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CHILOÈ ISLAND (Nov 2007)   photos

The island of Chiloe is the second largest in Chile (after Tierra del Fuego which is sheared with Argentina).  Chiloe was isolated during colonial times and still maintains it's unique architecture and customs.  The west coast is rainy and wild, home to one of the world's few temperate rain forests.  I visited the Chiloe National Park, which protects part of the coastal range.  I was told about a refuge about 7 hours walk from the entrance, and I decided to spend a couple of nights there.  First, I walked along the beach.  Fortunately strong wind blew from behind, and I made quick progress.  I passed a small, traditional village and another beach.  At the end I had to cross a river and the path climbed steeply uphill.  I followed it for some time, and I met an old man working in the field.  He told me I came too far, I had to go back and turn left near the house I passed before.

I found the path he was talking about, or so I thought.  I followed it downhill, but it petered out and I decided to carry on regardless.  Soon I realized my mistake.  It was possible to go down because the forest was cut down, but it was almost vertical and I fell through the vegetation to the bottom.  I managed to get out and cross above a stream, climbing up again.  I didn't see that there were a number of little steep valleys ahead, and I realized I would have to spend the whole day going up and down.  Fortunately I found a way cut through the forest with machete.  I followed it and I reached a good path.  It was the one I was looking for!

Soon I crossed another beach.  A few workers were building a new sheltered there, and told me they didn't see any tourists for 2 months.  I had to cross another river before continuing.  The path entered a beautiful primeval forest.  It was obvious that nobody has been here for a long time.  There were little streams everywhere, ankle-deep mud and dense vegetation making my life much more difficult than I imagined.  Sometimes the path was overgrown and difficult to find.  But after 2 hours I reached a river, and the shelter I was told about.  It was in terrible condition, but I had no choice.

The next day I crossed the river and walked along the beach.  At the other end I saw a very nice house, with door, windows and wooden floor inside.  This was the place I was told about!  I moved here and spend the whole day exploring the area.  The beach, the hills around, everything was beautifully remote and untouched.  I even saw dolphins swimming in the waves, escaping just before they crushed.  The following day I walked all the way back, sometimes in the rain, sometimes in the sun.  By coming here I just wanted to kill some spare time I had before flying back to Europe, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable excursions of my travels.