The highlight of our last night at Jechica was being disturbed by the patter of tiny feet running around the deck just after we went to bed and Paula seeing a little face peeking in through the portlight over the bunk. I hopped out into the dodger with the torch and found the owner of the face
to be a mink who was busy exploring the boat. It wasn’t too disturbed by the light but made its way off the boat and onto the pontoons where it headed for “Naila” then changed its mind as I kept the light on it and headed ashore.
Plans always change and the day we left Marina Jechica was no different to any other day in that respect. We had planned on a 25 – 30 mile hop north to the Melinka area where we arrived by early evening. As the weather was and the timing was good to catch the tide we decided to carry on towards Chiloé. We had a quiet night passage across the Gulfo Corcovado in the light of a full moon but will a lot of traffic keeping us on our toes; mainly aquaculture related cargo vessels.
I had the dawn watch and about an hour before dawn noticed that the moon had a bite out of it. At first I thought that it was a cloud covering the top edge of the moon but then realised that what I was seeing was a lunar eclipse. As the eclipse increased the moon became redder and I thought that it was worth waking Paula. We watched until sunrise; which arrived just about 15 minutes too early for us to see the total eclipse. Even so it was a spectacular dawn with the mountains of the Cordillera Darwin silhouetted against the brightening sky to the east and the eclipse fading in the western sky.
We had made good time over night and had passed several options to stop but decided to continue on to a little marina south of Castro called Marina Quinched. The bucolic setting of Chiloé with it’s fields, villages, cows, sheep and pigs was quite a shock to us after spending almost three months in the wilderness. We kept pointing out cars driving down roads, a little private aircraft overhead, numerous churches and other such wonders of civilisation.
We had decided to stop at the marina, and pay for the parking, as Paula’s parents wanted to drive down to spend a few days with us and we thought that it would be more convenient. As it was we arrived on Saturday and they arrived on Monday travelling via Puerto Varas, and then the next day taking the ferry across to Ancud. There are several ‘cabañas’ for rent just outside the marina and they took one of those – good value at $20 lucas (as they call thousands around here).
The day before Paula’s parents arrived we had cycled to Chonchi (Paula has somehow go it into her head that it was Conchi – a very different thing!) and been chased by half the dogs in the neighbourhood (too many as in all of South America maybe it’s time to invest in a water pistol and a bottle of turps). Chonchi is an old and rather run-down town sporting the ubiquitous wooden Chiloé church. As it was a Sunday the town was closed but a couple of little shops were open by the fuel station and we were able to treat ourselves to an ice cream!
The next few days were spent taking advantage of Paula’s folks and their car to do some shopping and explore the island of Chiloé. We spent a fair amount of time in Castro trying to buy oil filters for the engine (eventually succeeding yesterday after a tip-off on the whereabouts of a parts dealer that actually knew what they were selling). We had lunch in a restaurant in one of the palafito neighbourhoods which are groups of houses originally built by indigents on stilts over the beach as they couldn’t afford to buy land. They are now tourist attractions and in some areas seem to be mainly backpackers lodges and café/bars. One day we drove south to Quellon; which is about 90km down Ruta 5, a surprisingly good road but with about 5km of road works as they upgrade the last section of one and a half lane gravel to two, and sometimes four, lane paved carriage way.
Quellon doesn’t have much for the tourist but the colourful fishing boats moored in the bay make it picturesque. We found a very nice little, and somewhat out of place, coffee shop for tea and drove back.
Paula’s parents headed home and we got on with the chores, buying diesel and gas, shopping for some fresh provisions etc. and giving the boat a good clean-up. Tomorrow, Sunday, or Monday we’ll get on the water again and start making our way north again.