Friday, March 13

Day 197-Castro

If I were to describe the countryside, the green rolling hills dotted with happy Holsteins, the breaks of huge chestnut and beech trees, the wooden clapboard construction of gabled houses, stately mansard-roofed barns and ornate, multi-towered churches, if I were to tell of how I dined on Schweinefleisch mit Reis, Leibfraumilch and Küchen, you might be led to believe that I had flown off to Bavaria, or West Pennsylvania. But here, unlike the northern climes, the leaves are turning and beginning to drop under the growing autumn wind, and the shingled houses are painted every random color, be it pastel lavender or garish tangerine. Here, is the World Heritage listed "Island of Wooden Churches"-Chiloé. Prevalent are examples of what ingenious self reliant people can do with wood, stone and corrugated tin, from hydraulic grain mills to tricycles to lavish places of worship.

Though passing immigration nearly triggered a random panic attack, and I was called upon, for the first time, to explain my extensive medical kit to customs, coming into Chile was accompanied by a profound comfort and bliss. The prices dropped by half, and my passion and energy for travel more than doubled. As I stroll the alleys and plazas, people actually look me in the eyes and maybe smile a bit as they pass, and for this I find that I feel very much at home. Oddly, it is as if the clock has been reset, as if my journey has just begun. Perhaps because I am deeply aware of the end that is now in sight.

But for now I will enjoy the greener, much wetter, Pacific coast of the continent. And though I am much further north than a week ago, once again the end of the road lies just a few hundred miles to the south. From there one can only travel the inter-island Patagonian fiords by boat. I, however, will be content to call this my farthest southern point in Chile, and will enjoy a day or two in this tranquil fishing village, wandering the colorful streets peopled by squat folks with round faces, almost Inuit in appearance, before slowly heading north to gaze upon a few more mountains before I arrive at my point of final disembarcation.

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