Just as I was getting up and out of my less than talkative hostel, the ‘small world’ cliché proved itself best yet as I bumped into Denny, a guy I went to university with, sat casually in the reception. Naturally I latched onto him and his friends, and after having done a day hike up the volcano, I felt totally justified in sympathising with their aches and pains from nine days hiking in Patagonia! Accordingly, no one was in any rush to take on difficult activities and we dedicated ourselves to finding anywhere that would simultaneously satisfy all of our cravings: cake and beer.
The south of Chile is apparently famous for its cakes; a fact that I learnt almost too late, thus I am making up for lost eating time! Between mounds of homemade guacamole and the discovery of our new favourite vegetarian restaurant (even if they do name the dishes after emotions- blurgh) I still managed to find the time and stomach capacity for cake, at any time of day or night!
As ever, good intentions for an early start the following day and a hike in the nearby national park were thwarted by overindulgence the night before (not naming any names, but it actually wasn’t me for once!) However, we salvaged the day with a trip to Ojos del Caburgua- an outrageously blue lagoon with multiple waterfalls gushing into it. The perfect spot for a picnic (because apparently all I do in Chile is look for the next place to eat!)
Determined to view the falls from all angles, and even more determined not to pay a £1 entrance fee to two separate viewing areas, we traversed the rocky “path” across the river. Turns out the grass was quite literally greener on the other side; and the view was far superior too!
My next couple of days were defined solely by luck of the grand cosmic draw: the last bus heading my intended way was full, thus I was forced to lounge on the beach for another day. (It’s a tough life!)
However, everything began tipping in my favour when an English speaking hairdresser, with wild curls herself, arrived at the hostel; for the first time in three months, I felt I could trust someone with my signature do! Beyond that, a pub quiz was organised for that evening; my most favourite activity. Despite the questions leaning heavily on geography and astronomy, in order to allow all nationalities an equal chance, we only went and bloody won it!
Feeling I couldn’t achieve any higher victories in Pucón, I boarded my bus, ferry and bus down to Chiloé island and arrived in Castro- the main town.
Unfortunately, there is one giant hill, and, despite my best efforts to circumnavigate almost the entire island around it, all roads force one to both scale it and descend it, heavy backpack and all. At the end of this epic journey however lay a lovely hostel in a traditional Palafito- a waterfront house on stilts. (This one is certainly less sinister than Lemony Snicket’s version though!)
Colourful palafitos and wooden churches galore, the whole town feels like the film set from ‘Edward Scissorhands’, if it were left to dilapidate for a while!
After feeling far too touristy in Pucón, I was excited to get a little off the beaten track; however, it turns out that Castro, on a Sunday, out of season, is a ghost town. I empathise heavily with Goldilocks: I want just the right amount of fellow gringos around!
I walked and walked and took in the sights. The Chilote churches are supposedly a huge draw, but looked to me a little too IKEA flat pack (with optional external support legs, in case you build it wrong.) Whilst it made a nice change from Colonial architecture elsewhere, I don’t exactly see what UNESCO are making such a fuss about; sorry.
The following day, fuelled by the hostel’s excellent free breakfast, I headed down towards Cucao and the National Park.
My luck was in once again as I befriended some fellow gringos, with whom I was able to share an unexpectedly lavish dorm, a great deal of common ground and, most importantly, our sense of humour. (Made a welcome change from the overly keen outdoorsy types elsewhere on the island!)
Accompanied by some local dogs, we marched our way through the flora and fauna of the Parque National de Chiloé. A series of wooden walkways led us through dense forests and out towards an incredibly windy beach. It was in no way a strenuous hike, but we still had a glamorous lakefront deck to recline and recuperate on afterwards.
The only other thing on offer in and around Cucao is another pleasant walk; this time across a windy headland, that wouldn’t look out of place in Cornwall! The end destination: a bridge to nowhere, at a point that supposedly ferries souls onto the next world. Incredibly picturesque, were it not for the keen tourists taking photos (who we obviously, unashamedly joined.)
After an evening by the fire and a meal in the town’s only restaurant being interrupted by numerous cows at the window, once again the rains came and it was my cue to leave.