Archive for October, 2008

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October 24

October 24, 2008

Something stole onto the picnic table at our campsite in the middle of the night, cracked one of the raw eggs we’d left on it, regretted it, and departed. It could have been one of the squirrels about the place, or a slightly clueless cat that was lurking around yesterday evening, or something else – but my money’s on the small hawk that flitted in and about our secluded patch of grass during breakfast, alighting on trees and on the roof of a neighbouring picnic table, fixing us with its beady eyes. Occasionally a smaller bird would charge in to scare it off for a minute, so perhaps it has a taste for eggs other than ours.

We were a little rough this morning after hours of fire-tending and conversation last night, and took longer than we’d intended to get ourselves together for the hike we had planned. The idea was to walk to the shore, not far from the CONAF campgrounds at the entrance to the park, and to see how far north along the coast we could get before turning back. About twenty kilometres to the north is Refugio Cole Cole, another campsite that is usually considered a day’s walk from here, at least if carrying all your camping gear. If we’d been on the road by eight o’clock in the morning, a round trip there might have been feasible, but we weren’t even out of the tent until half past eight.

The daughters of the British family we’d become acquainted with yesterday passed by a couple of times during our morning preparations and said hello. Then we stashed a plastic bag with crackers and homestyle cheese, and boiled eggs and an apple, filled a plastic bottle with water, stuffed some spare socks into our cargo-pockets along with my penknife and our torch, and headed down the trail.

The sky was grey and slightly foreboding, but dry weather had been forecast for today, so we weren’t unduly intimidated. After a short walk we crossed the gravel road that flanks the camping area and hurdled a small stile to enter the sand plain. Here it was the domain of cows: taciturn sentinels who patrolled not only the vegetated areas beyond the dunes, but the dunes themselves. One particularly unflappable specimen stood in the shallow waves of the Pacific, tugging disinterestedly at a flap of kelp hanging from the end of a piece of driftwood. Cows: on beaches.

The broad and flat beach of the national park was ridged with densely packed sand that was good for walking. The ocean was active, foaming waves rolling in continually over and over each other, breaking on a shelf fifty or a hundred metres off shore before continuing to the waterline. Flotsam and jetsam of various types were everywhere – vast numbers of scallop shells and crabshells, huge chunks of driftwood, the lids of plastic chemical drums, scraps of rope and seaweed, fenceposts, and other things. Along this expanse of bleak sand we walked for an hour or more, eventually cutting inland to where a settlement nestled around the crossing of a river mouth, a few houses and a small white church topped by a wooden cross. A charming wooden-planked pontoon bridge, built to resemble a fishing boat, spanned the twenty-five metre breadth of the outflowing river, and on the other side a fancy new two-storeyed house was being built in the local style, wooden shingles being painstakingly fixed over sheets of particle board and a waterproof layer.

Here we followed the road for a while before attempting to head back towards the ocean. We were temporarily foiled by reservoirs of water left deep inland by the waters of high tide, which blocked our route back to the beach proper. We continued, navigating a cow-path up and over a steep promontory dividing two sections of the beach, then crossing rough footbridges over channels of water. The whole area was dotted with the same dour, brooding cows, who had an oddly hostile air to them. From here the route became confusing. As we were dive-bombed by seabirds outraged by our proximity to their nests, we scaled a dune up to a small farm, turning to see another couple of hikers who were apparently following us. Invading the farmer’s territory by unhooking the knots from a rarely used picket gate, we discovered a road leading back down on the other side to the beach.

The other hikers caught up with us, and asked if we knew the route – they’d presumed from our purposeful strides that we had a clue what we were doing! We informed them with regret that we were equally ignorant, and parted ways.

By this stage we’d been walking for three hours, and upon descending to the sand and continuing a short distance, we sat upon a half-buried driftwood log and ate our cheese and crackers with gusto. The chunk of cheese the local minimarket owner had cut for us yesterday turned out to be very tasty, and “Soda Classic” biscuits a very close analogue of SAOs. The weather was continuing excellent, and now the sun came right out, warming our fleece-jacketed backs as we sat and ate the rest of lunch.

We decided that we definitely weren’t going to make it all the way to Cole Cole, and should probably head back to the campsite. With a bit of ingenuity, we were able to walk the majority of the way back along the beach. At one point, we were trapped beyond the remnants of the high tide waters, but I leapt across a three metre pond, and after I’d cunningly manoeuvred a very large log, and a smaller one from a little along the way, Max was able to step across as well. In this way we returned to the road, and after everything we got back to the campsite in only two more hours, shaving an hour off our outbound time.

We were greeted by the park ranger, and when we returned to our site we found that the two daughters of the British family had left a lovely note addressed “TO TOM & MAX”, informing us that they’d left in the morning, and that we were very welcome to the rest of their firewood. They also thanked us for the chocolate biscuits (touchingly spelt “BISCUETS”). At the end of the note, they signed for the whole family.

We took a very short break, then went to snag the promised firewood. As we lifted it off their site we met the park ranger again, who had apparently decided it was time to get us to pay for camping. It would’ve been easy, I imagine, to avoid him and thereby avoid paying, not that we’d had it in mind. We continued on down the road to the south – the opposite direction to our earlier hike – and returned to Chanquin and the minimarket in the black farmhouse, where we bought powdered milk in vast quantities, new Milo, and a very small bag of peanuts. That walk, to Chanquin and back, took almost an hour.

By the time we finally returned to camp, I was feeling tired, and read a few chapters of my latest exchanged potboiler, The Miracle by Irving Wallace, which concerns a prophesied re-appearance of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in the 1970s, and is quite hilariously dated and trashy. Then I drifted off to sleep for half an hour. Max came in to request a little company just before six o’clock, so I joined her as she prepared dinner.

We’d saved a few fried vegetables from the night before, so they went in to the packet cream of chicken soup, as well as some instant noodles. The final concoction was a while coming, but thoroughly nutritious and filling: awesome camp food. A horse was loitering about our campsite keeping the grass down, and we occasionally caught sight of it walking past. After we’d washed our dishes, done our teeth and retired to the tent, it invaded our little area proper, chewing grass vigorously before departing after ten or fifteen minutes. We decided on an early night.

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October 23

October 23, 2008

Back in the bush and we’re having a blast.

We packed in the city this morning and headed for Parque Nacional de Chiloe, an area that runs most of the length of the northwest coast of the island. We’d originally intended to leave bright and early, but after a later than expected night shifted our departure to the twelve thirty bus instead, which provided us with a leisurely morning of late wake-ups, delayed breakfast and full advantage of the brilliant wifi connection at the guesthouse.

The bus was a distinctly sub-par little number compared to what we’ve become used to, but the ride was uneventful. Two hours later we were dropped at the entrance to the national park, where we walked up a nice little cultivated entrance to the visitors’ centre and ranger’s station. A very friendly and helpful ranger showed us the campsites which are really quite excellent- they’re arranged over a large area and each is like a mini-field, bordered to all sides with forest so you’d have to try hard to see someone else from your own site. Not that it really mattered, as the only other people around were a young English family camped on the opposite side of the grounds.

We selected a rather large site nearish the bathroom block and set to work pitching the tent. Everything was set up and in order by the time the rain started on cue (we’d earlier asked for clear skies until three and after five, and the first rain started pretty well on three), which left us only with a drizzly walk into town for a few supplies, which got us soaked but not unrecoverably so. The town here, Chanquin, is small and set on two sides of a river with a big concrete bridge. We passed many signs advertising foodie things for sale, but all seemed closed until we met up with our fellowcampers and they directed us to a place around the back of a local’s house. He didn’t quite have what we needed, but did point out another minimart, where we were let in with a bell-ringing and a small delay, and which was much more well stocked. We bought an onion, some cheese and crackers and some newspaper by the kilo.

We decided to start on a fire depite the persistent misty rain and were having little success. The rain stopped a bit later at five-thirty, which was good news for our fire, but it didn’t really get going until Zora and Rosa, the nine and twelve year old girls of the family across the way, brought over some of the dry wood they’d “collected” earlier from some apparantely disused sheds about the place. We gave them a chocolate biscuit for their efforts and they went away happy, at which point we made a start on dinner (ravioli again because it worked so well last time) and on a box of wine. Afterwards, we whiled a charming night away by the fire.

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October 22

October 22, 2008

Our day trip to Achao on one of the lesser islands of Chiloe was left a little dismal today, as the unpredictable weather dealt us a fairly miserable few hours of rain.

The connection to Achao from Castro was easy enough – we wandered to the bus station in the icy, unfavourable atmosphere of the early part of the morning and were lucky enough to get there ten minutes before the nine o’clock departure. As the bus wound its way down the road past the green undulating fields of the Isla Mayora to the ferry-dock at Dalcahue, the rain picked up.

There were a few locals waiting on board the ferry to ambush the bus on water, a good strategy to guarantee catching it stress-free. Shortly after the crossing, we were in Achao, which was plastered with large advertising posters for the local council elections. Masses of local government campaign advertising is a norm in Chile, but here it was particularly egregious. The poor calibre of portrait photography was astounding – more than one of the candidates looked like some freaky washed-out relative of Uncle Fester in an oversized raincoat, and one of the mayoral wannabes had had himself photographed with hair plastered down with pomade and a horrible slug-like toothbrush moustache. Couple that with slogans like “TRABAJANDO PARA TI” and “CHILEEENO DE CORAZON!!” and you have a real procession of mediocrity, expanded to life-size at the local printers.

The weather didn’t relent, and there was little shelter to be had in Achao. We didn’t have much idea of the alleged attractions of the place beyond its 18th century timber church. The restaurants and cafes were still closed at ten o’clock in the morning, and the cold rain was driving in off the waterfront. We looped around a few blocks and spotted the church spire in the distance, navigating thereby to the central plaza. The church itself was a thing of perfect-proportioned beauty – a flat-facaded creation in three levels, the bottom composed of a frieze of wooden archways widening towards the centre, the central trapezoidal, and faced in aging dark timber slats, and the top an elegant, minimalist windowed tower. It was a truly impressive building, and a testament to the skills of local carpenters and builders.

Unfortunately, there was nothing else to do, or to see, in Achao. The “museum” was resolutely shut, and I suspect it would’ve been sub-par anyway. The markets were humdrum, the streets unastounding, and the views so-so. We finally found a place that could sell us a coffee – no milk though – and huddled inside there a little longer than necessary, just because it was warm. Although on a happier day we might have enjoyed climbing to the top of the hill overlooking the town or walking along the waterfront boulevard, it had become starkly apparent that there was nothing better to do than return to Castro, and so we did.

We retired to the hostel for a couple of hours after we arrived there again, and Max fiddled about on the net while I flipped through the pages of The Subtle Serpent – a Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne. Unfortunately the author’s meticulous knowledge of seventh century legal practice in Munster didn’t extend to an ability to gracefully work the setting into his narrative, much less write convincing, un-anachronistic dialogue. I eventually sickened of reading it and demanded that we go for a stroll, so we walked north along the harbour for a while, until we realised that since we planned to go camping again tomorrow, we should probably stock up on food for the trip.

We bought much the same stuff as last time: “Avenea” Instant Oats, “Gran Cereal” muesli-biscuits, flash-dried ravioli, tomato salsa, packet soup, powdered milk, and some fruit, to go with our remaining teabags and Milo. Adventure, pre-measured and pre-packaged.

Later we returned to Chilo’s Restaurant above the bus terminal for dinner, which turned out to be a bit of a miscalculation. We initially ordered merzula, the excellent white-fleshed fish Max had had two nights before, but when we saw what our neighbours were eating, a bizarre concoction called “pachinga”, we switched to that instead.

Our one plate of pachinga between two should really, I think, have been between at least four. A tossed mixture of beef chunks, two types of chopped sausage, pickled onion, cucumber and carrot, small slices of ham on bread, cocktail olives, boiled eggs, slices of cheese, chunks of tomato, and several condiments, it was a Salad of Evil, as if a Chilote had one day remarked “You know all that bad, bad stuff I like to eat? Let’s make a giant smorgasbord of chopped up bits of it all!”.

What with a side of chips tambien, this crazy platter was very nearly too much to finish, and we had to shelve plans to kick on immediately in favour of an unscheduled one hour break to digest. Then we returned to our semi-murky pub for some very light refreshment, where they were showing a sequence of Pet Shop Boys videos notable for their consistent aesthetic. There was a busier crowd there, and younger, than when we’d visited two nights ago, but after one drink apiece we made our way back.

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October 21

October 21, 2008

We grumbled awake ths morning, dehydrated and, yes, rather hung over thanks to our surprise fourth round last night. On the bright side, I can’t imagine many places we’ve stayed on this trip would be better to grumble awake into- we have a hot pipe in the corner of our room that provides a direct link with the fire downstairs, the bed is big and supremely comfy, and a slight tweak of the curtain reveals a beautiful hilltop harbour view.

We ascertained that we were both still alive, and decided gallantly not to try more sleep,but instead to find a seat at the table for our promised breakfast, which did live up to almost all expectations, lacking only in the juice department but including yoghurt as an added bonus. So we were both now alive, awake and fed and it came to that awkward time of day when the rather vague “explore the town” mission statement needs to be formulated into an actual plan.

First rank exploration was taken under the guise of chores- finding a laundromat situated conspicuously close to our den of sin of last night, trying to track down a piece of Chilean sci-fi literature for Tom (with no success) and purchasing a replacement set of headphones for those lost previously and a small tripod because it was cheap and ridiculously cute.

Second rank expedition was of the more traditionally tourist type and included a gander at the sizeable Plaza de Armas, a look at the twin-towered, wood-framed and tin-clad cathedral (once painted a brave and strangely appealing apricot and lavender, but now undergoing renovations to replace the fading lemon yellow an blue paint job) and a pop into the Museo Regional de Castro. The museum, as well as cataloguing and commentating on the ten or so churches of Chiloe, provided photographic how-tos on boatbuilding and housed a number of uncomfortable and impractical looking pedalless bicycles. As with most small museums, it was more interesting as a whole than in any one exhibit.

We took a stroll along the waterfront in the early afternoon and began gathering supplies for dinner, which we had decided to cook. Our first preference was fish, but for a seaside fishing community the town is awfully short on the aquatic edibles, and we settled instead for a sizeable chunk of beef which I was somehow supposed to disassemble in to steaks. Dinner ended in mixed success, with some maimed grilled meat and giant mounds of salad. Postprandials were limited to window-gazing and hotel-lazing and we made quite an early night of it.

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October 20

October 20, 2008

The whole island of Chiloe seems to have a genre-novelish spell on it, as if it, land and people, is the type of milieu amenable to being jammed into a murder mystery, or a horror novel. Max and I have already agreed that it is like the setting of an H.P. Lovecraft short. A small town built around the fisheries, like Ancud, its houses brightly painted and clad in tin and shingles as if to ward off the relentless marching grey of the sky, could be the town from The Shadows Over Innsmouth. The island even has its own folklore rich in tales of the evil brujos, a band of male witches who live in a secret cave and prey upon the hapless islanders, their ghost ship, which can sail above or below the surface of the water with equal ease, carving the waters of the inlets and bays by night.

All of which contributes to this being a wonderfully relaxing place to hang about. About the only downside is the weather, which vacillates between perfect and miserable hourly. And even this has the benefit of preventing too much odious forward planning.

We woke again in our tent at Arenas Gruesas, as the morning rains blew over and the light filtering through our flysheet intensified around nine o’clock, both once again rather dehydrated due to having been so deeply cocooned in our sleeping bags overnight. The little camp stove provided us with a Milo and a bowl of hot apple-oats each before we decided we’d better get on and take down the tent before the rain came over once more. We worked at a relaxed pace, making sure to re-pack our bags in some sort of order, and get excess moisture off the tent before storing it away, and by the time we were finally set to depart, two hours had passed and it was eleven.

As we walked into the centre of town, the day’s second serious batch of rain came over, and a persistent drizzle began. The tour companies that offer half-day trips to the local penguin colony were all shut – low season being what it is, I suppose – and the artesan’s market was pretty uninteresting. Far more so were the streets themselves, which were crowded with quiet-minded people in puffy rainjackets going about their business.

At a hardware store, Max mimed her way through a purchase of some fixings to replace a missing rivet from her backpack harness, both of us lacking any of the necessary Spanish vocabulary. Then we bought ourselves a large plate of hot chips and a couple of cheese empanadas from a tuck shop, and called it lunch as we huddled under the eaves of some commercial premises to escape the rain.

The day was getting on, somehow, and it was past midday. We’d thought to go to one of Chiloe’s smaller islands today, via a ferry crossing at Dalcahue on the eastern shore of the main island, but there weren’t any convenient direct services to Dalcahue from Ancud, so we re-ordered slightly and just bought bus tickets to Castro, Chiloe’s largest settlement. We missed the one o’clock bus by about thirty seconds, but it wasn’t too terrible sitting and waiting in the warm, comfortable municipal bus terminal.

The rain persisted during the one or two hour journey to Castro, and we passed posses of half-built timber boats docked on verdant green fields en route. On arrival, we were right on top of the town’s small principal tourist zone, amidst a host of cheap hospedajes. We inspected two before making our selection, a charming place where we got a room with a harbour view quite cheaply, together with a promise of an abundant included breakfast.

After our two days camping at Arenas Gruesas, it was all too easy to settle into the large double bed and laze around for a few hours, enjoying books, warmth and free wi-fi, and eventually it was dinner time and we’d seen little or nothing of the town.

We decided that it was a good day for a proper, sit-down meal and went to a cheap, but serviceable upstairs restaurant called Chilo’s, situated diagonally opposite the bus terminal on one of Castro’s busiest intersections. Max ordered merzula, a local cut of fish, with salad, and I had chicken a lo pobre, which means with fried onions, fried eggs, and chips. Not the healthiest! Most bizarre of all, however, was my inadvertent drink choice – a Fan-schop. Here in Araucania and Chiloe, a schop is a pot of beer, and a schoperia a hole-in-the-wall pub. A Fan-schop, however, is not (as I assumed), a “fancy beer”, but a weird spider mix of Fanta and beer. It was surprisingly drinkable, but not an experience I particularly want to repeat – beer simply shouldn’t taste sweet and orange, and Fanta shouldn’t have a creamy head of foam.

The lady waiting tables seemed to enjoy having us in her restaurant – we were the only couple in the place, the only ones on a “date” of sorts, and most of the other customers were pairs of grizzled old male friends, discussing men’s matters over hearty plates of food and a couple of strong drinks. Max’s fish turned out to be superbly well cooked, and my chicken wasn’t bad either. By the time I’d polished off my Fan-schop and Max her Pisco sour, we were both having a bloody excellent time.

We elected to move on to a pub, and after a brisk walk in the icy mid-evening cold, we found just the right sort of semi-murky dive on the Plaza de Armas. Grabbing a pair of half-price drinks just as their happy hour ended, we spent quite some time engaged in dissection of the video clips they had playing on rotation on the bar TV. These included Europe’s other hit, “Open Your Heart” (bet you’d heard of that one!), and plenty of other laughable golden oldies.

(On a side note, I’d swear Morrissey gets more commercial radio play in Chile than in any country, anywhere. I knew from years ago that Moz had a big following in Mexico, but in Chile he’s on the airwaves in nearly every second establishment I visit. I heard “First of the Gang to Die” piped through the P.A. at the bus terminal today!)

The bartender misconstrued our orders – perhaps deliberately – and brought us a second round of their rather-strong cocktails, by the end of which we were practically legless, and we had a terrific time strolling back to the hostel. It had ended up a really fun evening and a great way to finish what had been a thoroughly relaxing and pleasant day.

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October 19

October 19, 2008

Ancud is definitely not a bustling metropolis- well, not at this time of year, anyway, as here “low season” and “high season” actually seem to mean something. We managed to sleep in until ten o’clock this morning despite being in the tent, which I think is some sort of minor miracle attributable in part to the chilly weather and diffuse sunlight. When we did rouse, we indulged in biscuits and some scrummy instant oats made with warm, powdered milk. We’ve been using this time in Chiloe to experiment with lightweight, easily portable foodstuffs, and so far have had much success.

The activities list in Ancud is not long and diverse, and we had two options: a penguin colony somewhere about the area, and a naval museum with an incredibly enthusiastic write-up. We tried for both but got neither, it being a Sunday in winter in a small town. Despite this, we were not disheartened- we had a coffee and empanada on the main drag, browsed through some handicraft stores in the Mercado de Artesania (I eyed off some hundspun wool from an animal I wasn’t able to identify with my bad Spanish, but haven’t yet committed to a purchase) and wandered through the fort on our way home.

We’re stuck in that frame of mind commonly induced by wintering in a popular beach resort- where the sea in grey and stormy, the weather untrustworthy and everyone gone, leaving only a sense of freedom and calm. Our camping site is quite excellent, despite the sub-standard temperature of the advertised hot water showers. The sites are situated on a clifftop overlooking the ocean, and as we meander back and forth from the bed-field to the living-field and the bathroom block we’re treated to a wonderful panorama of angry ocean with rocky outcrops inhabited by some truly stunning seabirds of a distinctly almost-Antarctic sort, svelte black, white and brown things that dive in and out of the frigid ocean like it was a warm bath.

The rain held off until about four o’clock this arvo, then cleared again about seven, leaving us with a crystal clear, star-studded night to enjoy around the campfire, which after hours of painstaking tending in the rain is now roaring madly.

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October 18

October 18, 2008

Damn – I’ll never get my cup of tea now. Well, not today, anyway. After melting a small hole in the thumb of my brand new polypropylene glove insert moving a burning log, and pouring almost-boiling water over my other hand as I tried to decant it from camp-pan to bottle, I don’t think I can be bothered any more.

Not that this should be taken as any indication of my feelings toward today, which has been a lot of fun.

Hospedaje Rocco was quiet as the grave when I was first to wake this morning at half past six. The shower recess was cramped and dim, but the water was hot and plentiful. We stuffed our things almost whilly-nilly into the piles of coming-with-us and not-coming-with-us, stashed three bags of not-coming-with-us under the hostel stairs, and made off into the morning in the direction of the bus terminal, as today we were off to the giant semi-island of Chiloe, and its northernmost settlement of Ancud.

En route we had breakfast at a small place closeted at the very back of an otherwise thoroughly closed artesan’s market. Coffee of the sort where they provide you with the jar of instant so you can serve yourself, and a cheese sandwich each, I suspect because the waitress thought we wouldn’t be able to understand any other dish she might name (I saw another fellow having a nice-looking soup, and a second with a grilled fish fillet).

Although our packs were loaded heavily, we had only our packs for once – I had no giant FILA shoulder-bag full of souvenirs and other crap into the bargain, and was feeling mobile. At the bus terminal, the Queilen bus we had tickets for arrived late, and in the interim we talked to a girl from Nice called Alexandre, and her loopy but entertaining Chileno friend Francisco. After the scarily multilingual Belgians and Danish we’d been hanging around in Valparaiso, it was reassuring that Francisco spoke four languages, but three of them rather badly indeed. He left us at the platform, having only come to see Alexandre off.

The bus finally arrived and with it, grey skies and persistent rain. Chiloe, a large land mass amongst the fjords and canals of Patagonia, is technically an island but is connected to the mainland by well-established vehicle ferries. The bus had to wait about ten minutes to board, but once we were on our way we were able to disembark and enjoy the view a little, as grey seas gave way to grey, stark promontories about us. There was a little snack shop on board, which we didn’t visit.

It turned out that Alexandre had been working as a tour guide to the Royal Palace in Monaco before coming away, which I found vaguely interesting. In addition to great English, she could also speak fluent Chinese, and said she knew four or five thousand Chinese characters.

We parted ways with Alexandre at the Ancud terminal on arrival – she’d had the sense to book herself into a hostel, whilst we, more hardily (or foolhardily) had decided to try to camp. It was still raining persistently as we flagged down a collectivo and took a short journey into town from the southeast and out of town by the north, reaching Fuerte San Antonio on the northwest corner of Chiloe, adjacent to the campground we’d imagined ourselves patronising at a point called Arenas Gruesas.

Ancud was low-lit under the pale sky and quiet, a place today for hurried people in raincoats with umbrellas. It had the look of a fishing village about it, and one half expected to see burly men in heavy blue cable-knit sweaters wandering about with pipes. Along Arenas Gruesas was a string of places offering “Cabanas, Hostal & Camping”, but most seemed to be unattended, as if the owners had decided there was no chance of any tourist showing up on such a day. At one, we dialled the guardian’s number persistently from a telephone in a little gatehouse, while an enormous red spaniel-setter type dog looked on timidly, only to be told, on the fiftieth ring, that the place was closed for camping until high season.

After looking in on four or so places, we finally had some luck at the end of the road, where the owner, a small, dark man called Hugo, instructed us to choose a site at our pleasure. We spent fifteen minutes or so inspecting all twenty spots on his territory for wind and rain shelter, and pitchability. Each had its own “casita”, a roofed two-sided shed with a light and powerpoint, and most had a rustic fireplace in some sort of repair. After that it was down to the length and dampness of the uncut grass, and proximity to the toilet block. There wasn’t a single other person camping, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover we’re the only people currently living in a tent in all Chiloe.

As we made to set up, the rain politely stopped, and remained so until our tent was in place. We’d decided to put it up as much under the casita as we could manage to protect ourselves from rain, and use the shelter from the next site along for cooking and hanging about. The rain began immediately, but we celebrated the founding of our new colony with a hot drink (Max – Milo, me – lousy tea) prepared on our spanking new camp burner.

I insisted we should do something with what was left of the day, so we walked to the fort, in the rain, getting very wet, and then into town, in more rain, getting even wetter. Once there, we found the Regional Museum was shut on Saturday afternoons, and gave up. Our pants were soaked through, as were our supposedly rainproof jackets. Next time, I shall get a different type of rainjacket!

Nothing remained but to enjoy the day. Fortunately, the rain stopped for good at about five o’clock, and I was able to persuade Hugo to part with a little firewood. We spent the rest of the evening tending to the fire, drinking cheap wine, and putting together a dinner of ravioli, onion, capsicum and tomato sauce that was a long time coming, but all the more special when it did arrive as a consequence. The firewood was waterlogged to the point that each faggot had to be cooked for minutes before it would begin to burn, and thereafter spat boiling water from its extremities. In fact, the adversity of the conditions meant that tending to the fire was challenging all round, and it threatened to go out several times before about eight o’clock, when Max successfully got an enormous log to catch fire.

After doing the dishes, boiling some water for drinking, and clearing our things away, it was time for bed.