Top Secret Chiloe

On January 12, 2014 by Peter

After having our minds blown on our first day in Chiloe, Beth and I set out to explore more of the fabulous little island on the afternoon of January 11. We spent the morning lingering over breakfast admiring the views across the fjord.

Castro panoramaThe church is indeed bright yellow with pink roofing.

Once we extracted ourselves from the beautiful main building at the Centro de Ocio (no small feat), we climbed into our Nissan Xtrail and hit the dirt. Our little jaunt turned into an epic 8-hour, jaw-droppingly beautiful exploration of some of Chiloe’s off-the-map backroads, culminating in a spectacular sunset at 930PM as we crested the ridge home, headed for another wonderful meal prepared for us by Carlos.

Based on Yonny’s recommendation, we headed first to Dalcahue and caught a short ferry across to Isla Quinchao with a bunch of locals.

Chiloe girl and lollipop

Once on Isla Quinchao, we drove to Curaco de Velez and wandered around admiring the colorful old, shingled buildings.

Leaning house in Curaco de Velez

I was holding my camera level. The house, and many others, were in various stages of falling over. If people have heard of Chiloe, it is generally because of the dozens of colorful wood churches that dot the archipelago, like this one.

Curaco de Velez church

The churches are cool, but the best part of Chiloe is exploring the roads that aren’t even on the maps. Four-wheel drive and ground clearance required. After finishing up on Isla Quinchao, we decided we had enough daylight, energy, and gasoline left to drive across Chiloe to the Parque Nacional Chiloe on the Pacific Ocean. It was partly cloudy on most of the archipelago during the day, but we thought (optimistically but incorrectly) that it might be sunny on the beach. After escaping the clutches of rush-hour traffic in Castro, we sailed along the Panamericana for a little while before turning off and driving along a lake shore practically until we hit the Pacific Ocean. The road transitioned from fresh pavement to old, potholed pavement to gravel and then ended on the beach, which was bathed afternoon sunshine. We drove for a little while on the hardest sand we could find.

Parque Nacional Chiloe Beach

The sand became softer and softer, and as much fun as it was to drift around the beach and bounce over small dunes, we thought it wise to turn around since we were quite alone and did not want to get stuck in soft sand. We found another gravel road –this one marked “Tsunami Evacuation Route” — and headed for the hills above the beach. The terrain was rougher but still not outside the capabilities of the Nissan Xtrail. You can see that it was still cloudy inland.

Off-the-map Chiloe

Every five or ten minutes, we would round a corner or crest a rise and see the Pacific again.

Pacific Ocean View Parque Nacional Chiloe

Eventually, we made it over the hills and the Xtrail nosed its way back down to the ocean.

Parque Nacional Chiloe northern edge

Foiled again by soft sand on the dunes and unwilling to get stuck (we were at the extreme north end of the park, well beyond the actual road), we retraced our steps and startled two pudús. Pudús are the world’s smallest deer, and we saw a mother and her child as they leapt across the road in front of us. No photo, alas, but a memorable sighting.

Just before we descended back to the beach again, we stopped to admire the stunning view south along the Pacific Coast.

Chiloe Pacific Coast

The landscapes were movingly beautiful.

We drove out of the park and returned to the fork in the road that would lead us home, but decided to head for the sea cliffs you can see in the photo above. The afternoon was too beautiful, and we had just enough gas to keep exploring. We again left the map and found a dirt track that ran along the edge of the ocean — good thing it appeared to be low tide!

Hunting sea cliffs in Chiloe

The dirt track turned into a real road once we climbed the side of the hill, and we found yet more stunning Chiloe landscapes.

More stunning Chiloe landscapes

The road was magical. Every bend brought audible gasps from both of us.

Off-the-map prize in Chiloe

We headed for the bridge, past a family living in one of the most serene spots on Earth, crossed it, and turned back because of soft sand, fading light, and a low gas tank. You can see the family’s compound if you click on this panorama.

End of the road, Chiloe

We made it back to the Rilan Peninsula in time to watch the sun sink across the fjord. Vivid colors filled the sky and landscape during the last fifteen minute of our drive.

Chiloe sunset

We walked past the fireplace straight to dinner. Carlos had been roasting rack of lamb for the past four hours, and he served it with a delicious hummus, coriander-infused pesto, and a delicious raspberry and pepper sauce. It was out-of-this world good, just like our second day on Chiloe.


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