I arrived to Ancud, the largest city on the island (and that's not saying much) around 10:30 am and walked to my hostel just around the corner from the bus station. I was stunned by how beautiful the Hostel was, a gorgeous wood cabin right in front of the ocean. When I went in, there were several other travelers eating breakfast and chatting. After I checked in, I grabbed some coffee and sat down to chat with them. I learned that two of them were heading to Pinguinera Puñihuil, a beach off the western coast where you can find Magellanic and Humboldt penguins living together, that afternoon. So, I immediately signed up and took the next couple of hours to settle in:
Hostal Mundo Nuevo in Ancud, Chiloé.
After settling in and skyping with my parents, it was time to go. A local named Don Luis arrived in his taxi to take us on the tour. I wish I had taken a picture with him; supposedly he's famous on the island and highly recommended by Lonely Planet. Most of the way, about 1.5 hours, was dirt road and we were driving in a Nissan Sentra. The worst was when we would drive behind other cars because, even with the windows up, the car - and our lungs - were filled with dust. But it was worth it when Don Luis would pull into lookout points with views like this:
We arrived at the beach, which had a combination of penguin tour outfits and fishing boats (their source of income during the winter):
And we took off on the boat!
The tour guide took us to several spots around an island offshore, where both Magellanic and Humboldt penguins breed. My favorite part was when he taught us about penguin mating systems. He first asked, 'Do you know what monogamous means?', to which his partner responded, 'BORING!' Aside from being boring, the males will only mate with one female in their life. If the female dies, he will die too. But, if the male dies, the female will go off on find another male penguin. Just like Chilote mating systems, according to him.
Our tour lasted about 30 minutes and on our way back we saw a sea otter playing in the water:
After we got back, we walked up to a mirador (lookout point) for views of the beach and islands:
Don Luis then dropped us off at the hostel and suggested we eat dinner at Baitan, a small restaurant next to the plaza. We topped off a great day by sharing an individual serving of curanto, the dish Chiloé is best known for:
The next day Alex, the German guy living in Argentina, and I decided to visit more of the island together. We took a bus ride to Castro, probably the second biggest city on the island (still not saying much), where Alex would stay for the next couple of nights. After checking in and dropping his stuff off at the hostel, we walked a bit around Castro and visited the Iglesia de San Francisco, the largest church on Chiloé. The outside wasn't particularly impressive, but the inside was stunning:
We wanted to grab something to eat before venturing further afield. A German woman at the hostel told us about a German cafe that had just opened up 3 weeks before in Castro. The owner was from a small town very close to where Alex grew up, so we thought it would be fun to check it out. The cafe alone was awesome for its interior decoration. But then they showed us the menu! They had German-style 'once' (the typical meal Chileans eat instead of dinner), which consisted of bread, meats, and kuchen (German for cake). I ordered the Once Stuttgart (I think), which came with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, along with the kuchen. They also brought a sweet bread called hefezopf, which literally translates to 'yeast bread', and is unique the the region of Germany where both Alex and Marion, the owner, are from. Alex almost cried when he tried it. He was a super happy camper:
After our delicious meal, we headed for the bus terminal to catch a micro to Achao. The drive was another hour, but was just another part of touring the island for all the pretty things we saw along the way:
Achao is on an island, so once again we drove onto a ferry to transport us across:
Once we arrived in Achao, we walked along the beach:
But the main reason we went to Achao was to see the oldest Chilote church, Iglesia Santa Maria, built in 1740:
Even though the outside is not particularly attractive, this had to be the most beautiful church I have every visited in my life. The woodwork inside was so charming. It almost made me want to start going to church again. Almost.
After visiting the church, we took the micro back towards Castro. But along the way, we stopped in Dalcahue for a little shopping and to check out another church:
When we got back to Castro, I had a couple of hours to kill before my bus returned to Ancud. So we walked around the south end of town to look at the palafitos, or buildings built on stilts:
We ran into a fish market where they were selling little bowls with a mix of clams, sea urchin, and piure (sea squirt) with a dash of onion, cilantro, and lemon juice:
Around 8 pm, I left Alex and caught the bus back to Ancud. I stayed there one more night before traveling to Puerto Montt to meet my friends Demet and Mutlu before catching a ferry to Northern Patagonia. I'm currently in Northern Patagonia right now but will be going totally off the grid (no cell phone or internet) for the next couple days. When I post again, I'll probably be in California, when I'll share with you my adventures in this part of the world. Trust me, you don't want to miss it!