The Chile Adventure – Part 4: Chiloé Island
By Emily Meyer
We woke up in the morning in Coyhaique still a bit exhausted from the crazy snow road, but we had some breakfast and spent some time planning the remaining 3 days of our adventure. After the near disaster with the ferry schedule in Chile Chico, we were a bit more cautious when planning our route. We had been told that Chiloé island was a must-see, so we decided to go see for ourselves. We realized that we did need to take a ferry from Chaitén to Quellón, the southern tip of the island of Chiloé, and luckily there was a ferry scheduled to depart the next morning at 9:30 am. So we packed up and set out on our 430km (268 miles) day of driving.
This area of Southern Chile is breathtaking! The Andean Mountain Range and the submerged Central Valley connect with the coastline creating the southern lakes and Fjords region. The lakes are fed from the melting ice in the mountains and find their way to the sea through smaller rivers. This causes the lakes to be crystal clear with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, it is absolutely stunning.
This would be our last day driving on the Carretera Austral (CH-7) and the northern section is in very good condition. After about 2 hours of driving along the River Maniguales, we came across Laguna De Las Torres, a clear water lake with still reflective water. We pulled off the road to take some photos and stretch. Cris did his best “walking on water” impression and almost ended up in the water! After a few laughs and a cup of coffee for me, we got back on the road.
As we drove north the road took a turn and we were driving in the Fjords on the Pacific coastline. It’s not like in other places where you have a beach and long ocean views, the fjords could be mistaken for lakes. We saw a place that had a place we could pull the truck over and decided it was a perfect spot to have lunch. We set up our little table and chairs and I went to work making some Cup-a-Soup. As we were having lunch, Cris said he saw fins in the water. He was adamant about it, but I didn’t see anything. I wasn’t having it, there were no whales in these waters, that would be crazy. We finished our soup and sat for a bit longer, this was honestly the most beautiful place we had had lunch the whole trip. As we were packing everything to get back in the truck I saw them!! There were dolphins in the fjord!
They are called Peale’s Dolphins and are endemic to the coastal waters of South America. They are black with grey sides and a white belly and are notorious for feeding in the kelp beds close to the shorelines. They often get confused with Orca markings, explaining why Cris thought they might be whales.
I jumped out of the truck and grabbed my camera, the photo is terrible but I have included it below so that you don’t think we are both crazy. So in the end, Cris was right, and I was reminded of it for at least the next 30 minutes of driving
As we neared the middle of the fjord the road was under construction and only our lane was paved. We carried on a bit slower than before and started passing a few signs mentioning a ferry, since our next ferry was in the morning we ignored all of that. Soon we came upon a construction woman at the entrance to the ferry, as we drove past her she began waving her arms and it wasn’t till we were stopped by another worker that we realized that the ferry was the detour of the road we were on. Ahead of us, there was no road, we would have ended up in the fjord. So we backed the truck up and sheepishly sat waiting for the ferry to arrive. This was our first adventure putting the truck on a ferry, the boat was pretty small but we were the only vehicle on board. We laughed at ourselves the whole ferry ride, we had thought that the woman was just waving at us….tourists. The remaining drive to Chaitén was beautiful but unfortunately, it began raining so we didn’t stop again till we reached the ferry. We made sure that we knew where we needed to be in the morning and set out to find dinner. We decided on a Pizza place in the middle of town, Pizza Reconquista. It was perfect, a couple of beers and a pizza, and we were ready to find somewhere to sleep for the night. We drove around the small town stopping by all of the places that Google said were hostels but everything was closed and abandoned looking. We drove around in circles for about 45 minutes before we gave up and headed back out of town toward a camping ground. When we arrived it too was closed so we ended up parking on the shoulder of the highway. I was a bit stressed that sleeping on the highway would mean that we would wake up without tires but I was tired so my exhaustion won over my fear.
The next morning we made our way to the Chaitén ferry, unlike the previous one, this one was huge! It was super interesting to watch the ferry arrive and unload, those boats can carry so many more vehicles than it seems. We loaded the truck and made our way upstairs to the passenger area. It was an open room with chairs, couches, and a restaurant. This was a four-hour ferry so we had plenty of time to explore the whole boat. There is honestly not much to do on a ferry other than nap so that’s what I did the most.
When we arrived at the Island of Chiloé the landscape was really different, it was rolling green hills and meadows.
We made our way to Castro, the capital city, known for its Palafitos, traditional wooden stilt houses. As soon as we entered the town, these colorful wooden structures are all you can focus on, they are beautiful.
We found a parking spot big enough for the truck and set out on foot to explore. Walking around the streets the houses just keep getting more and more interesting. Some of them are personal houses and others are restaurants and coffee shops. We wandered around for hours just taking photos and wishing we could spend more time here. We stopped in a small coffee shop on the water to warm up after walking and had the most amazing Alfajores ( a traditional sweet cookie filled with Dulce de Leche). After the coffee, we had to get back on the road because we needed to make it to Ancud, the north of the island, to be able to catch the ferry in the morning back to the mainland. While driving to Ancud I made a hostel reservation in town so we could shower since it had been a few days. It’s funny how exciting you can get about the prospect of a shower! Once we reached Ancud it was dark, we found the address of the hostel but it was the entrance to a shopping area with a locked gate. We tried to call the number but didn’t get through. So we did what we always do, found a parking spot, and slept on the street.
The next morning we went to one of the best-rated breakfast spots in Ancud, which turned out to be a small hole in the wall shop. After breakfast, we left Ancud and headed for the ferry which was 30km away. We were going to be just a bit early for the ferry but we hoped that maybe we could board a bit early. We arrived at the port and went to purchase our ferry ticket, the man at the entrance told us that they were only taking cash. We didn’t have enough Chilean cash to cover the ticket and they wouldn’t take any other currency. We asked the man where the closest ATM was and he said Ancud. F%#K The one time we managed to be early for something, we now needed to drive 30 minutes back into town to get cash and 30 minutes back to the port, and the ferry was supposed to leave in an hour and 15 minutes…….. Needless to say, we drove back to Ancud at about Mach 1, we found the ATM, withdrew cash, and sped back to the ferry. We arrived at the last seconds and thankfully they let us load the truck. As we sailed towards Pargua we realized that the adventures of this trip were basically over. We still had 1088 km (676 miles) to go and I had to be at work in 22 hours. We spent the next 11.5 hours driving north on the interstate, the most boring part of our whole adventure! At midnight we pulled into the Sheraton in Santiago and the valet staff was a bit more than curious about our truck! It didn’t fit in the parking garage so we parked in the employee parking and finally got to have that shower we were waiting for!
Thanks for joining us on this adventure! It is one of our favorites so far! If you are interested in seeing more pictures or hearing more specifics about any of the places we visited please reach out and let me know! If you enjoy this blog please subscribe below!
Published in Collaboration with Next Stop Awesome