Chiloé. Like many places in Latin America, its name alone evokes a certain mystical impression. The fact that it is routinely shrouded in mist and fog only helps maintain such a feeling once you're there. A large island in the north of Chilean Patagonia, it's far enough from the beaten path to have access only by sea-going ferry. Ironically, the Pan-American Highway runs through it, and in fact ends at the southern point of the island. But the "highway," as it also does in Panama, runs to the sea and then picks up again on the other side. I'll take you on a virtual walk-through of the crossing.
These ferries are big enough to carry cars, trucks, buses, and anything else that rolls along a highway. I had never been on a ferry as big as one of these, so for me it was every bit as interesting as anything else we saw in Chiloé.
In the US, I suppose we've gotten around to building bridges of various sizes across just about every body of water we might feel like driving across. I remember driving in Maryland and noticing on the map a "Bridge-Tunnel" across the Chesapeake Bay and heading to Virginia Beach. I couldn't imagine what a bridge-tunnel would look like, so I decided to drive down the Delmarva Peninsula with the sole intent of seeing it firsthand. It cost $12 to use it, as it turned out, which was more than I expected, but I certainly wasn't going to head back the way I'd come. But, I digress.
For many years, there has been talk of building a bridge across this channel, which would do away with the need for ferries like this one, and permanently connect the people of Chiloé (known as chilotes) with the mainland. There are those in favor of such a project for the benefits it would bring to the island, and those who oppose it, citing a deterioration in the unique character that the island has developed after centuries of relative isolation.
From the front, these look like regular houses along a street like any other. It's not until you manage to get around behind them that you see what makes them so special. And considering what's behind them is usually water, it can be tricky to find a decent vantage point to see them. Fortunately, there was a bridge over this particular river, affording us this postcard glimpse.
The project was under scrutiny not only for its inconsistency with the rest of the town's architecture, but also because it had allegedly been built with a few more floors than what was originally authorized. The project's financier and designers, for their part, claimed that the municipality was changing its tune halfway through the process now that it was provoking such a high-profile reaction around the country. Leaving the project, for now, in limbo. Whether or not this and the bridge across Chiloé's northern channel get built anytime soon, though, it's clear that the pressure to bring the community here into fuller integration with the rest of Chile is strong.
We also spent time playing cards, drinking wine and researching the next legs of our trip, working out how many days we'd spend in each place and how to plan our bus trips and accommodations accordingly. As I've said in past postings, this was the high season, and it was essential to look a few days ahead in order to not get stuck in an unfamiliar place with nowhere to stay. In Castro especially, we saw many backpackers going door to door in the rain, looking for somewhere to sleep for the night. That's bad enough when you're in your twenties and on your own, but traveling with a small child makes that an especially unconscionable idea. But thanks to Skype and wifi service at even the most rustic hostels, it was easy to stay a step ahead.
And Tamia, as she usually does, made a friend. This girl was a few years older than Tamia, was concerned about our daughter's relative lack of eyebrows, and as we neared Puerto Montt, broke into a hearty round of "estamos llegando, ¡chuguay, chuguay!" If you don't speak Spanish, a quick Google translation will satisfy your curiosity, all the way up to the two word refrain, which was a mystery to us. And that, my friends, is where I leave you, until the next fun-filled installment.