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Another day in Ancud

Written on: Thursday February 7th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Chonchi, Chile

Author: Julie and Kevin


?It?s a small world after all..?, those are the lyrics to a popular Disney song and the words have never been more apt than this morning. Kevin awoke earlier than normal and had ventured down for our last breakfast. The usual German spread was presented on the table: yogurt, granola, peaches, apples, bananas, freshly baked multigrain bread, cheese, ham, coffee, and tea. We had planned to leave for Castro, the capital of the island, which was an hour away, around noon. While enjoying his breakfast, he started talking with a few people at the table. The conversation turned toward Patagonia and the famous ?W? Torres del Paine trek that we would be doing in a few weeks. Kevin was providing some insight on what to expect regarding weather, what to carry, and the variation of the trail. Sitting at the table was Daniella, a young woman from Montreal but living in Santiago. She had a female friend who had hike Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia the previous year. She went on to describe this friend whom had hiked with a male acquaintance who had developed blisters and couldn?t complete the trail in his boots so had done it in flip-flops. This story was very familiar to Kevin and he inquired what her friend?s name was. The answer of ?Ladan, but I?m sure you don?t know her? made him laugh. He certainly knew Ladan and he was the one who had done the hike in flip-flops. The story goes that Ladan had been living in Santiago for three years, working at the Canadian Foreign Affairs office in the Chilean capital. In November 2006, Kevin and a few friends of ours had gone to visit Ladan and Kevin had stayed an extra week to join her on her hike of Torres. Unfortunately, his hiking boots that he?d had worn almost daily for the past year, had caused him problems and in the span of an hour, he had developed huge blisters on the back of his heels. Not being able to wear the boots anymore and not wanting to turn around he made the decision to wear Ladan?s plastic Havaina flip-flops for the entire five days. He successfully completed the trek. On his return to Canada 10 days later, I was surprised to see how large and raw his blisters were. The whole back of each heel was a deep welt.

After chatting with Daniella for most of the morning, we put off our bus ride every hour till we eventually decided to stay another night. Our room had already been rented out but they had another available so we moved our bags into our new room. We spent the remainder of the day sitting outside on the front porch; drinking red wine and watching the boats float in and out of the large bay. Un otra copa de vino tinto?

The next day, we made a point of getting up early and grabbed the 10 AM bus to Chonchi with a stop in Castro. We really meant to spend some time here in Castro which is known for its colourful houses along the coast as well as unique wooden churches. These houses stand on stills, a unique feature seen here in Chile. It must be cool to live so close to the waters, you could drop a fishing line into the water, while you boil your potatoes, and then catch the freshest supper imaginable.

Here we are in Castro, walking the streets looking for a place to eat. We find a restaurant run by a scarlet redhead in her mid forties, obviously of European decent. We could tell her restaurant paid attention to detail, setting an atmospheric environment and great culinary dishes were listed on the menu. Acid jazz music filled our ears. We needed to remind ourselves where we were. The short time we spent in the restaurant filled a craving for something we were hungry for?.not just the food, but also of that connection to back home. We stayed for about an hour and making our way into the street we weren?t really interested in seeing any more churches so we hoped on our one hour bus from Castro to Chonchi. We had our mind set on a hostel and all of the guidebooks and Chilean hostel pamphlets raved about this hostel called Esmeralda by the Sea. Run by a Canadian man it promised a beautiful beach, a serene village, use of a small rowboat, comfortable rooms, a self-serve kitchen, and ?Great Gardens? to relax in the sun. Also included was a visit to the owner?s mussel farm and the possibility of great seafood meals. We couldn?t wait to be there. The drive along the coast was scenic, with an idyllic countryside of boats, small shingled houses, deserted sea coves, sea birds and rolling hills. We were dropped off at the small office of the local bus company and pointed down the hill towards the harbour. Following a small map, we turned down a small gravel alleyway named Esmeralda and arrived at a large Victorian-style home on seafront. We weren?t sure, although there was a sign with the name ?Esmeralda? on the outside, if we had found the right place. It was in severe need of paint, the road was littered with garbage, the beachfront was disgusting and covered in broken glass, and the yard was overgrown with weeds. We knocked on the door, and then a second time and finally greeted by a young man who confirmed we were at the right place. He was only a guest who happened to be sitting at the computer situated next to the door. While greeting us, he said ?I don?t work here but?? and then pointed to a door, indicating we should knock. We did and were greeted by another young guy who looked like he had just woken up. He was the owner?s son. His hair was sticking up and he had trouble forming a complete sentence and looked like he spent all day getting high. He said they had not received our email inquiry about a reservation but that they did have a private room available for us. He took us outside and walked us through the jungle of tall weeds, away from the house and down the path to another building. Up a flight of rickety stairs, where we needed to duck due to the overgrown bushes and to a room which obviously hadn?t been cleaned yet. So he took us to another one which hadn?t been cleaned either. He explained that the cleaning lady hadn?t arrived yet (probably ran from fear) but was pretty sure the last room was ready for occupancy. It proved right and we dropped out bags on the bed. We were both unsure of what to do, should we stay or should we go? Kevin was 100% sure this wasn?t the place and decided to go for a quick walk to see if there was another Esmeralda by the Sea. It was possible this place was just using it?s name, which happens often in South America. There would usually only be a difference of a letter or a missing word to differentiate the impostor from its nicer, more popular cousin. A quick walk around confirmed that there wasn?t another hostel and really not much to the village. We decided to spend the night and leave the next day on the morning bus. We were so disappointed. Everything just looked run down and grubby. Although our room was pretty decent, seamed cleaned with natural wood paneling and clean linens, which was its saving grace. We walked to the local supermarket and bought a few things for the meal that night. The kitchen was no better and there were flies everywhere. I was a little afraid to touch anything.

We ended up meeting a few nice people and while talking with them Anna and Emily returned from their walk in the national park. After our greetings Emily said ?There wasn?t much to see except for the carcass of a dead whale rotting on the beach. I sat down on its jaw bone thinking it was completely dry by still managed to get my shorts soaked and everything was now smelling like a dead rotting whale?. Disgusting?yes we know, but all we had on our minds was the state of this dump of a hostel which Julie and I tried to compare to their experience of sitting on a dead whale. And as suspected, they too weren?t impressed with the place either but we all decided to stay and make the best of it. That night, before bed our good friends Anna and Em talked to us about how they intended on visiting a neighbouring island and so the next morning we joined them.


*Note the pictures taken of hostel Esmeralda and its surroundings are beautiful but beauty is in the eye of the beholder? or we?re just becoming really good photographers.