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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

3 June 2011

Chepu on Chiloe

29th May 2011

Chiloe is a singularly beautiful place. Or at least it is when the sun is shining, which we have been blessed with today. Perhaps that’s why it reminds me a little of Scotland.

The first town on the island you find after the ferry crossing is Ancud, and here we stopped for lunch. This being Sunday, there was only one restaurant open in town. We tried our first Curanto, which is the local speciality. Described as a stew, what you actually get is a plate of everything: chicken, pork, sausage, mussels, scallops, beans, rice and cheese. Oh, and a cup of soup which was the stock the stuff was cooked in. My preferred adjective for Curanto would be… “hearty”.

Our first stop is Chepu, a tiny rural community at the end of a long, rolling dirt road that had me nervous about our feeble-engined Hyundai Getz on some of the steeper and muddier hills. Here we’re staying with Fernando and Amory, wonderful and warm people who are very committed to living a sustainable and environmentally conscious life. Our little cabin is very well insulated, our hot water is solar heated, and the electricity for the lights is generated by a small wind turbine. There is even a heater, and although this does take power from the national grid they have plans to get a bigger wind turbine for full self-sufficiency. There’s already a good frost forming outside on our veranda so after our night in Puerto Montt I’m really loving this little heater.

The view from our veranda in daylight is of the two rivers that join right here and flow as one the remaining 7kms to the sea. These are tidal rivers, winding through a flooded landscape of reed beds and the skeletal remains of a drowned forest. Go back a few decades and this would have been a very different landscape, but in 1960 the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the world hit Chile. The entire valley of the two rivers dropped by a couple of metres and a tsunami crashed into the western coast, flooding it and killing all the trees. Fifty years later and the result of this destructive event is utterly beautiful. Funny how nature works.

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4 Responses to “Chepu on Chiloe”

  1. Eleanor Dennison says:

    Curanto sound like it is inspired in the same way as the Cajun dish “gumbo”; ie throw everything you have into a pot and cook. Gumbo, as I am sure you know, is a okra based soup/stew, any other ingredients depend on taste and/or availability.

    • shortclaws says:

      Hi Elle! Yep, it seems like most cultures have a “throw everything in” dish originating with the poor folk. D’you know what… when I think about it, I’ve never actually tried a gumbo. That’s definitely a gap in my culinary map!

  2. Eleanor Dennison says:

    You’d like it. Frequently very spicy. Of course the ONLY place to appreciate gumbo, is in New Orleans.

  3. Dave says:

    Curanto sounds like a culinary lottery ticket if you’ve an overnight bus ride ahead… brings to mind a bad leg of a bus ride across Cuba with the bus intermittently voiding over half the passengers so that they could void themselves in the roadside shrubs, the dark side of travelling huh..

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