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Chile and Antarctica Trip report

Boating to Chelin and Quehui — Unesco church and walk on the beach

No road travel at all today! We started with a stroll down the hill to the hotel’s jetty, to board the Willichi again. All aboard, we set off in the direction of the island of Chelin, site of one of the sixteen Unesco-preserved wooden churches around Chiloe.

Along the way, we passed a couple of traditional sailing boats, apparently on their way (along with much of the rest of the archipelago) to Chaulinec, site of a particularly popular religious festival/party that starts today. This was no doubt also the reason for the large family group departing Chelin by ferry, while we were there, and the fact that there were no boats moored in the harbour at Quehui.

The Church at Chelin was beautiful in the way of these things. Well maintained and clean, even the lovely “Chelin marble” paint job on the interior pillars and surface highlights. The big advantage of being with a guided tour, we’ve discovered, is that you get to go inside and look around: something we didn’t manage on our 2016 visit. Since the church is built much like a boat (including the curved vault of the ceiling), and is just sitting on its stone foundations, it has had enough flexibility and strength to survive the many earthquakes that have happened in the region since it was built.

After exploring the church, and seeing evidence of the various restoration projects (new and old timbers, chalk-numbered pieces, the old steeple-cross), we walked around behind to the cemetary. This shows the mixing of native religious ideas along with the Spanish’ Catholicism: the graves all have little houses built over them. These give visitors somewhere protected to sit, as well as give the souls protection from wizards in the vulnerable three days after death.

Up and over the hill, and down the road back towards the pier, we were passed by many cars full of people heading to the ferry. We were shuttled back to the Willichi by zodiac, and then cruised across the channel to Quehui harbour while we had the first (of two) lunch. Since the wind was up, the proposed activities of kayaking, zodiac riding and walking were moved from the harbour itself around the corner to a more protected reach of beach. Cath went on the zodiac again, and apparently was treated to a spectacular display of dolphin play. Having done the kayaking two days earlier, I opted for a walk along the beach. Very pleasant hour stroll in silence. Good for hearing all of the bird calls. I was moo-ed at very vigorously by a surprised free-range cow, one of a family that I encountered nearby. The large bull was reclining on a sunny patch of grass, just back from the beach. I also met a local fisherman hand-shaping a piece of wood to repair a damaged plank in an up-turned fishing dinghy.

Back on board, we set off for the hotel and the second lunch was served. We got back to the hotel a little after five, and had plenty of time to wrangle photos and text. Yay!

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