“I pictured a low timber house with a shingled roof, caulked against storms, with blazing log fires inside and the walls lined with all the best books, somewhere to live when the rest of the world blew up.” – Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia
No walls lined with the best books I’m afraid but thank goodness for our trusty iPads. Other than that, our cabin for the next seven days is as Chatwin described, including a blazing log fire that we’ve now managed to get going to keep us warm during these chilly mid-summer evenings (4 degrees overnight and barely 10 in the day). Our cabin is the perfect place to catch up on some writing (for Ants) and for me, pulling that sketch book out and facing my demons (they’re the ones that tell me I can’t draw, so usually I don’t). No, this is the place to knuckle down and relax into a different pace of life that’s both Brexit and Trump free!
We’re across the silvery sound from Castro on the Rilán Peninsula and right at the end point in the tiny hamlet of Yutuy that has two large roadside shrines, one small store, a rickety wooden bridge over a babbling stream and a deserted jetty on a beach strewn with rocks… or are they basking seals? It requires closer inspection in the morning.
The weather here is incredibly changeable – in a matter of minutes it goes from blowing a gale, cloudy and overcast, freezing cold and pouring with rain, to instant summer – blue skies, warm sunshine and noticeably warmer air. The only sound is the wind in the trees and the birds singing in the surrounding forest. Immediately in front of us and stretching to the far horizon are dozens and dozens of salmon pens, making Chiloe one of the most productive regions in all of South Amercia and, so we’re led to believe, a mecca for hungry Sea Lions, Sea Otters and incredibly (can’t wait for this if it’s true) Orcas! We’ve already had one close encounter with one of the native inhabitants, a Darwin Fox that dashed across in front of us whilst driving down to Castro – more of a large furry blur, but on looking it up, definitely one of the locals.
We’re surrounded by lush evergreen rolling hills that remind us so much of Tasmania – it’s pretty much identical in both the look of the flora, the changeable climate and indeed the latitude, both sitting on 42 degrees south, so no wonder it feels somewhat like home. But you only have to go to one of the small main towns in the region, such as our nearest Dalcahue, to realise you’re on the other side of the world, where no one speaks English and so many things are unfamiliar – and that’s not just the names (or shapes) of things, like knotted balls of sea matter (can’t make out if it’s plant or animal but clearly a delicacy) – but also the way say the butcher’s shops (carnicerías) present meat – it’s enough to turn anyone vegetarian – where meat is bloody and hacked with bones and gristle attached and lies open to the elements or, frozen solid like an ancient creature that’s been recovered from the permafrost. I think we’ll be having vegetable and fish curry for the next few days… but it’s all part of this amazing adventure we’re having.