It was reading Bruce Chatwin’s book as a teenager that first fired my imagination about this ‘end-of-the-world’ land, boarded by three great oceans – the Atlantic to the east, the roaring Southern Ocean and Cape Horn to the south and the vast wildness of the Pacific to the west.
We’ve come to the mystical and magical island of Chiloe, located 42 degrees south, just where the eye-brow thin country of Chile disintegrates into fragments and fjords all the way down to the frozen deep southern archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. We’ve left the desert-like dryness and heat of Santiago for the cool 11 degree and sodden climes of Patagonia, where famously (just like Melbourne perhaps), we can expect (and currently are experiencing) four seasons at any time of the day.
We picked up Ruta 5, Chile’s costal highway, long at 3,364 kilometres, and part of the continental Pan-Amercian Highway that runs some 30,000 kilometres from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina. We travelled a mere 173k of it from the surprisingly well-appointed airport at Puerto Montt down to Chiloe’s largest centre Castro in pouring rain, first across the Chacao Channel via the roll-on car ferry, then down through a landscape that reminded us of Tasmania, and then at times of Southern NSW – very disorientating!
We’re staying overnight in Castro, Chiloe’s main centre full of brightly painted palafitos or stilt houses that line the Gamboa River and the Lemuy Canal, enjoying the changeable weather and settling into our first night in Patagonia.