Car ferry to Chiole Island

One of many car ferries crossing the channel to Chiloe Island.

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On our second full day, we took advantage of a favorable forecast to catch a bus to the island of Chiloe. Nintey-three miles long and thirty miles wide, this is the second largest island in South America. Lying west and south of Puerto Montt, the island provides protection to the inland sea.

The seafaring people who inhabit this island remained fiercely aloof of the affairs of Chile until as recently as 1960, when a major earthquake caused them to become more integrated into the rest of Chile. When we told people we were visiting Chiloe, they always repeated, "Chiloe," with a certain awe and pride. Now it is a popular summer destination for local tourists.

The bus took us forty miles to the ferry crossing and we soon loaded on one of the ferries crossing the seven mile channel to Chiloe. Bus companies are private in Chile and the competition makes for excellent service. The bus companies also run the ferries, which seemed efficient and well maintained. To speed turnarounds, the ferry captain did not tie up, but simply dropped his bow and slid up to the loading ramp, using turns on the screw to keep the ship positioned while cars unloaded and loaded.

The bus took us to Ancud, the largest town on the island. At the tourist office in the bus station, we booked a tour to the penguin colony located about 20 miles west of town. We soon joined three Chilean ladies in an SUV with a young male tour guide who did not speak English. One of the ladies did have some English, so with her help, and our fractured Spanish, we got the gist of what was being pointed out along the way.

The road turned to gravel immediately out of town, but it didn't detract from the beautiful rolling hills, eucalyptus trees, and dairy farms. The terrain reminded me much of the seaside area north of San Francisco.

Finally, the gravel road went steeply down the last hill, we forded a stream, and we were on a hard packed sand beach in a protected bay. A half dozen open boats were taking tourists to the islands a few hundred yards off-shore to see the penguins.

Both Megellanic Penguins and Humboldt Penguins roost in these islands. The species look almost identical to the untrained eye, except for a small difference in their markings. The penguins pair for life and return with their mate to the same burrow every year. The Magellanic Penguins are found in southern Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands, while the Humboldt Penguins are only found on the west coast of South America, migrating as far north at Peru. So, in these southern Chilean islands, we were in a small region where both species could be seen at the same time.

 

 

 

A house in Ancud

An attractive house in Ancud featuring the famous wood shingles of the region, called "tejuelas."

Harvesting seaweed.

Harvesting Cochayuyu, a seaweed that is dried on the side of the road, and then marketed to the Japanese cosmetics industry.

 

Rolling hills of Ancud.

The rolling hills west of Ancud are very reminiscent of the Pt. Reyes area, north of San Francisco.

 

Dairy Farm

Most of Chile's dairy comes from the dairy farms scattered in this part of northern Patagonia.

 

Lope and Amy on a bluff abouve the Pacific.

A sweeping bay open to the Pacific Ocean.

Beachfront Kiosk.

A beach front kiosk.

 

A cart carrying tourists through the surf.

These three wheeled carts were the solution for getting tourists into the boat without getting their feet wet. Considering that this was the calmest day imaginable, one wonders how exciting this becomes on other days.

Don and Amy in the boat.

Perhaps six islands had birds. Three islands were almost exclusively used by penguins, another by commerants and another by vultures. Large petrels glided overhead, looking for chicks.

 

Penguins1

These penguins return with their mate to the same roosting spot every year. The Humboldt Penguins have the decorative black stripe that curves over their chest. The Magellan Penguins have a black neck collar. The fuzzy brown birds are chicks.

 

More penguins

The penguins would stand on the edge for quite awhile and wait until the sea surged up just right before jumping in. Sea lions and giant petrels are their main predators.

 

Sea Otter

A sea otter swam unconcerned beside the boat.

Sea Otter eating a muscle.

He soon found a muscle and paused for a snack.

 

Young couple in the boat.

A young Chilean couple enjoying their Chiloe vacation.

Swimmers in cold water.

A few tourists ventured into the water, but it was definitely bracing.

 

Loco, a Chilean abalone.

At the beach front restaurant, Amy dined on Loco, a Chilean form of abalone that is tender and delicious. We found out later that it is endangered and the guide books discourage ordering it.

Seafood stew

Lope and I had Paila Marina, a delicious seafood stew of squid, muscles, clams, conger eel, and sometimes barnacles. We had this several times, and while the contents varied, it was always good.