A Travellerspoint blog

April 2008

The home of the potato

Chasing guanacos in Chile

View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

I don't know if I ever mentioned that before we left Finland we decided not to go anywhere where it's less than 25 degrees Celsius. Who wants to be in the cold when you get to be in the cold almost year around at home? We decided, though, to make a small exception and go down to Chiloé Island and check out some penguins before we cross the border into Argentina and head back for Buenos Aires.

So we took an 18 hour “ohmygoddoesthisseatnotdeclineanyfurther” bus ride 1200km south along the west coast and got off in sunny Castro, a cute little town on Chiloé’s east coast. Chiloé is the main island of an archipelago with over 40 islands. The people mainly live out of agriculture and fishing. It's already pretty cold here, about 10 degrees, and we're already wondering what the hell we were thinking coming down here to the cold. I'm already wearing almost all the clothes I have with me (well hey; at least the backpack is lighter...).

But guess what? There are no penguins here this time of year. We missed them with a couple of weeks. They always swim away somewhere, nobody knows where, and then they return the next year again. Blah.

And guess what else? Some quick-witted person in our party came up with the great idea of us going all the way down to the end of the world while we already were this far south. I mean, we only have about 2500km left, so why not do it once we have the chance?

Well never mind, this is actually a pretty cool little place. The town lies by the sea and has some really great views. They also have some really extraordinary houses here. They come in all kinds of fascinating shapes and colours; it's a bit like being in gingerbread land. The outsides of the houses are panelled with wood pieces that form a pattern like crocodile skin on the walls. Some of the houses stand on high poles out in the water. And what also makes this place interesting is that because of the island insularity it used to have some rich traditions involving some fascinating mythology.

Castro city

Another excellent thing about this place is that they have lots of handicrafts here, and especially lots of things made out of wool and alpaca. So it is the perfect place to stock up on some warm clothes for the journey south. We did a few rounds on the large artisanal market and got some really good deals on jumpers, hats and socks. Can you believe that you can get handmade alpaca socks for about 2 Euros?

The other day we did a daytrip to the national park and did some walks there. There's indeed some spectacular nature here, the kind we've never seen before. We couldn't stop taking pictures. On the same trip we had the privilege of visiting the town of Cucao that Darwin also once visited. Oh man, was that town quiet. Everything seemed to be closed except for one small minimarket and one restaurant. Well you had to know the restaurant was open because the doors were locked and you had to knock on the door to get some service. We only saw a few people on the streets and two pigs.

In the national park

Eating berries in the national park

Some weird plant in the park

In Cucao

Cucao tourist info was a bit quiet...

Getting friendly with a pig in Cucao

A funny thing that one can't stop wondering about is our experience with mashed potatoes in this country. Well the thing is: we have noticed that almost every time we order mashed potatoes we get these instant mashed potatoes made out of powder. You know, it has that special taste that gives it away. Well anyway, according to Wikipedia, the most widely cultivated variety of potato worldwide is indigenous to Chiloé Island and has been cultivated by the local indigenous people since before the coming of the Spanish. Yesterday went to a fish restaurant (they have loads of fish here) expecting to get some really nice 'real' mashed potatoes with our grilled salmon. We even asked the waiter if it is made from 'real' potatoes and he assured that 'of course!' it is made from real potatoes. Yeaaaaah... I guess he meant real instant potatoes. I get it. Noooot.... I mean, this is the home of the potato!

While we're at the "instant things" path it would probably be suitable to mention now that they only drink instant coffee here. Well, at least 99% of the time. Nescafe has really done its marketing here. I don't know if it is a status thing or what, but it is everywhere. So far it has always been instant when we have ordered it, but we know you can get real coffee somewhere here. The search is still on.

Today we heard it again here in Castro; "Hello! Welcome to Chile!". It was just some random guy in the street who told us that. And it's not the first time that happens here in Chile. It really puts you in a good mood! Thumbs up, Chile!

Posted by AnnaMickus 08:42 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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