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Patagonia Day 9 – 10 Chiloe Island

by Jeff Bartlett - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Chiloe_lisa

After our penguin viewing, seafood eating transfer to Chiloé, we had high expectations for our time near Castro. Unlike some hotels that claim to be “on the water”, Palafito definitely lives up to its claim. Wooden stilts held the hotel above the sea.
Although parts of the island receive more than 4000 mm per rain each year, our weather luck held strong and prevented any foul weather from spoiling our last two days of riding.

We took advantage of Sunday’s low traffic by pedaling down the Panamerican Highway to Chonchi before turning west towards Chiloé National Park. Juan Pablo, our local guide, is passionate about local traditions and cultures so our rides included lots of extra stops at UNESCO protected churches and indigenous communities. After a hearty lunch consisting of local specialties like sea-bass empanadas and pork-stuffed potato cakes, we arrived at in the national park.

For those with the energy, Juan Pablo led two guided walks and shared his encyclopedia-like knowledge about the local flora and fauna. The first walk led us through a sub-tropical rainforest with the thickest web of vegetation imaginable. The second walk ended on the sandy pacific coast.

The next morning, we biked through Castro and continued north on the Panerican highway before heading east to Dalcahue. It’s low season on Chiloé, but our group made a conscious effort to spur the local economy at the first artisan market we encountered. Hats , scarves, blankets and sweaters all made it into our growing luggage. Thankfully the shuttle van was there to carry everything, because after our shopping spree we ferried to another island in the archipelago, Curaco de Velez, which proved to be a series of steep climbs and fast descents.

We passed through a number of small villages – each with it’s own UNESCO cathedral – before descending a long sweeping hill into a small community on the edge of the water. A rotisserie-cooked lamb awaited our hungry cyclist stomaches, complete with local potatoes, salad, wine, and salsas. More than one person stated “this is the best lamb I’ve ever tasted”.

After the big lunch, we rode the final 12 kilometers of our tour. It ended with another long descent into Achao, where we found the archipelago’s s oldest church. Maintained in original condition, it’s surprising to see the entire construction was done with dowells and braces. Not a single nail was used.

Finally, we shuttled back to Castro in time for a final dinner together befogging calling it a tour. We’d crossed the Andes, circled the Osorno Volcano and seen the culture of Chiloé. All that remained was the long road home.

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Jeff Bartlett - Jeff Bartlett is an adventure photographer and writer with two homes: British Columbia, Canada and Mendoza, Argentina. His work focuses on his two passions: exploring and protecting the wilderness. More of his work can be seen on his website (www.photojbartlett.com)