Puerto Montt and the fishing village of Angelmo present many photo opportunities. The town is the gateway of the Chilean fjords and ships take travellers to Puerto Natales down the coast in Patagonia. It was in Puerto Montt that I ate my first congrio frito, fried conger eel, as common in Chile as cod in Northern Europe. Excellent – any traveller in Chile must try it and it is still the ting I miss the most from the country.
I shied away, however, from shellfish as they sometimes get poisoned by the ‘red tide’ (marea roja), a microorganism which is poisonous to humans, endemic in South America from Peru southwards. By the way, Montt was a Chilean admiral. The biggest hero of Chile, however, is called Prat – Arturo Prat. No comment
I spent a whole day in Chiloé (Accent on the final e), the second biggest island in South America (largest being Tierra del Fuego) which means nothing to us, but is a mythical place for the Chileans. Chilotes live on stilted houses, remained Spanish until very late, mixed Christianity with Indian folklore and emerged with a mythology all their own .
Sirens, brujos (wizards), witches and elves live in its forests. My favourite was the tauco, an elf that gets women pregnant – a wonderful way of explaining unwanted pregnancies. It is said that there still exists a ‘brujeria’ (a fraternity of warlocks) on the island, who lead normal lives in the villages except when they decide to turn into animals and meet up in the dense and misty woods. In order to enter this circle a prospective ‘brujo’ must fast for 40 days, stand underneath a waterfall to wash off the baptism and kill his best friend. Nasty.
I joined a tour but did not enjoy it that much. The ground covered was large, the stops few and the minivan uncomfortable. Still, I went to the terrific towns of Ancúd where I watched the crab fishermen come in with their catch and Castro with a wedding cake of a cathedral (Mauve and yellow colours) and the houses on stilts by the sea. Screw the comfort, click the camera..
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