Seaweed Pays

The iconic palafitos in Castro
The iconic palafitos in Castro

Still in Estero Pellu on Isla Apiao, we took a stroll along the coast at low tide to visit the community where we found the usual collection of boats on the beach, some in use some under construction and a church. We found several people busy on the beach working with seaweed that was drying in the Sun. They told us that they harvest the seaweed (that light green slightly rubbery sea lettuce type stuff) at low tide and also dive for it. We had seen many of the boats with rudimentary hookah dive systems on the deck but were not sure what they were diving for.

We asked about the market for the seaweed and are told that it goes to “el norte” where it gets used in the manufacture of plastics, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It’s a lucrative business, in the season, as we were told that they can get 20 to 30 Lucas (20 to 30 Pounds) per kilo. I’m presuming that is per kilo cleaned at the factory as there was a lot of sand and rubbish going into the sacks. The season seems to correlate roughly to what you would expect the growing season to be and ends in March.

The community has just had a new electricity system put in. One of about 10 islands to benefit from the initiative that according to the sign cost over 9 Billion Chilean Pesos (about 9 Million pounds). Yet another sign that the Chilean government is not afraid to invest in infrastructure here. The cynical side of me says it’s to help the salmon industry rather than the Chilotes. A feeling that it seems is shared by some of the locals as there are few signs around Castro decrying the building of the new bridge linking Chiloe to the mainland and saying that the money would be better spent on a hospital rather than making life easier for the salmon farming companies.

From Estero Pellu we made our way to Los Angles (on Isla Quehui) which was a busy little port with two ferry ramps and two churches. One of each on each side of the bay.  We only stayed there the night and then moved on to Castro as the forecast was looking miserable for the next couple of days.

We arrived in Castro mid-afternoon on the 20th  and anchored near the Armada office hoping to be able to use their small boat dock for our dinghy but when we asked about that we were told we had to use the beach or the little slip. We asked the duty officer if that was a safe place to leave a dinghy and his reply was a simple “errrr no”. With that in mind I have made up a length of 5mm wire with swaged eyes on the ends to use like a giant bicycle lock around whatever is handy.

After checking in at the Armada we went shopping for meat in the new Lider supermarket that occupies a chunk of the vast new shopping mall. This new mall is one seriously ugly building and one wonders how they managed to get planning permission for such a huge and ugly chunk of architecture, especially as it sits right one the skyline of the town.

Just after arriving in Castro a piece broke off one of my molars so we spent a day on a dentist hunt. Eventually finding one that was open and who could see me. He turned out to be a nice old chap but rough! Tooth fixed but with collateral damage to my lips! The cost 40 Lucas (40 pounds), so not as bad as it could have been.

The 22rd of December saw the arrival to two huge cruise ships in the bay that I am sure bring in welcome revenue to the craft market that occupies a large shed just behind the port.

The map shows our route over the last month or so since arriving in the Chiloe area.

Map showing our route around the islands - click for a larger image
Our route since arriving in the area in November – click for a larger image

We are now spending a few days over Christmas with Paula’s parents visiting. They are staying in a self-catering cabin nearby. Paula’s brother and partner arrive for a few days tomorrow so it’s all go on the social circuit at the moment

I’ve added photos from the last month to the Chiloe album in the photos section. Click here to view.

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