A year in, an overnight trip, national parks and a cultural observation

A year in, an overnight trip, national parks and a cultural observation
Crab claw on the beach. Pacific coast of Isla Chiloé
crab claw on the beach
Crab claw on the beach. Pacific coast of Isla Chiloé

Well that is Christmas done and dusted and as I write this the New Year is just a few hours away. This time last year we were slipping out of Stanley Harbour, Falkland Islands, on a quiet evening about to bring in the New Year somewhere off McBride’s Head. This evening we are anchored in front of the palafitos of Castro. Nothing has really gone according to plan thus far so I’m not going to attempt to forecast where we will in another year.

Paula’s parents visited from the 23rd to 28th so we spent a fair amount of time with them over Christmas. Paula’s brother and his partner arrived on the 26th and stayed aboard with us for a few days leaving on the 30th.

We took a day trip, by car, to the Parque National de Chiloe on the west coast of Isla Chiloé and walked a couple of the shorter trails there. We found a nice well organised park with well-constructed nature trails although some maintenance on the signage might be in order (more on this topic later).

On the 29th we took Paula’s brother Roman and his partner Mai for a little overnight trip so that could have a taste of what we are doing with our lives. We motored the 10 miles down Estero Castro and across Canal Lemuy to Estero Ichuac on Isla Lemuy. Luckily some Peale’s dolphins a few sea lions and the usual birds including some Humboldt penguins put in appearance. We passed close alongside some mussel farms and a big salmonera to show them the sights of the waterways of Chiloe.

In Estero Ichuac we rowed ashore, all four of us in our little Pippie 8 tender. It carries the weight well but the load plan has to be carefully observed. It’s a balancing act; Paula and I sit on the centre seat side by side with an oar each with one passenger in the bow and the other on the stern thwart. We are getting better at rowing together and go around in circles a lot less that we used to. But, our course is more like a series of graceful arcs rather than a straight line!

The tiny village of Ichuac has a shop, a museum and of course a church. The church here is special as it is one Chiloé’s 16 UNESCO World Heritage Churches. It looked similar to many of the others we had seen and had a chain and padlock on the gate so we couldn’t get in to have a look. There was a number to call to rouse the keeper of the keys but we didn’t bother them.

Evening in Estero Ichuac; by Christopher James Harris.
Evening in Estero Ichuac

We had a rum and coke and then dinner in the cockpit followed by a couple of beers whilst watching a local crew, in their rowing boat, fishing Robalo. They were working six separate nets around the sides of the creek all at the same time. The oarsman must have been on the oars for 4 or 5 hours straight, a second man set and hauled the nets and called the shots. A young lad sat in the bow, in a hoodie, looking decidedly uninterested and staring at his phone.

The following morning was calm and sunny and we had a very quiet motor back to Castro where Roman and Mai left us head off to meet friends somewhere near Orsono for New Year celebrations.

I mentioned earlier that the signs at the national park needed maintenance. I have noticed that almost everything in Chile that is not brand new needs maintenance. There seems to be no concept of preventative maintenance (Chile is not alone the situation is similar throughout the countries that I have visited in South America). It is particularly noticeable in the state of the buildings: private, corporate and municipal.

There is some great architecture and lots of individual expression in the houses but it seems that once they are built all interest in them is lost. Often the only sign that somebody lives in a house with blistered, peeling, paint and an overgrown garden, are the family dogs growling at the fence. Certainly selling lawnmowers is not going to make you rich here (or maybe it is!) as since I have been searching I have not seen one mowed lawn outside of Santiago.  Houses, fences, roads, you name it and the system is the same; build it and let it decay until it has to be torn down and rebuilt.

Well a happy New Year to all from Paula and I. Fair winds.

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