22/04/2015 After attending a lecture about Chiloé during the navimag ferry ride, I decided to change my plans and visit the biggest island off central Chile’s coast, known for wooden churches and myths about trolls or ghost ships. While I did not encounter any of those, I was actually stuck because of Volcan Calbuco’s spectacular eruption in nearby Puerto Varas.
I was really interested in Chiloé after the lecture and wanted to see two things. First, how they prepare the famous Curanto: A dish cooked in a meter deep hole in the ground, using hot stones to heat up potatoes, meat, vegetables and even fish over a long period of time until it is ready and shared by complete families. And second, the process of moving an actual complete house from one place to another. They call it “La Minga” and it can take a few days to complete and usually involves the entire neighborhood. I arrived in the Island’s main town of Castro and was looking for a place to sleep when I first heard about the eruption of volcano Calbuco from the TV: The 2000m high volcano caused a 11km high ash cloud in it’s first eruption since 1972 and people had to be evacuated from the area in which I just arrived about three hours ago! I was now stuck for a bit longer on Chiloé while keeping a close look on the TV news to see when they would open the bridge towards Puerto Montt again…
Castro was a pleasant place to stick around for a bit and discover the very typical houses built on stilts over the water. They have them everywhere and I even found a Couchsurfer living in one of those. While she was not able to host me, we had a nice dinner together with her other guest and it was nice to see a house from the inside as well. After a half a day in Castro, I was ready to move on though and checked my options for day trips with the local tourist information. There are many small islands around and I choose to check out the wooden church of Achao.
The weather was pretty grey during all of my stay, but it was very suitable for the environment and all the myths and legends that are connected with Chiloé. I could have very much imagined the ghost ship Caleuche passing by the shore at any moment! It did not, and I had to make the best out of the weather conditions to get some good photos anyway. The wooden houses in Achao are painted in a lot of different colors and some of them were really good motives, I actually enjoyed them more than the UNESCO World Heritage Church of Santa María de Loreto, Chiloé’s oldest dating back to 1740.
On the way back to Castro, I made another stop in Dalcahue with even more stilt-houses on the waterfront and a pretty nice walk along a beach. Even though I enjoyed my time here, I constantly had to think about the Calbuco eruption and desperately wanted to get closer to see it with my own eyes! The first eruption from last night took place during sunset and the whole spectacle must have been breath taking to witness. The two british guys I met on the Navimag were actually staying in Puerto Varas and had a good view on the eruption, you should check out some of the pictures on Google to see what I have missed, especially the thunderstorms in the ash cloud during the night…
During the morning of April 24th, the wind was still blowing the ash towards the east, even causing a closure of the airport in Buenos Aires, around 1800km away! It also meant that it would be pretty safe to be in Puerto Varas and I made my way towards there as soon as the ferry was operating again, hitch hiking with a couple that had rented a car and were also pretty excited about what we might still be able to see. We knew that Calbuco was still constantly spying out ash after a second eruption, even though it was not really comparable to the first eruption on April 22nd.
The news were saying that a third eruption might be coming up and I wanted to get towards Bariloche and the Lake District in the north as fast as possible after staying with my Couchsurfer in Puerto Varas for a day. Turns out that his friend Walter was actually the only person on the volcano at the time of the first eruption, quickly becoming popular with the News Channels and papers and giving lots of interviews while we enjoyed our Asado and waited for a possible next big eruption of Calbuco. I am actually getting excited just writing about this and watching the YouTube Videos again (check out this timelapse or the great view from these guys for instance!) – you will have to wait for the next update though for my very own experience of the eruption though 🙂
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