Chiloe: the island of the Mapuches
Quiet fjords, churches, houses built on stilts and tumultuous waters from the sea coast: the island of Chiloe, in the north of the Chilean Patagonia, reminisce the Scandinavian landscapes. Having solid Andean traditions, they are part of a unique place.
Thirty minutes will do to cross the Chacao channel, which is the branch that separates Pargua, in the Chilean continent, from Chacao, in the Island of Chiloé. You can breathe salty air, carried by a warm and soft breeze, strange in this tumultuous sea. You can also follow the birds flying and the sudden appearance of seals that seem to greet with their heads as they appear.
With that indefinite feature that can make certain places unique, this extremely special environment is part of the grace of this magic island. This country of memories and legends has a strong identity.
Perhaps this special feature corresponds to the natural elements, to the frequent and unpredictable rains, its coast, its isolation or to the amount of legends from the Mapuche legacy. This indians have, due to their history, the reputation of having a fighting spirit. They managed to face the conquerors and they have never given up. The Mapuche resistance remains and, nowadays, approximately 400 mapuche activists have been sent to jail or charged for their demonstrations to protect the ancient lands from the big foresting companies and from the dam projects.
Only one paved route crosses the island through a wavy landscape with its small farms surrounded by hills and colorful gardens. Taking advantage of the particular mild weather of the summer, the roses and hydrangea bloom exceptionally. This idyllic environment contrasts with the grey sky and the solitude that the west coast offers in the Pacific Ocean.
There, the tumultuous waters surround the inaccessible islets in which the penguins and sea lions live.
As a testimony of the Jesuit presence during nearly two centuries, we find the traditional wooden churches covered in wavy metal sheets (not less than a hundred and fifty of these little wooden masterpieces are found in the archipelago). The city of Castro is proud of its church, which is considered to be world heritage, among other thirty. Painted in pink and purple, as a cake with almond pastry, this church is located in the heart of a lively city, where the traditional houses, also made of wood and covered by metal sheets, are all painted in live colours.
The third city of Chile according to its age is also the historic capital of Chiloe. The fjords and the neighbourhoods, full of wooden houses built on stilts, in the mouth of the Gamboa river are spectacular: these tiny towns, that seem to come straight from wonderland, have the smell of the sea. When the tide is high the scenery is different: the abandoned boats dance near the houses on stilts that are reflected in the water.
Following the coast to the north, the intense light makes the colours of the fishing boats and the little houses on stilts, or other rooms made of bars snail shaped, vibrate. At the end of a fjord, the Dalcahue town fills with silence only some sea birds and the ferry that goes to the island of Quinchao, in the interior sea. On Sunday, the market day, Dalcahue wakes up with the life that marks the slow step-by-step of other times: the inhabitants of these small nearby islands come to sell their products and fabrics made with the best wool.
As we leave the coast, we take a dirt road and the landscapes turn wild. One can get lost in the paths of the forest where the bamboos touch the huge gunnera leaves. The route from Castro to Cucao, in the west coast, going past Chonchi, goes along the Huilio and Cucao lakes and takes us to the Chiloe National Park, one of the most interesting destinations on the island.
The lakes cut and shape Chiloe as two water drops, causing a division between such a dense forest. One of them is as dark as the cobalt, the other is as clear as the crystal. We arrive at the Park and we go past a forest reserve that preserves intact the flora and fauna. The pacific coast is surrounded by a furious ocean. On each anger explosion, the sea and the sky merge. The violent wind sweeps the sandy plain made by white winkles. In other times, horses ridden by the mapuche indians advanced slowly and disappeared in the infinite horizon.
Patagonia in all seasons menu. For example, according to the climate, from Bariloche, in Patagonia Argentina, it is possible to go to Puerto Montt, in Chile, crossing successively three lakes by boat, as did the Jesuits and the first German settlers. I offer a tour that leads to the Pacific Ocean. It is quite long, but the beauty of the sites - forests, volcanoes and crystalline lakes - is such that it is worth to be carried. The Argentine side, cross the west arm of Nahuel Huapi and Lake Puerto Alegre and, the chilen side, Lake Todos los Santos. Moving from one lake to another by bus. This tour is feasible in all seasons, but in winter, it takes two days to reach Puerto Montt, stopping for one night at Peulla. We returned to Bariloche by air or by the same way, after a night in Puerto Montt. Borispatagonia is also responsible for visas to go to Chile and to book hotels. In Patagonia, winter and summer are tourist seasons. In summer, besides explore the surrounding, many activities are available: climbing, torrent fishing, sailing, horseback riding, hiking, rides, visits to Aciendas... In winter, the main activity is, of course, skiing, especially in July and August on the side of the Andes, but not only: snowshoe hikes, thematic tours, many walks to admire the beauty of Patagonia Argentina and Chile in this season, due a unique light, the warmth of the people of Patagonia... Just to talk about, I get goose bumps!