Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Castro Chiloé - Chile

Having found the bus station without too many problems, the journey went nice and quickly with the highlight being when we drove straight onto a boat in order to get across to the island.  We had both assumed that there would be a small bridge.  The boat trip didn’t take long but we were able to stand outside and admire the great views as we went across to the island, we also saw a pelican which was cool.  A couple of hours later and we were in the Castro hunting around for our guesthouse, finally finding one called Cordillera which had a lovely hostess and the price was right.  The room was small but had an amazing view of the inlet with fishing boats and a flat sea.  We found a small bar/ restaurant about three minutes from the guesthouse showing the Man United versus Barcelona Champions League final.  We managed to catch some of the build-up and somewhat enjoyed the game, not so much the performance or the result though.  We made friends with a couple of Chileans who spoke extremely slurred Spanish which was difficult to understand but we just about managed to have a conversation.  When the beers were getting a little too numerous we decided to move on, I was still quite upset from the result.   

Driving right on to the boat

Locals who watched the game in the same cafe

Having barely gone ten meters we heard an immense noise of drumming and singing coming from a bar across the street.  Naturally we thought this could lift my spirits and went upstairs to find a supporters club for Universidad de Chile football team (one of the major teams in Chile, the other being ‘Colo Colo’).  The atmosphere was amazing.  They had two drummers and everybody was singing, dancing and flag waving throughout the game even though it was a 1 – 1 draw.  When I started taking photographs they were extremely keen to get together and besieged us with a supporter’s hat and necklace and were more than willing to be in photographs which was great!  Afterwards we went to the Plaza des Armas to celebrate the draw.  They also sang Manchester United songs as I was still wearing my top.  After a few brews along with another supporter we decided in true footballer fashion to swap tops so I am now left with a Universidad de Chile jumper which I assume means they are my new adopted Chilean team.  They were great and after a long day we headed back to the guesthouse with a big fat black cloud of a hangover to await us.     

Lots of noise, lots of fun

I think they noticed the camera!

Kate was brave for getting in on this one

Pedro (right) invited us for dinner when we bumped into him a few days later

They take their supporting seriously

Very seriously

Staying true to my roots!

Partying on in the square afterwards with my new jumper!

As predicted the hangover was impressive, nevertheless we had a superb view from the room and a nice comfortable bed to feel sorry for ourselves in.  It lead to us not doing much other than wandering to the fruit and veg shop where we bumped into a friend (who we didn’t recognise) from the night before and along with the stuff we bought he kindly threw in some freebies which was a kind gesture.  We finally made it outdoors with the sole intention of finding a laundrette as we had accumulated a very full laundry bag, yet as it was a Sunday we weren’t optimistic.  On our quest we had a very nice walk down to the waterfront where there were lots of picturesque views of fishing boats and old houses.  We managed to find a laundrette in a hotel but at double the price we were happy to wait until the next day.  Having sufficiently acquired the munchies we were trying to pick between the similar restaurants along the waterfront but many didn’t have prices and all of them were empty. 

View from our room, not too bad
At the seafront

The smell of woodsmoke from stoves was rife and you could feel the poverty

We then found a gold mine in the form of an open air fisherman’s bar serving up stand and eat stuff.  We plucked up the courage to go over and see what they were all about and found out that they were serving up big bowels of mussels which had already been shelled for you for a thousand pesos or about one pound thirty) along with as much cilantro, onion, chilli and lemon juice as you wanted to add which translated as heaven to me.  We made our way back up to the main square and had a look around the church which was a lot prettier on the inside than it was on the outside.  We took some photos of the sunset whilst the guest house dogs wrestled around our legs and sometimes with each other before heading to bed.


The Plaza church

The church again from the inside

Dog attack at the guest house!

On the 31st of May we visited a National Park called Parque Nacional de Chiloe which was about an hour’s drive away albeit an amazingly beautiful drive on a tatty old local bus.  We missed our stop but had the bonus of going across a rickety old boat-bridge which was great to look at but on closer inspection seemed a bit rotten and unsafe!  Still we went across it and had the chance to take photos of it on our way back.  When we made it to the park there were a couple of walks which took forty minutes or so on a wooden walkway over the trees growing across the forest floor and therefore raising it.  It was quite cool to see but not exactly mind-blowing, the journey was probably the best bit.  That evening we were eating in a restaurant near the seafront where we met a French solo traveller called Phillipe who we invited to sit and eat dinner with us.  Funnily enough towards the end of the meal we discovered that we were all staying in the same guest house!  We walked back and made arrangements to meet up for the scheduled Universidad de Chile game the next day as I wanted him to enjoy the atmosphere. 

Our local caff

Some cool scenery when we overshot the national park

One of the crazy native plants

The boat bridge

In the national park

We nearly missed the bus because we were enjoying the view so much

On the way to get the bus to the national park we had bumped into another Universidad de Chile fan called Pedro who walked us to the small local bus station and then invited us to an early dinner at his house before the next football match.  He came to collect us at around midday where we went to his house and introduced us to his wife, daughter and wife’s uncle Manuel.  We showed them pictures of our families on Facebook and then it was time for the boys to go get the beer and steak whilst Kate and the girls stayed at the house.  We drove to a butcher on the outskirts of town where the butcher cut off huge hunks of leg meat from a dangling carcass.  The big bag of meat came to around eight thousand pesos or about a tenner which was astounding.  We then visited the supermarket to get some charcoal for the BBQ along with some seasoning before going to a different store altogether to buy a few beers.  Pedro’s (or Cotto as he liked to be called) friend was a chef and did an absolutely amazing job on the BBQ whilst we attempted our best Spanish to make small talk in the lounge.

We all sat down with hungry bellies and opened the wine we had brought and tucked into this amazing meal they had prepared for us.  We discussed Pedro’s previous job in the Salmon industry which used to be a major employer in Chiloe before catastrophe stuck and an infectious disease ground it all to a halt, click here to find out more about it.  A town just south of Castro where we stayed had around fifty percent unemployment only two years ago.  Even when the salmon industry was in full swing jobs were still competitive.  We were told stories of untrained divers being told to repair underwater nets at ridiculous depths, around seventy per year died because they took these risks just to keep their jobs.  Cotto now drives logging trucks and chops trees to sell as firewood.  After dinner we enjoyed some rock videos on Youtube from the 1980’s and 90’s before heading out to the club to watch the game.  

Mmmm steak (even his house is blue!)

La cena estaba muy delicioso

We walked to the cross roads where the fans amassed before the game, drums and all and said a few hellos to some familiar faces before we went back to the club where we had originally met.  Unfortunately the TV hadn’t been working so we went to the café across the street where we had originally watched the Manchester United game but as there were other diners in there the fans were courteous which was nice but as a result the atmosphere wasn’t great.  After half time we moved to yet another bar which was showing the game and the drums had started up again.  It was a great evening and yet again it ended with a visit to the Plaza to celebrate the 1 – 0 victory this time.  The next day we headed out early towards our destination of Valdivia, I fortunately managed to snap a shot of the houses on stilts on the way out which are quite beautiful.

Kate and the gang - Phillipe is wearing the hat on the right

Celebrating in the square

Phillipe doing his stuff

The beautiful lakeside houses


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