Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Quellón


The waterfront at Quellón, Chiloé, Chile


Woke at 9:30. It was quite warm in the tent. Learned that the end of the Pan-American Highway is just down the road, so I figured I had to see it. Packed up, not comfortable with leaving my tent set up here, though I intended to return tonight.

The monument was not much to look at. The flags of Chile, Quellón and Alaska flying. The American flag was there too, but all tangled up.

Conversed with a docent in a little tourism office. He said that during the night, some people "with a different way of thinking" came and tied up the American flag. We talked about how beautiful the land is here, and he said I must visit the islands nearby.

I told him I was going to see Pumalin Park and he said he thinks it's quite a good thing that Doug Tompkins has done, creating such a preserve. In contrast to what former Presidential candidate Pinero is doing, buying up large tracts of land in Chiloé for real estate development.

Then the conversation took a strange turn. Out on the islands, he said is a good place to see flying saucers. He has seen them numerous times. And then he drew pictures of various-shaped spacecraft he has seen! A friend of his arrived and joined us.

Without knowing what we had been discussing, the friend said he had a question for me. He started to talk about some land he owns outside town, and I thought perhaps he was looking to sell it. But then he spoke of seeing objects in the heavens, "en el cielo".

Suddenly, I was in a hurry to get to town. "I’ve got to buy my ferry ticket before the office closes at 1:00." A convenient excuse.

Went to the "Naviera Austral" office on the waterfront. They operate the region’s ferries. The ferry to Chaiten cost 24,000 Pesos for me and the bike – about $48. A lot, in my mind.

Over to “Cyber Zoan”. Crammed into a corner cubicle. My laptop had to be configured for their particular “high speed” connection (involves assigning different "IP" and "DNS" addresses). I can never figure out why some locations require manual assignment, while my computer automatically connects in other environments (if there are any techs reading this, I’d appreciate being enlightened.)

The "high speed" comes and goes, it seems with the amount of users in a café. I’m really impressed how popular internet cafés are. They’re becoming an essential part of everyday life. It’s funny to see and hear young people “chatting” and video-conferencing over the internet. The faces light up as the communiqués are exchanged.

Over the course of eight hours, I think I only managed to get a couple entries completed. Too much trouble to leave, I just snacked. A (nice) supermarket next door provided a quick source of junk food. As the sun began to set, I closed up shop and hurried back to the campground to secure my site for the night. There were a few families there already.

Asked the campground manager for a dinner recommendation and he said if he were going out, he’d choose “El Chico Leo”, on the waterfront.

I went there and ordered the curanto, the traditional Chiloe dish “cooked in a hole in the ground”: mussels, clams, salmon, chicken, sausage, pork, broth, potato, dumplings (at first I feared these were some unknown seafood), salsa. A huge plate of food. "Cerveza Austral" to wash it down.

During the meal, the restaurant's TV lost power and there was almost complete, and uncomfortable, silence. "What do we do now?" TV is a big attraction in many restaurants. What a relief when the staff was able to restore power!

The weather has been amazingly good in Chile. It has made traveling so much easier and pleasant.

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