Finally remembered what we’re going to do today: explore the north-western part of the island and have another go at penguin spotting.
Accompanied by CD 2 of Los Jaivas (a slight improvement), we drive out to Quetalmahue and then on to Guabun, on a decent ripio road. It takes us past little Chilote farms. Now and then we pass a few cows, pigs, horses and the ubiquitous dogs in the road, and sights of farm life: kids on horseback, farmers. It all looks pretty and unfrequented by tourists. The last part is through dune landscape. We park the car where the road runs out and start walking towards the shore, following the path along the fences and a small stream running through the dunes. It brings us round some rocks onto a small white sand beach, in the sole company of some birds, including two big vultures. The sun is shining and there are a few clouds in the sky. At last I get to dig out my Extremely Useful picnic rug (an oversized trekking towel) and we even had the foresight to bring the remains of last night’s vino with us. I dip my toes in the very cold water. We have found a great spot, with an unimpeded view of the Pacific, and we’re happy to spend some time here, which includes a big discussion about Life and All That. We pack up and head back when the weather starts to get a bit colder and cloudier. Earlier we passed two guys with a few cows on the beach, an odd sight. We also passed a couple of Navy types in their dark blue uniforms and white hats.
Next we drive towards the penguineria, following the coastal road (not on a map). This means crossing the stream again, yippee! The penguineria is open now and we are met by Jaime, a friendly lad. Before getting into a small rubber dinghy we have to don wading trousers, green, the sort of thing an angler probably would wear. We sit in the front of the dinghy with two Chilenos, biologists who have just completed some work nearby, our “guide”, a young German physics student, and the boat driver. The dinghy slowly takes us out to the rocks and we soon spot a solitary penguin. The guide is on strike it would seem, no commentary is forthcoming. The boatman is more talkative but only in Spanish to the two Chilenos. We see cormorants, a few more penguins (Magellanic and Humboldt) and even two otters (chungungo). Apparently we’ve done very well to see all of these – the trip was worthwhile.
It’s mid/late afternoon by this stage so we head back to Ancud, with plans to stop somewhere en route for late lunch. No suitable lunch opportunities are spotted so instead we think of seeking out the place in Ancud where we can get good licor d’oro, recommended by the lady at Sernatur. After a few wrong turns we manage to find it. It’s simply a hospedaje, a guest house, so we drive on. The tour has taken us through the market at Ancud, where I spot the seaweed, cochayuyo, bundled up. Back at the hotel we switch on the TV and watch Mission Impossible 2 with Spanish subtitles. In the lounge we meet a Swiss couple we had earlier met at Altiplanico in San Pedro de Atacama. A brief exchange of courtesies and then we find a separate table to do diaries and read. At dinner they are the only other guests in the downstairs part, but the mezzanine and floor above have been “reserved”, which strikes as unusual. Excellent salmon for dinner. Afterwards we join the Swiss couple for coffee and whiskey. They have travelled quite a bit, partly explained by the fact that husband is responsible for liaison between the Swiss and Chilean/Argentine/Brazilian parts of the company he works for, and he also worked and lived in Venezuela for some time. Tomorrow we’re planning to head off early to try and get to Puerto Varas with enough time for a walk in the afternoon – let’s see how we go after the several whiskeys I have knocked back tonight!