No particular plans for today other than to make sure we end up in Ancud tonight. Another relaxed breakfast (I could get used to this!) and then we pack and plan our route to Ancud. It’s raining again by the time we leave Puerto Varas. Nurse Ness has patched me up again. Ness is still feeling an ache in her leg from the previous days, as well as continuing TT effects. But we’re both in high spirits, looking forward to our visit to mysterious (allegedly) Chiloé, the island of myths and legends, having read up on it over breakfast.
The weather clears on our drive to Pargua, where we need to catch a ferry across to the island. We follow ruta 5, past Puerto Montt, through gentle green country-side, which gets noticeably emptier once we’re past sprawling Puerto Montt. The road runs straight for many milnes, until we get close to Pargua. Pargua itself is a small place consisting of a few buildings and the ferry terminal. The terminal is simply a concrete run-off, with a small ro-ro ferry ready to depart. A man waves us over – we had stopped, trying to spot where the ferry port was and had not realised we were there! Ours is the last car to fit on and before I have even stepped out of the car we’re already moving. We go onto one of the walkways on either side of the ferry.
The distance to Chiloé is small, it should only take us about 30 minutes to cross the channel. We can feel the fresh air and have to don jackets despite the glorious sunshine. Ness spots a seal poking its head above the water, and a bit later a penguin pops up for a second. A Colombian family is with us, also going to Chiloé for their holiday. At the other end we roll off and continue on ruta 5 to Ancud, which is a bit further along the north coast of the island. The countryside is similar to the mainland but the wooden tiling on the buildings does indicate that we are somewhere different. After another half hour driving we get to Ancud, a small town on the north shore. The hotel is part of the Panamericana chain, same as the hotel in Arica. It’s a slightly smaller setup, and the building is made entirely of wood. Our room is small but cosy, reminiscent of Tolkeyen (Ushuaia, Argentina, 2001).
After unpacking we go for a wander into town, with stops at Sernatur, bank and Bernie. It doesn’t look like there is much to do or see here. We check out the local restaurant serving curanto, a local dish. The first one looks pretty grim, the next one rather better. I pop into a tour operator on the way back to find out about visiting the penguineria and other excursions. They’re friendly but we’re not that interested. Before long we’re back in our room in the hotel, about to doze off. This is stupid. We have travelled halfway across the world to spend most of our time either in the air-conditioned cocoon of a car or in bed/bar. I’m bored, bored, bored… “Come on, let’s go and catch penguins.” The drive may be hairy, we may end up coming back in the dark, but at least we’ll do something worth doing.
A few minutes later we’re off in (as yet unnamed) basher, after getting someone to move their car which was blocking us in. The sun is shining, still high in the sky, we have plenty of petrol, no torch (onEof my Useful Items, now forgotten). The drive is a comparative doddle along a ripio road passing by Chilote farmsteads. We have to share the road with cows, sheep, dogs, pigs. The turn-off to the penguineria is a rougher road but still nothing crazy. We have been forewarned by Britt, the guy at the tour operator in Ancud, about a small stream we’d have to cross. It’s shallow and rocky and his advice was to keep going. It’s fun going through it. Some excitement! Then we drive a few hundred metres along the beach – there is no road – stopping at the small house which represents the Fundación Otway. There are some large rocks/small islands off the beach, probably the penguin colony.
A lad inside explains that yes, the penguins are on those rocks, but no, you can’t see them from here, you would have to go out by boat. Yes, now (7pm) is the best time to see them since they should be back at their nest. No, can’t take you there because the boat owner is only here between 10am and 5pm. Aargh! On the way back I repeat my river crossing three times, for photographs of me as action man. It’s still light when we get back to the hotel. Ness has a kip while I catch up on diary in the lounge, with a view of the sun setting behind the island. Ness has continuing TT and achy leg so we have dinner in the hotel, which is probably the best option anyway. Soft bed and we nod off instantly.