Castro, the capital of Chiloe
The island of Chiloë, besides being on the way to Patagonia, is also a destination in its own right, not in the least because of the 100 or so wooden churches, a good dozen of which are world heritage monuments.
Castro, the capital, simply meaning 'fort', is the third oldest continuously inhabited town in Chile, although Mother Nature, deploying the occasional earthquake, has tried hard to remove the town from the face of the earth several times.
In 1960, an earthquake destroyed the train line connecting Ancud, to the north, with Castro, severing the rail line between the country's capital and the island.
Besides the churches made of wood, also interesting are the many houses on stilts, cradling the edge between sea and land. Built on the water front, the facades are just like any other wooden dwelling. Their backs, leaning over the water, allow boats to be directly tied to the houses.
Now, after a salmon boom in the 1990s, and the town, if not the island, becoming of interest to tourists from the world over, many of these palafitos are now restaurants, cafes or hotels.
As a result, Castro has a bit of an end-of-the-world feeling to it, but one where everyone is having a mildly pleasant time.
The island's geography is quite similar to, say, Ireland; green, hilly, wet, cold. While the German and Spanish influence, more tangible up north, have faded somewhat, the result is a hybrid that could just as easily be situated in, say, northern Norway.
But, what is this fascination with playing 80s pop? It's awesome!
In nearby Achao, small crowds drag kelp onto the beach, while lone knickknack paddlers wait for tourists that are few and far between in winter.
Strolling along the beach, I watched the skies open up in the distance, while behind me the sun was shining. Afterwards, I had a fried salmon and chips in one of the few eateries serving food, catering really only for locals, nursing their beers between fishing trips, most of them drunk.
Chiloë's national park is perhaps a bit less impressive.The rain and strong winds didn't help, while, for the most part, the park felt like a mix between the Irish coast and the Dutch heath. Nice, but nicer in summer.