Saturday, February 11, 2017
Our ship pulled in this morning at low tide, outside of Castro, a city on Chiloé Island, and the capital of Chiloé province. We could see several boats sitting on land. By late evening, at high tide, those same boats were floating. The water level changes by about 10 feet from low to high tide. It looked like the tide was going out again around 5pm. People who live along the water build their houses on stilts. Because the land is often covered by water, the residents cannot own the land, they can only own their houses.
Many people burn wood for heat and cooking. Chilotes are required to replace every tree that is cut down. Many planted eucalyptus which is a fast-growing tree. Now, efforts are being made to replace this non-native tree with trees that grow here naturally.
Castro is the capital city of the Chiloé Province, and the third oldest continuously inhabited city in Chile. The Province encompasses most of Chiloé Archipelago, which includes 45 islands, about 37 miles wide and 125 miles long, with a population of about 170,000 people. Wind power serves the entire island, and some is even exported.
Unlike mainland Chile, the natives (Chilotes) accepted the Spanish colonization, and even fought on the side of the Spanish when Chile was fighting for its colonial independence.
Castro is subject to earthquakes. In 1960, a 9.5 magnitude quake caused a great deal of damage. The quake was followed by two tsunamis that altered the quality of the rivers (they became brackish from seawater) and killed many of the native fish there. The introduction of salmon to these waters caused more damage.
With our tour guide, Juna from Puehen Expediciones, we rode along the Pan American Highway from Castro to Chiloé National Park, located on the western side of the island. The park was established in 1983 and is in a temperate rain forest. In some areas, up to 200 inches of rain falls each year. We walked first through secondary forest – this area had not been protected before 1983 so much vegetation had been cut back before then. Next, we walked through marsh land, filled with grasses and ferns. Last, we explored primary forest, with moss covered trees and beautiful flowers. Some plants look like what we have at home, but they are not even related. One looks like holly, but with pretty red and yellow flowers that look like candy corn before fully opened. Another looks like magnolia, but is a nut tree.
The tepual area of the park remains moist most of the years. Moss grows on the trees that grow low to the ground, often twisting just a foot or so above the ground. Many smaller plants will take root here and bromeliads will grow here as well. It is so very beautiful.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch, then headed back to town. Today is Castro Day, celebrating the day this city was founded, and the citizens of the town were out in force, enjoying the beautiful day. We visited the local square where kiosks were set up to sell alpaca and crafts. A stage was set up near the waterfront for an evening concert. A fireworks barge was set up in the water, but, sadly, we had to leave before any of the evening festivities started.
The center of town is dominated by the Iglesias de San Francisco, an impressive church built entirely of wood. It had been designed by an Italian architect who planned that it would be built from stone. Chiloé has little stone, but plenty of wood. Disappointed, the architect returned to Italy but left the plans here. The townspeople proceeded to build the church with wood, even carving the wood blocks to resemble stone.
Chiloé has sixteen churches that are built with local materials, using European design techniques. All, including the Iglesias de San Francisco, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We also paid a visit to the local farmers/fish market before returning to our ship. We recognized many items, but not all. It’s always a treat to visit the markets in other countries, to get a feel for how the natives dine. I do wish our ship would prepare some cuisines from the areas that we visit.