CASTRO, ISLA CHILOE, CHILE
Our next stop after Valparaiso is the city of Castro on the island of Chiloe. Being an island, Castro’s port is a shallow water port, so our ship had to anchor off-shore and use the lifeboats to tender passengers ashore. Here is our first view of Castro from the water, before we even got ashore.
The difference in tidewater lines between high and low tides is huge here, so all the buildings along the waterfront are built on wooden stilts. At high tide you can only see 1-2 feet of stilt.
We tendered to the dock in the right of the above photo.
Here you can see the effects of the changing tidewater line on the cement gangway:
Here, too, the city of Castro is built onto the side of a hill, with longs sets of stairs in several places providing the only way from the port to the top if you don’t want to take a taxi.
The houses here are rather quaint – they don’t look like much from the outside, but inside they are warm and roomy. You get a sense of the Old World here just by looking at the crocheted curtains in their windows:
Most of the houses in Castro have exteriors made of wood shingle siding. they come in different shapes and colors.
Today was another serendipitous day for us. As we were walking along the coastal road (nearly all these photos are of homes either on stilts on the beach or on the other side of the coastal road) we met Eduardo, an architect who moved from Santiago to Castro in order to help preserve the architectural character of this picturesque and delightful island town that tourism has not yet discovered. We met him as we were photographing a cow in someone’s front yard, and the house and cow happened to be his:
From where we photographed the house and cow we, too, we first fooled by its spots, until we took a closer look. We asked Eduardo whether it had any special “meaning” and he told us that he likes to play cards……go figure…..
Eduardo told us that houses lying on stilts – properties on the waterfront – are actually LESS expensive than those not on stilts because the ones on stilts don’t include any land, and the homeowners do no pay a land lease to the Government, who owns all beachfront. To us this was counter-intuitive as waterfront property everywhere else that we know of, commands premium prices:
Eduardo loves to work in wood, and we happened to be accompanied by a couple from our ship. The husband has been an avid woodworker for nearly 50 years, and he and Eduardo had a lot to talk about, and it was fascinating listening to the two of them. Eduardo and his wife have a naturopathic medicines shop located on the right hand side of the first floor (his woodshop is on the left side and they live upstairs). In addition to naturopathic meds he also sells books about Chile and Patagonia, boutique jams and marmalades made from local berries, some wood-working pieces Eduardo has made and hand-knit shawls and other things made from natural dyed Chilean wool.
People in this part of the world seem to be highly attuned to “green” living and to recycling. Eduardo recycled some old shingle siding to use as décor in his shop, which is completely paneled and floored in wood:
Eduardo told us that there is a lot of wood down here because ships traveling down here used to use the wood as ballast and would empty it out when their ships arrived. One of the places in town he suggested we visit is the cathedral on the Plaza de Armas in town. Why? It was designed in the last century by an Italian architect who did not visit the place and did not know there was no stone to quarry here. So the plans he drew called for building the cathedral from stone. Since there was no stone but lots of wood, the locals built the entire cathedral from wood, using the stone cathedral blueprints.
So you actually end up with Greek columns inside the church that are made from wood.
The outside of the church is also made of wood that is covered in beaten tin for water- and weather-proofing:
There was the usual statuary one finds in Latin American and European Catholic churches, but two here kind of tickled our fancy. The first was the dragon in the statue of St. George slaying the dragon. We thought it looked more like a gargoyle that Gaudi would have designed for his famous church in Barcelona:
The second was an ordinary statue with a twist: St. Francis holding the baby Jesus, who just happens to be dressed in a knitted baby blue wool outfit ! Well, both of us thought it was so cute……
In the Plaza de Armas of virtually every South American city you can find statues of the heroes of every country. The hero that is found in virtually every country is “The Creat Liberator”, Simon Bolivar, who led South America’s various countries to independence from Spain in the 1820’s. In Chile the # 2 hero is someone named …………Bernardo O’Higgins – a Chilean born to an Irish immigrant who became the first President of Chile. Here are photos of the busts of Simon (left) and Bernardo (right) that stand – with a couple others – in Castro’s Plaza de Armas:
After walking extensively around the town, visiting an art crafts fair, with one talented lady! Look at the felted stuff!
Get the swift!!!
and pausing for a great view of the bay where our ship is anchored, it was time to return to the ship.
Anchors aweigh !