February in Santiago is dead – the city is honestly a ghost town. I am writing this post from my new homemade desk which looks out of a window onto a usually very busy street below. Yet this afternoon, there are hardly any cars and even less pedestrians. I have to enjoy the peace and quiet because come March, the city is back to its usual craziness.
Watching all my friends head off to amazing places in the south of Chile for their holidays made my feet just a little bit itchy. So when Alejandro (an english student turned friend) invited Rodrigo and I to visit Chiloé with his family for the Festival Costumbrista Chilote (Annual Cultural Festival), I jumped at the chance. Especially since this is one of the most famous summer festivals in Chile.
The downside – the 34 hours spent on buses there and back, for only 48 hours in Chiloé.
The upside – amazing landscapes, great company and very yummy traditional Chilote food.
I am not going to go into a long explanation about Chiloe (see my previous post from 2010 for this), but I will say that it is a magical archipelago of some 20 islands about 1200km south of Santiago, which reminds me in so many ways of the Irish countryside. Considering that this weekend consisted of two very different experiences, I have decided to write two posts, so as to be able to show you many photos, without it getting to long and boring.
So Part I is themed “nature” and Part II, coming soon – “culture”.
On Saturday we visited the Chiloé National Park. The Big Island of Chiloé is mainly inhabited along the more sheltered, eastern coastline which looks towards continental Chile. The west of the island is basically uninhabited, thanks largely to the harsh climate blowing in from the icy southern Pacific Ocean. The national park is situated on this western edge and the difference in vegetation and landscape is incredible. We were extremely fortunate that on the afternoon we went, the rain clouds broke up and the sun came out to bath the wet forest in the most incredible afternoon light imaginable.
Coihue – I loved these trees because they stuck out above the rest of the forest and you can definitely tell they are growing in a harsh and windy environment.
Nalca – this plant grows throughout the south of Chile in wet, cool areas. The leaves are huge as you can see in this photo and it has spiky stems. It makes me think of a prehistoric plant which the dinosaurs would have eaten. It has many uses and medicinal properties and is quite tasty.
Chucao – A very rare bird to actually see in the forest. Alejandro told us that it is usually heard, but not seen. Capturing even this photo while it hopped along in the undergrowth was more luck than camera skills.
The pathway through the forest
I have no idea what this flower is called, but I think it is beautiful, so I wanted to include it here.
Towering trees – I think this is a Canelo Tree, but I can’t remember
After walking through the forest, we headed towards the ocean. Only about 500m to the west, the landscape changes dramatically and you can see that this coastline is battered by winds and rain the majority of the time.
The coastline is wild and barren and I definitely want to come back to walk along it.
While we were lucky enough to have sun for the afternoon there was a storm out to sea.
After a lovely walk through the forest, we enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate in a small cafe at the entrance to the park. Probably the best hot chocolate I have ever had in Chile. The afternoon in the fresh ocean air probably helped make it even tastier.
For anyone ever reading this blog with the intention of visiting Chiloé, the national park is a must see and I definitely plan on returning to camp and do some longer hiking…