Position: 15° 47’N; 096° 16’ W
Warm and humid, beautiful clear skies and calm sailing during the morning
The day started early with a 7.30am disembarkation. Warned of the likely wet weather, everyone was dressed accordingly and was safely transferred to shore where a short walk along the pier at Ancud brought us to the awaiting coaches that were to take us on our excursion to explore part of Chiloé Island, Chile’s second largest island. The name Chiloé is derived from two words ‘chil’ meaning gull, and ‘oé’ meaning place. Literally ‘the place of gulls’ and it certainly was as the air around the jetty at Ancud was alive with Kelp and Brown-hooded Gulls, noisily looking for food and indulging in courtship.
Ancud was a once prosperous town due to the whaling ships calling for provisions, but with the creation of the Panama Canal it lost much of its trade. We drove to Dalcahue, a journey of about an hour that took us through the delightful countryside. One predominant feature was the non-native gorse, with its bright yellow flowers. These were frequently burned by farmers, which simply spread the seeds onto neighbouring land – no wonder it was everywhere.
The fields by the road were largely for livestock with both sheep and cows evident. Farmers make a relatively poor livelihood on the island and boost their income by growing Eucalyptus or harvesting sphagnum moss. Other local income comes from fishing and especially salmon farming.
We arrived at Dalcahue and took the ferry across to Quinchao, and the small vessel was virtually filled by two of our coaches. Our first call was to Curaco de Veléz with a tree-filled town square and small museum. A view over the nearby shore revealed a flock of Black-necked Swans and other wildfowl.
In the town of Achao, we visited one of the Jesuit wooden chapels. It was constructed in 1730 and with its ornate ceiling, it is the oldest wooden building on Chiloé and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We then visited a local hostelaria where we were treated to a traditional pisco sour, with crab and salmon canapés. Some local dancers performed for us, accompanied by musicians playing accordion, guitar, violin and drum, and also a rather unusual percussionist who used the jawbone of a horse!
On our return by ferry to Dalcahue, we visited another ancient wooden chapel, also protected by UNESCO because of its unusual arches. Several shops were selling local arts and crafts, especially woollen clothing and providing a little retail therapy.
Although the weather had brightened, it was a rather bumpy and wet ride back to the ship by Zodiac. We dried off on the ship and set sail southwards towards the Isla Magdalena National Park, our destination for tomorrow. In the mid-afternoon, Rob Suisted treated us to a talk about the marine mammals that we might expect to see and how to identify them.