Antarctica (Patagonia): Days 30 and 31

March 31, 2022 • 12:30 pm

We’re out of the land of ice and penguins, and into the land of fishing boats, small villages, and sleepy dogs.  In other words, we land in Valparaiso in three days and then, the next evening (if all goes well and I don’t have Covid), I fly home.

But the last two days have been pretty swell anyway. We made only one landing, this morning, but the channels we went through, mostly between the mainland and islands off the mainland, were lovely.

In one of them lay the isolated hamlet of Villa Puerto Edén, population listed as about 176. Two notable facts from our crew and Wikipedia: it’s said to be the most isolated village in Chile except for Easter Island, and it’s where the last Kawéshkar people, once nomads and now residents of this lovely and remote place. The only way to get there is by boat.

(Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them.)

We stopped here two years ago, and they disgorged loads of people from the ship into the town, which you can circumambulate in about 10 minutes. I felt bad because, aside from the ladies selling their wares at the landing site, we didn’t see a single inhabitant; it was clear that they all went inside. I felt like a gawker visiting a display, and was glad that we didn’t disturb the locals this time.

Wikipedia has a note about the climate:

Villa Puerto Edén has an extremely wet subpolar oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc) and is widely reputed to be the place in the world with the highest frequency of rainfall,[2] though according to Guinness World Records the highest frequency of rain in a year occurred at Bahia Felix, a little further south, with only eighteen rainless days in the whole of 1916.

The weather is mercurial here, and it can be overcast one minute and fully sunny ten minutes later. We had some glorious sun sailing along the coast:

Traversing smooth water:

We saw some fishing boats, although they seem to be connected to a long string of cages. As far as I can gather, these cages are where they put the caught fish, so they’re a kind of “fish farm.” Perhaps readers can give more details about these operations:

Each boat is connected to a very long string of submerged cages.

And glory be: we sailed through the Darwin Channel, described by Wikipedia this way:

The Darwin Channel forms a westward continuation of the Aisén Fjord and links it to the Pacific Ocean at Isquiliac Island. It is located in the coast of Chile at approximately 45.4° south latitude. This is one of the main channels situated between the islands of the Chonos Archipelago. Darwin Channel opens in the northern part of Darwin Bay and is considered the best of those which lead to Moraleda Channel, its navigation is free of dangers.

Here’s a panorama, though it’s much like many of the channels we’ve seen.

And here are a large and a small map of the channel. I’m not sure if Darwin actually went through here, but I fortuitously had my Darwin tee shirt on while sailing through:

Fishing operations became more numerous over the day:

And then it was bedtime (dinner at bottom). When we woke up, houses along the bank and fishing boats were quite common, for we were approaching the large town of Castro.

We dropped anchor (yes, that’s what the captain said; we never used our anchor in Antarctica) in Castro’s harbor. On one side it looks like this, with fish farms and smoke (are they smoking the fish?)

And on the other side was the town of Castro. It’s actually a city on Chiloé Island, with a population of about 42,000, and is the capital of Chile’s Chiloé Province.  It’s also, according to Wikipedia, the third oldest city that has existed continuously in the country, as it was founded in 1576.

It has a lovely situation, and I took the big tender (lifeboat) in with a lot of other people who wanted to walk on their own and stay off the big buses. I had a lovely 1.5 hour walk, which was good exercise as a lot of the town is hilly.

The tender, which can harbor a lot of people as a lifeboat.

And the port. You can see one structure in the background that resembles the palafitos, (traditional wooden houses on stilts for which Castro is famous, but the best view of them is obtained from the water and they’re so close together I couldn’t see many stilts.

Here are some of the stilt houses from a picture on Castro’s Wikipedia page:

A church on the town square, which reminded me of the square of Punta Arenas, where I stayed one night in 2019. I love the use of wood instead of stone.

Like the stilt houses above, many of the homes and shops of Castro are painted in bright colors.

You wouldn’t think that purple and green would harmonize, but I like this combination:

There were plenty of d*gs in town, nearly all of them sleeping. They looked to be in pretty good condition.

Look at this big boy! I don’t know what breed it is but surely a reader will know. It looked like a lion dog!

A lovely face!

Continuing on, I saw a car with a trailer, and sitting in the trailer was a sleeping CAT. I believe this is the first felid I’ve seen on this trip, so I took three pictures of it.

A calico! I did a bad thing because it woke up when I took its picture, and as we all know, it’s a sin to disturb a sleeping cat. (Look up the story of Muhammad and his cat Muezza.)

The cat, too, was in good condition. I’m sorry I woke you up, kitty.

There was a lot of street food in Castro, and I didn’t have any Chilean pesos! I had figured I’d get some from an ATM, but every ATM in town had a huge line of people in front of it. Otherwise I could have sampled one of these empanadas. This place was doing a land-office business.

The prices were low. One chilean peso is worth only one-eight of a cent, so 1800 pesos is about $2.30 U.S. (There are about 785 pesos to the dollar.)

Food trucks aren’t only in America. One street was lined with them, and they were well patronized

Freshly fried churros–my favorite! Alas, I had not a peso to spend. Six for about $2.50

I saw this statue of what looked like a Chilean laborer by the harbor. The plaque at its base translates like this: “Work completed in 2019, being Mayor Don Juan Eduardo Vera Sanhueza, the ‘Sculpture Marino Chilote’ was built by mandate of the Honorable Municipal Council.”

I’d guess this is a generic Chilean seaman. Nice statue!

Empanadas and churros weren’t on tap for me today, but here’s last night’s dinner: pork and shrimp dumplings followed by a round of chicken tortillas, washed down with a blueberry milkshake.


I swear this will be the last picture of a milkshake I foist on you. But it may also be the last picture of this trip, for now we steam north without stops.


23 thoughts on “Antarctica (Patagonia): Days 30 and 31

  1. Beautiful area especially when the weather is good. Sorry about missing the churros and empanadas. Couldn’t you have tried to overpay in US dollars? Perhaps that would be too much playing the Ugly American. You probably left your US dollars on the ship anyway.

  2. Great photos, Jerry. I wonder if the people hide from tourists so as not to have their photos taken.
    Certain natives are superstitious about that. And then there’s the pandemic still raging too.

    The d*gs are beautiful! The leonine one resembles an Indigenous Mastiff (Himalayan Guard D*g).

  3. My father pointed out the green and purple combo years ago; they are the Wimbledon colors. One of my favorites ties is purple and green (a deeper green than the house in the photo). It’s really quite a striking pairing.

    Hamersly’s Naval Encyclopedia describes a tender as:

    A small vessel used for giving assistance to a large ship or flag-ship, as carrying stores or dispatches, transferring men, etc.

  4. The Castro tour and photos are just wonderful. That lion dog’s coat is luxurious. It is a joy to see the d*gs and the calico resting peacefully and looking so relaxed and healthy. Castro itself looks beautiful. I love the attention to detail in the statue; you can see the stitches in the sweater.

  5. What a wonderful place to see. I love the houses on stilts with the cheerful colors.
    I’m amazed by the incredible direction of the wood in the arches in the church. It doesn’t look like any of the wood is actually bent, but lined up making an arch.

    Thanks for the post! I love it.

    I’m not sure, but I think Villa Puerto Eden may have been in the movie, The Alpinist about Marc-Andre Leclerc, an amazing climber that scaled Cerro Torre in Chile. If not, he was somewhere around that area before he climbed Cerro Torre solo. Quite a movie to see! I remember he had shifting weather problems there but he made it to the top.

  6. Castro looks lovely. I got to visit Chile back in the 90’s with my dad, an astronomer who set up the observatory at Las Campanas. This travelogue makes me want to return and see some of the regions I missed that first time.

    And, I could see a picture of one of those milkshakes every day. Time for lunch …

    1. It would be nice to get a ‘Jerry travelogue’ from up that way, even the farther north in Chile where many of the big land-based telescopes go these days. I’ve never even seen a decent natural view of the Milky Way, which I assume is just as good to see from an arid place in the Southern Hemisphere.
      One thing for sure: it wouldn’t likely be Hurtigruten. Still if I could go to only one of the north or the south of Chile, it would be the south for me.

      1. Two nights ago we had a clear night and no lights around and people went up on deck at about 10 pm (I was probably sleeping). They said the view was fantastic and the Milky Way particularly lovely.

    1. Rather than Indonesia, in Iceland in 1783 there was a lengthy eruption, Laki, with much lava. I’d thought I’d remembered that as the ‘no summer’. But it seems not, though the ash was very bad for crops and livestock and fish there, and that Europe at least had 1 or 2 very cold winters as a result. I picture Mozart freezing his butt off in Vienna because of an event 1000s of km away.

  7. Another nice vicarious journey. Thanks for all your trip-posts, each was a delight.
    And I’ll take a Cameron-Queso empanada por favor. 🙂

  8. Calico Cat does not look too disturbed, and probably would have been disappointed if it found out you’d passed through town without saying hello. Chow chows look cute, and I am sure some are friendly, but as a breed they are often considered to have difficult, aggressive temperaments.

    Safe journey home! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  9. The dumplings, tacos, milkshake combo is starting to look familiar. Does that reflect personal taste, or the limitations of the available menu?

  10. Have really enjoyed the vicarious trip, since ten years ago I enjoyed a similar trip. Your photos are excellent. I would like to have heard your lectures.

  11. There’s certainly fish farming in Chile, mostly salmon it would seem, as Chile produces something like 1/4 the world’s supply – I recall seeing a story many months back about how the farmers produced fish with different fat levels for different markets: Japan gets a lot of Chilean salmon. I expect the salmon are raised from eggs in hatcheries before putting out into the cages, rather than being caught; that would be usual for fish farming.
    The small rectangular arrangements in the third photo would be for mussels, oysters, or scallops, I would guess.

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