our first big city since Buenos Aires. It reminds me a lot of San Francisco: built on lots of hills leading down to the sea and plagued with
earthquakes. The houses are built willy-nilly with roofs slanting every which way and in every color imaginable. I love it! We had a tour this morning out into Casablanca Valley to visit a vineyard. How could we come to Chile and not visit a vineyard? The one we went to was "Casas del Bosque," a boutique winery which only began in 1993. We had an excellent guide of their very modern wine-making facility and sampled three kinds of wine...at 10:30 AM! Then it was back to the seaside where we drove through the ritzy old resort area of Vina del Mar, complete with elegant casino and clock made of flowering plants -- it even had a functioning second hand! A brief city tour of Valparaiso itself completed our trip. Hugh and I felt that this place has a real upbeat feel to it. That even though there are a lot of derelict buildings, many other old structures were in the midst of being restored, so you could sense their outlook was positive. The main downside as far as we are concerned is that we must take a shuttle bus about two miles just to get out of the port, so
walking into the city from the ship is out of the question.
I got my hair cut today by a Bulgarian girl in the hair salon here on the ship. It is really, really short which will be wonderfully easy for our trip to Macchu Pichu next week. Also great now that we are getting back into warmer weather...the horribly hot Caribbean will be coming soon! Hugh pretended to not recognize me on deck tonight; he keeps telling me I look like Anne Robinson from "The Missing Link." He, of course, is travelling with his own personal stylist, so his hair -- what there is of it! -- always looks perfect.
Two days at sea ahead of us. Then our last port in Chile, Arica, which is right on the border with Peru.
There are more photos below