A week in Chiloe

Isla Grande de Chiloe, located in the south of Chile right on top of Patagonia is renowned for its beauty, cuisine and national parks. We spent a week here, following advice from guidebooks, blogs and locals.

The landscape 

Everything you read about the island’s spellbinding beauty is spot on. On the west side, battered by the Pacific winds and mist the landscape is rough, wild. Trees shaped by the winds, beaches that go on for miles, big cliffs and a feeling that nature is most definitely in control here.

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Dawn Kayak on the Western edge of Grande Isla de Chiloe

In which we sit on rota-molded plastic and drift up a tidal river…

Dawn kayak adventure in Chiloe

 

By the time the sun burns through the mist, providing a glimmer of light at the start of the day we are already 2km up river.

By the time the Pacific thunder storm blots it back out, and the bruised sky rolls over, putting us back toward darkness we are back to the van.
Timing, as ever, is all important.

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Adjusting to life on the road

When we decided to travel around South America for 6 months many were surprised that I’d signed up to camping for most it. How does the girl with the pristine Notting Hill flat and the sizeable shoe and bags collection adjust to nomadic life?

The answer is “relatively easily”. It’s not the shoe collection or the outfits that I miss (though a pair of thermal leggings would be nice). The things that, two weeks in, I am adjusting with are a lot more subtle and complicated.

An alternative working title to this post could be “the princess diaries”. I am well aware that these posts might come across as moaning – it’s a great privilege to be able to take the time off and I don’t take it for granted. But I would not be doing this experience or this blog justice if I pretended everything is rosy; besides that’s what Instagram is for :). 

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Driving south on Route 5

We left Pichilemu around noon to drive the c 1,000km to Chiloe island on the infamous Route 5. The drive is predictably long so we aimed to cover the distance over two long days taking 2hr shifts behind the wheel.

We passed a series of cities which we opted not to explore (such as Temuco and Osorno), “eyes on the prize” and all that, but still Chile managed to surprise us when we took short pit-stops to refuel, stretch our legs and camp overnight. The landscape is at first reminiscent of British Columbia, thick forests, waterfalls and steep mountains around. Around Osorno the landscape changes again. Rolling green hills, sparse trees at a distance and cattle farms. Julie Andrews would not be out of place if she appeared singing “the hills are alive”.

In one of our refuelling stops we came across was the city of Frutillar, on the shores of Lago Llanguihue. The town splits in two parts. The more industrial part is further up the hill, whilst the quintessentially German part is by the lake overlooking two inactive volcanos on the other side of the lake. There is a museum documenting the  settlement of German immigrants in the area and the place is filled with Tyrol style houses, B&Bs and waffle shops. Having driven by Chilean shantytowns for the better part of two days finding ourselves in this little piece of the Alps was a shock to the system.

A quick coffee and a waffle and we leave Frutillar for the last 2 hours of the journey to Chiloe. Another refuelling stop at Puerto Montt, a supermarket sweep (we have finally bought a cooker) and we are off again to the shore for the short ferry ride across the straight to Chiloe.