We headed southwest from Puerto Varas to Pargua and drove straight onto a Cruz del Mar ferry to cross to Chiloe. A group of sea lions welcomed us to the harbor, and we disembarked and resumed our drive on the Panamericana to Ancud. While Beth asked the woman at the tourist information office how to get to the beach where we could take a boat to see penguins, a German motorcyclist named Frank pulled up and told me that his friend’s bike had broken down about 15km away. Frank spoke, by his reckoning, ten words of Spanish, so Beth and I tried to help him get his friend’s bike transported into a shop into town for repairs. After half an hour or so of discussion with two different mechanics, we sent Frank on his way in a lorry with a local who would pick up his friend’s bike and bring it back to the shop. The drive from Ancud along the the coast to the penguin beach was spectacular. I hadn’t expected Chiloe to have as many rolling hills, but the constant change in elevation made the landscapes and vistas absolutely stunning in the afternoon light.
The houses, as in the Lakes District, were beautiful, colorful wooden structures with lovely details. The final stretch of road to the beach was particularly gorgeous. As with our drive around Lake Lllanquehue the previous day, we were running out of superlatives for the landscapes. When we arrived at the penguin beach, a lady with a radio met us and directed us to the shallowest part of the creek crossing so we could drive onto the beach.
We told her we wanted to take a boat to see the penguins, so she radioed her colleagues and set it up. We parked the car and were wheeled into the surf to board the boat. The whole operation was impressive and seamless, and the people running the concession seemed to be really happy. The boat tour itself was outstanding. We went to one of the closest islands first and saw a passle of penguins lounging on the rocks.
We paused to snap a few more photos.
We rejoined the Panamericana and zipped south through more amazing Chiloe landscapes and turned off towards the Rilan Pensinsula to look for our hotel, the Centro de Ocio. We had read that it sits on a fjord across from the town of Castro. When we arrived, it was immediately apparent that we had arrived at a special a place. The people who greeted us made us feel immediately at home (the fireplace flickering behind us helped too), and they took us on a tour of our amazing lodgings. “Room” is a deeply inadequate word to describe where I am writing this, watching the twinkling lights of Castro burn across the fjord from our peaceful, bucolic perch. Our “room” is three stories tall, with massive windows and a rooftop deck.
Everything at the Centro de Ocio is made from local materials using local construction methods. The woods and woodwork are spectacular.
Dinner was wonderful, too. Carlos, the chef, came out and discussed the menu with us and made several adjustments to make the meal lactose free. We had salmon and hake ceviche, an avocado soup, steak with risotto and local spices, silverfish with cous cous, and some delicious fruit and tres leches (for Beth) for dessert. Everything was delicious.
Chiloe has already blown our minds.