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Published: March 25th 2010
The last time we wrote something was when we left Peru, that was so long ago that it feels almost like another life. A short memory from childhood even though it was just three months ago. Since then we crossed by bus to Chile and continued to Argentina, Buenos Aires to meet my parents and then headed on down south to Ushuaia to thrill ourselves with another brief meeting with them and to 'start' travelling up north. And now three months later here we are in Puerto Montt, back after a fantastic week of kayaking and site seeing at the island of Chiloe, just south of Puerto Montt.
When we arrived in Puerto Montt with the Navimag ferry from Puerto Natales we unexpectedly found a lovely hostel nearby the port - Hostal Suizo - which is also the house of Rossy, a lively Chilian artist, whom we got to know a little better on our last night at the hostel over a glass of wine and some cool music. We just said goodbye to our dear friends Byron & Marika with whom we travelled for almost three weeks, since Torres Del Paine, and here we were meeting new beautiful people, Koos
and Nicolin from Holland who travel by bicycles to the south of Chile. We enjoyed the wine and watching Rossy work at her studio and talked until our mouths got dry. The next morning after another farewell we took the bus to Ancud which is in the island Chiloe, two hours by bus from Purto Montt. For some reason Chiloe played nicely in my ear and the opportunity for some kayaking, finally, seduced me to go there and I don't regret. Sorry, we, don't regret - we had fabolous time and it was hard to leave.
What is so nice is Chiloe? I guess Liz would describe it better in words then me but in few words it is genuine, local and warm in a latin way. Although we didn't see there colourful festivals nor hiked on glaciated mountains or meet indigenous comunities we enjoyed every minute and we hope to come back.
We arrived in Ancud at some time around mid day and from the bus station we walked around to find a hostel for the night. The first one was a family house and they were not ready for guests at that moment, could we come back
later?....., no I do not want to carry my very heavy backpack for longer than I have to. The second hostel was a lovely looking building, very modern outside, lots of wood and light inside, boasting wifi, cable tv etc., and a dog and cat in residence......how do I know there were animals in residence...as I went up the stairs to look at the room I noticed the plant pots had had the soil scraped out by a shitting cat...then when I went to look at the bedroom I noticed (just before the lady was able to throw a cushion on it to cover it) that a dog had crapped on the bed.....just goes to show, all that sparkles is not good. From here we looked in our Lonely Planet and found the name of Austral Hostel, a cheap hostel nearby. When we arrived the place looked fairly tired outside and I noticed that the owners were trying to sell the property, and indeed inside was a bit dated and tired, but it was clean and cheap and the people running it were just so friendly and helpful, in the end we stayed two nights.
We talked to the
hostel owner about getting out to see the Penguin island, she informed us that the other girl staying was going on a tour in about half an hour if we wanted to join her, so for CL$13000, we went off for a ride to the Penguins along the coast of Ancud, through rolling countryside very remincent of England, very green, with the smell of fresh cut hay making me a little homesick. We were informed about how the face of Ancud had changed dramatically in the early 1960's due to a huge Tsunami, this meant some of the ground dropped leaving large swathes of the land underwater, including in some parts the railway line. We were driven on rough tracks to the Penguin beach, which was a lovely sandy beach with a few restaurants and a hotel, a few fishing sheds and boats scattered along the shore and also the boat to take us to the penguins. I loved the boat ride as there was quite a swell on the sea and I loved the bobbing up and down and watching the seas crash against the rocks, Ram was not so happy as it was more difficult to take a
picture. Apart from the Penguins, more than one species, we saw many other fabulous sea birds but I have to say the highlight for me was when I noticed a sea otter, then a little later we all saw a second one which was fishing, the amazing thing was he came up to eat the crab he had caught, lying on his back to do so and he really was so near to us that we could have touched him - a magic moment for me. We also saw a huge sea lion swimming by. Later we had a walk on the beach, always a thrill for me, and I tried to resist but failed, picking up shells and sea flotsam that attracted my attention. After this we were driven back to Ancud and we went to another Hostel for coffee and to use the wifi.
Next day after breakfast and much talk of the recent earthquake in Chile with our hostel owners, we headed off for a walk over the cliffs and into town to see what was available. Ram was keen to do some kayaking, I have to admit I was not. Anyway, we had read about
One of the many small bays
Along the coast line near Ancud
a tour outfit called Austral Adventures, so we decided to check them out. We arrived in a very smart office overlooking the bay to be greeted by Cyril, who after talking through what we wanted and checking the weather forcast, decided to rearrange his diary so that he could take us off on a 3 day kayak adventure.
After a long goodbye the next morning, we headed of to the Austal office to meet up with Cyril for the start of the journey. At the office we met Britt, the owner of the business, to be informed that we would be staying at his home in the building referred to as the 'Tower'. We were taken by truck to Britt's lovely home on the shore to start our trip, we were to kayak in the sea accross to an old fort for lunch then back. It was a lovely experience, the sea was calm, we crossed to the opposite side easily and were rewarded with the sight of many lovely sea birds on the shore, but a highlight was to see Pelicans in flight overhead, about six of them, huge birds but strangly very elegant in flight. We kayaked
close to the land so that we would be able to see more wildlife and were rewarded with the sight of a sleeping seal which we frightened so were able to see him swimming, ducking and diving in the water. After a couple of hours we arrived at another spectacular sandy beach and pulled the kayaks up onto the shore, then took a short walk up to the fort and to have a picnic lunch. Lunch was wonderful,homemade Guaccamole on crackers, a seafood pasta in homemade pesto sauce, fruit juice, biscuits, homemade banana bread and to finish chocolate......just what we needed to build us up for the return journey............oh and what a journey, the wind had got up and we were kayaking into the wind, to start with not too bad, we were managing, but later when we had to cross from one side to the other, we were in full wind and god it was hard, my shoulders were burning with the effort and we just seemed to be going nowhere fast, and energy levels were getting low, Cyril came to the rescue and attached a rope to us and helped us back to the shore, apparently he said
it was an unusually high wind, not sure if that was to make us feel better or not. You cannot imagine how happy I was to set foot on solid ground, I was shattered and all thoughts of beachcombing along Britt's beautiful 5km shoreline disappeared, I just needed a hot shower and a relax. Mad fool Ram wanted to go back to the water.
We were met in the garden by Sandra, Britt's wife and their three lovely daughter's and offered a very welcome cup of tea. After this we were shown to the 'Tower' which really is a tower, a water tower, that had been converted into a lovely guest annex. We went up stairs to the entrance, into the kitchen living area, with a large window overlooking the garden, then up the spiral staircase to the bedroom and bathroom, a fabulously comfortable bed and again a lovely big window looking out to sea and sky so we could watch the stars before falling asleep, but the best of all a hot shower. After a rest we were called for supper with Sandra, Britt and the girls, this was a wonderful meal of Salmon, fresh vegetables and potatoes,
wine, and an apple crumble and custard, all really delicous, and a family effort, with the custard being made by Miska. It was lovely to share an evening with the family and the girls were certainly entertaining and interesting company.
Breakfast next morning was again in Sandra's kitchen, and when it came time to leave I have to say I was reluctant, I almost told Ram to go on his own, I was happy to stay with Sandra and chat all day, but in the end, off I went in the truck loaded with the kayaks, to start the next two days river kayaking. We off loaded the kayaks at a good entrace point to the river and loaded them with all that was needed for our trip, and set off upstream, passing fishermen, birds and a peaceful scenery. We kayaked untill we could go no further due to the shallowness of the river and then turned to go back, in the hope that we could go downstream and join another river to get to the Farmstay that we were due to stay at that night.......the best laid plans and all.......Ram and I by this time had some sort
of rythmn going and were getting up quite a speed, we passed the starting point and went on down stream untill we saw an interesting inlet behind some reeds so we went in to explore.....Cyril joined us in a slightly nervous state as whilst he was passing under the bridge a truck stopped and informed him that there had been a Tsunami warning and maybe we had better get off the river......Cyril was frantically calling people to try and confim this....no reply from the office as they had all been evacuated, no reply from a host of numbers he had untill he was able to get through to his wife's school where the warning was confirmed....he decided that it would be best not to go out to wider waters but to go back up to where we started the day and get the team to pick us up. This we did, and sat in a peaceful field having yet another great picnic made by Sandra, and weathering the storm of the Tsunami (this consisted of generally pigging out on picnic and lazing in the sun waiting for our lift). When the rescue team arrived they loaded the kayaks onto the
truck and drove us to an entry into another river we were to have kayaked into, to resume our journey to the pickup point for that nights stay. This was a lovely afternoon, very tranquil, and we stopped often just to float on the river listening to the sounds of nature. Later we were met on the side of the river by Hardy, the owner of the farm we were to stay at for the night, he was a lovely man, quiet but with twinkling eyes that told of a good sense of humour. We left the kayaks on the side of the river and Hardy drove us up to his farm, where, after a shower, we were welcomed with a table groaning with sandwiches, ham, cheese, cake tea and coffee and it seemed we had hardly finished this before supper was served, another lovely meal of a homemade soup, followed by a chicken casserole and then a milk pudding, that I really could not have eaten otherwise the kayak would definately sink the next day.
Day three started with breakfast of scrambled eggs, breads, ham, tea and then goodbyes before Hardy delivered us back to our kayaks and
a days paddling. Today it seemed that there were many more birds, and listening to their voices was lovely. We saw kingfisher, white heron, and Flamingoes to name but a few. It was a peaceful days kayaking going accross the estuary where the rivers meet (to Ram it seemed like an ocean), passing lovely wooden boats moored at the rivers edge and spying lovely wooden homes up on the river banks, and of course the regulation picnic, reading back through this, it appears that the days are just one long orgy of food, no wonder my trousers are getting tight! We finished the trip on the banks of the river by a little fishing community, I have to say that I love the wooden boats around here, they have so much more beauty and character than the plastic and fibreglass ones. We were taken back to Ancud where we decided to hire a car for the weekend to explore a bit more of the island, so after this was arranged, we waited for Cyril to finish a meeting he had to go to, then gave him a lift to his home near Castro. On the way there he was kind
enough to offer us a bed for the night, which was fantastic, as we were able to meet his wife and to see his lovely home which is in the woods set up high overlooking an amazing lake and we had yet another night in a very comfotable bed.
Although it would have been so easy to spend the day with Cyril and Makarena, I really thought that they deserved their weekend together so after breakfast Ram and I headed off towards Castro and to see the fishermen's stilted, colourful houses known as the Plafitos. Whilst we were there, taking pictures and enjoying the scene we had a dog come along to investigate us, a few minutes later the mid-day siren went off and it was so funny to see this dog start howling along to the siren. We later walked along the shore and came accross some fishermen with their catch of the day and watched them at work, took more pictures and then figured we should find somewhere to stay. We drove into the centre of Castro and found a nice, inexpensive hostel where we had cable t.v., not that t.v is big in my mind, but
sometimes, after no tv for months, it is nice to watch a movie, so that night we were spoilt with movies in bed. In the morning we found a wifi place and made calls home, then went off for a walk round the town, coming accross a whale of a building that had been built as a museum, but never used, supposedly as it was haunted, we walked around the local craft market, and watched at the fish counters as shellfish were liberated from shells and made into mouthwatering soups. Later we drove off towards the national park along the road as far as it would go untill we reached the sea, passing the most wonderful wooden homes and stopping regularly to take photos. We found a shabby looking hostel in the middle of nowhere where we decided to have late lunch, what a find, I had the most incredible soup, almost like a shellfish caserole, it was so good I had to have a second bowl, and I was given a large tumbler of red wine to wash it down with, Ram had chicken and vegetables, all at a rediculously low price and one of the most memorable meals
of the trip. We later drove back in the direction of Ancud along the coast 'road' - well, coast rubble road - it was great, just like a rally drive, with dust everywhere as cars passed, all good fun, just glad the car was not mine, the poor suspension. When we arrived in Ancud, there was a powercut but despite not being able to decipher the road names, we found a lovely B&B opposite the second bus station that is in the town centre, run by a lovely lady, it was warm and welcoming, she was friendly and we sat and chatted for ages over a cup of tea.
We had arranged with Cyril and Austral that we would go off on a hike on the Monday, followed by a dawn kayak on the Tuesday morning, so after dropping the car back we arrived at the Austral office to be driven out past the Penguin island to start a five or so hour hike, up through woods, stopping for lunch, before the descent to the beach and a wonderful walk along the derserted sandy beach for over an hour. This was a place I could easily have stayed and
camped for a week, just to enjoy the feeling of peace and to listen to the sea, not to mention the best drift wood I have seen in a long time, it was just too much for me and I had to succumb to picking a few bits up, which cost me dear when I came to post it home, but hell, for me it is so much more a reminder of a fabulous time and place than a bit of jewellery, or a knicknack. After the beach walk we walked along the Chepu river and up a steep incline to be met by Fernando who drove us to his home - Mirador de Chepu, an Eco Lodge where we stayed for the night. It is a beautiful place with spectacular sunsets and sunrises to witness perched on the edge of the sunken forest and overlooking the point where Rio Negro meets Rio Chepu - well worth a visit. The lodges are cute wooden buildings with a bedroom and bathroom, all light from the wind turbine and the water from the well. We had a fantastic welcome and wonderful food cooked to perfection by Amory, Fernando's wife. Supper was at
the main building included a scrumptious smoked salmon with a creamed spaghetti and salad, with wine - for Ram one of the best meals he has had, all whilst listening to some great music from Fernando's good collection. We went off to bed early as we had a 6am start the next day for our Kayak at Dawn adventure.
We were greeted at 6am by tea, coffee and biscuits, along with rubber pants, life jackets and gloved paddles, then taken down to the river bank in the dark to get into the Kayaks. I have to say, it is very disorientating to be on the river in the pitch black, but after a while you adjust and it is great to see the dark lighten into dawn and to hear the birds waken and fly accross dusky skies. We were lucky enough to see many different birds, and to witness a river otter crosses the river. The sunken forest is something worth seeing, it is a left over from the 60's Tsunami, and the shapes and reflections are really something to experience, and to witness the dawn breaks and see how the shapes emerge and change, to see the
mist of fog hanging over the water, words from me really cannot do it justice, all I can say is that if you have a chance to do this trip, do not hesitate, either call Austral or Fernando, Austral at www.austral-adventures.com Tel. 56-65 625 977 or Fernando at Chepu Adventures www.chepuadventures.com, tel. 569-9397 2481, you won't regret it. We must have been out for a couple of hours and returned to be met with yet more food, a really good breakfast made again by Amory. Over breakfast we were able to chat more with Fernando and Amory, two remarkable people who had sold up everything in Santiago to come to Chiloe and create their Eco Lodge, clearing a forest of brambles and vegetation to make this beautiful oasis on the riverbank, and to see the fabulous photo's Fernando had taken in this haven. All too soon our time with them was over and we headed back to Ancud, to post off my wooden treasures, pick up washing and head off on the next leg of our travels. It is so sad to leave a place that you enjoyed so much and people that were so interesting and welcoming, we had
After kayak breakfast
Rio Negro and Rio Chepu behind
been offered the chance to spend more time with Britt and his family on their wooden boat, doing the Fjords at the mainland of Chiloe and fishing too, but as time is now an issue we had to decline, however, we leave Chiloe with great memories and the certainty that we will be back at some point in the future.
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