Chiloé Archipelago

It’s hard to imagine I’ve spent nearly two weeks here, but the time really did fly by island hopping and digital detoxing in the Chiloé Archipelago. It’s a group of islands in the south of Chile that many drivers had spoken of before about how special this place is. Not a single driver was like “So you’re going to Chiloé? It’s pretty average there… better skip it”.

chiloé archipelago cow church caguachThe main road in Chile, the “Ruta 5” just continues on the island like there wasn’t some water to cross. My truck driver named Walter drove from the mainland onto the ferry in Pargua and then the ferry left instantly. It was like a well rehearsed drill. Only 25 minutes of doing nothing, eating, using the ferry’s WiFi and seeing the sea and you’re on the island. A perfectly hitchable boat. On the other side of the water, the food is different. Almost everything is made of wood. Hitchhiking around the island is quite easy and all the farming makes it look like Wales, albeit sunny. The people speak even faster Spanish and have a few of their own vocabulary. No comprendo, but it’s alright.

chiloé archipelago caguach sailing boat Quinchao was the next island I wanted to visit and there was another ferry that didn’t charge foot passengers. I just walked on, dropped my backpack and waited for someone to charge me something, but no one bats an eye around here. Next, I went to the big town Achao to find passage to other islands. Caguach was a 1,5 hour boat ride away. The island promised complete seclusion as there wasn’t a returning boat for the next two days. Returning to Achao was nice after the digital detox of Caguach island, a place with friendly people and abundant cattle.

Dalcahue is a place on the main island that César, a lawyer, drove me to from Achao. I asked him for a good place to drink some coffee and he dropped me at a café that looked under construction from the outside. Inside it was like a better version of Starbucks. Nice couches everywhere and even a high table with magazines and other stuff to read. It was the first place in months that had a modern toilet where you can flush the paper. Anyone who has traveled extensively through South America without going to five star hotels can confirm how strange it is to find a place where you can flush it instead of binning it.

Caffeinated and happy, I hitchhiked onwards to Castro, Chiloé’s capital city. I was here during semana santa (Easter) and it looked like they even painted the cathedral in Easter colors (purple and yellow) just for the occasion. While hitchhiking I suddenly realized I’ve been in Chile for nearly three months, or ninety days: this is the maximum time you can stay here. I freaked out and looked at the stamp’s date in my passport. I call this “The Panic”. The Panic comes when you realize you’ve almost stayed in a country too damn long, according to the country’s government. I had this in Iran too when I almost finished my visa.

At the tourist information office – a place I barely visit – in Castro, I ran into another backpacker who told me that the punishment of overstaying your stamp in Chile results only in a fine of 60 luca (a word to indicate three zeroes, so 60.000 Chilean Pesos). That’s about €80 I can’t afford. The tourist information office had no clue about the ferries leaving from the island back to the the mainland and sent me to an office that specializes in the ferries out of here: the Navierra Austral. The next day I hitched to the southern city on Chiloé called Quellón and got a ticket doing the route via an island called Melinka and then to a town on the mainland called Raúl Marín Balmaceda. By the time I would arrive Easter would finally be over and businesses would work like normal. From here I could hitch to any border before my 90 days are over. The Panic is gone. 

If anything can summarize why people live in Chiloé or go to visit it, it is the always returning word of tranquilidad. Frankly, it’s also why I made the detour – until the damn Panic.

If you plan to make a trip to Chiloé Island, hitchhiking or not, then you can find extensive travel information I put on HitchWiki about the ferries and a few cities.

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