Monday, April 22, 2013

Isla Grande de Chiloe, Chile

In my previous blog I had mentioned that we had made a trip to Isla Chiloe in December but remembered I had not written about it. When we knew that we would go back to the States for Christmas, it left us with time to spare so we decided to take a side trip to the island after having read so much about its history. From Bariloche we spent the first night in Villa La Angostura before crossing into Chile at Paso Samore. This pass high in the Andes at an elevation of over 8,000 feet on a clear day would have given great views of the nearby volcanoes. As it was the two highest and closest to us, Puyehue and Casablanca were shrouded in clouds but we could still the snow covered sides and visualize how immense they are. After reaching the Chilean city of Osorno, we head south again with the Andes on our left side. This is actually volcano territory and driving toward Puerto Montt, we pass volcanoes, Puntiagudo, Osorno and Calbuco to name just a few. All are towering masses with the pointed peaks that comprise most composite volcanoes, all extremely tall and all covered in snow and unfortunately, clouds. It has not stopped raining all day and at times the downpours were torrential. At this rate, the ferry crossing across the Chacao Channel will be choppy. Just like getting onto Tierra del Fuego, catching a ferry is very simple. You just drive to the end of the road at the small town of Pargua, join a line of other cars, buses and trucks and wait for one of the boats which cross fairly frequently. At the other end, drive off and you are immediately on a road going to the southern end of the island. Although it's only a 30-minute ferry crossing away from mainland Chile across the Chacao Channel, lush and green Isla Chiloe – the largest in the Chilean archipelago – is like another world. By the way it is green and lush because it happens to be one of the wettest places on earth and today it seems to be trying to prove that claim. The rain which has been heavy all day is simply coming down in sheets driven by the wind. The ferry arrives at the tiny village port of Chacao and we look for a place to park for the night, as it is getting late. There is a village square with a church at one side, which looks quiet. Isla Chiloe is famous for its wooden churches some of which have UNESCO World Heritage status. Also clustered around the square are houses for which the island is also renowned. Tejuelas are the famous Chilote wooden shingled homes which are painted in bright colors, probably to offset the dreary, rainy weather. We walk Winston, make sure the motorhome is not leaking anyplace and it is an early night. The next morning it is still pouring with rain and we think of our options. Much as we want to explore the island, the rain just makes it harder to do and nowhere near the fun. Also, many of the places we want to go are on dirt roads that are awash with mud. Given all that, we decide after one day on Chiloe to go back to Bariloche. We may return in a few months but right now the rain has got the better of us and so we make the two day trip back to Bariloche. The rain stayed with us until we were back in Argentina and approaching Lake Nahuel Huapi.

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