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Chonchi, Chile

Written on: Friday February 8th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Chonchi, Chile

Author: Julie and Kevin


After a fairly decent sleep at Esmerelda by the Dump (as we had taken to calling it), we started re-thinking our intentions to leave a couple of days early. It certainly wasn?t what we had expected but the girls were staying here and we figured we should at least give the village a chance. We didn?t want to judge the village by the conditions at the hostel. We joined everyone for breakfast in the communal use kitchen. Carlos, the owner of the hostel, who was originally from Prince Edward Island, had sketched a map for the girls of a one-day walk around the coastline of the next island over. We had thought to go to the national park, but after hearing more than one opinion that it wasn?t really worth going other than to see the carcass of the dead whale, we opted to join them instead.

Chiloé's first known inhabitants were the Chonos, a nomadic people. Later the Huilliche (a part of the Mapuche) came from the mainland and settled on the eastern shore, practicing agriculture and fishing. In 1567 the island was first claimed by Spain, which was exploring and claiming most of South America and many neighbouring islands, and established a settlement at Castro in 1567, which later became the seat of a Jesuit mission, and was capital of the province until the founding of Ancud in 1768. In 1784 Chiloé Island was made a direct dependency of the colonial viceroyalty of Peru, while continental Chile was a captaincy-general within the viceroyalty. Unlike the central region of Chile where a long war of independence resumed after a Spanish reoccupation, Chiloe never joined the "Patria Vieja" (Old Republic). In December 1817 the island became the last stronghold of Spanish loyalists (together with Valdivia) fleeing from the Chilean mainland. A Chilean expedition led by Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald failed to conquer it. On 15 January 1826, after another unsuccessful attempt in 1824, the Spanish forces surrendered to a military expedition led by Ramon Freire, and the island was fully incorporated into the independent republic of Chile, although Spain did not recognize it until 1844. In 1982, the provincial capital, after over 200 years, was returned to Castro (the place not the person).

The four of us left mid-morning and walked the 5 km down the country road with a bounce in our step toward the ferry jetty. The ferry was free and we were fitted in amongst the cars and trucks going across the way. It only took 15 minutes before we arrived to the other side. The ferry grinded to a halt against the concrete landing and swung its wide gates open with all of the vehicles pulling out.

Following the map, we walked along the main road leading away from the jetty. At a small intersection with a gravel road, we turned right, following the quickly sketched map. The gravel road supposedly would bring us to a lone beach on the other side of the island within an hour or two. We walked and walked, passing quiet country houses that made me think of cottages from the Canadian Maritimes. An occasional cow or dog would greet us at a gate, a couple of cars passed us by kicking up dust for a long time after their passing. One of the most interesting moments of the walk was when we met a cart being pulled by two large oxen. They weren?t very impressed with us being on their road and tried to push Emily out of the way when she stepped off the road on the wrong side. We all had a good laugh at watching her quickly run over to the other side before being gored by the cranky kings of the road.

We walked for about 5 km till we arrived to a small, pebbled bay. Located across the road from it was a canning factory and there was a small dock in the front. As we rounded the corner of the road, there was a white delivery van that was side-ways on the road with its two back tires hanging over the edge of the pebble beach. He had tried to do a U-turn but ran out of room. We helped him out of his predicament by pushing him out and away he went. We decided it was a good place to stop for our packed lunch. Kevin and I had brought a couple large pieces of cooked ham, bread, marinated olives, cheese, and peanuts. It was delicious! From where we sat, we could see snow capped mountains in the distant horizon. Brightly coloured buoys lined the coast, and marked where fishermen had mussel farms. We enjoyed our lunch until about 2 PM and discussed if it would be a good idea to turn around, we had been walking for 10 Km and there was no sign of the fabled beach. The consensus was unanimous, so we retraced our steps.


A couple of kilometres into our return walk, a truck was coming down the road in the same direction as we were going. Anna, being smart, flagged him down and asked if we could sit in the back of his cab. The driver agreed but warned us that he was only going about 2 more kilometres down the road and not all the way back to the main road. We got a 5 minute ride with a cooling breeze then he let us off. It had saved quite a bit of time and we were soon back to the ferry crossing. Our return walk from the ferry landing was quick as we were able to flag down one of the local buses and for the price of 50c we were dropped off at the top of the hill from our hostel. We returned 5 hours and almost 20 kilometres later. We all enjoyed our day of a nice walk, but I wonder what the beach would have looked like? After a full day of walking we were all quite hungry and discussed what we would eat that night. The general consensus was that we would have some type of seafood. We later found a delicious spot to dine at, just across the street from the waters edge. We are starting to see how late people eat during the summer months as we sat down for supper at 10pm and the restaurant was full. Abalone anyone?