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Chile and Antarctica Trip report

Punting the Chepu river and the sunken forest

Today started with another fairly long drive up to the north-west corner of Chiloe, to the Chepu river.  There we met Seignor Alfonzo, our river guide and boat driver.

Apparently there was a strong earthquake some time ago, and the resulting tsunami pushed 20km up the Chepu river valley, killing an area of riverside forrest. Today, the forest is just stumps poking out of sandbanks, weathered and rotten to the high tide level. A strange sight. Surrounded by coastal swamp and scrub, but not mangroves. Quite a lot of bird life: herons and ibis, but also kingfishers and a variety of waders.

The horse-flies were a phenomenon. The lovely Alfonzo supplied us with birch switches to ward them off, and just as well. Otherwise we would have been carried off. Dense swarms, each creature about two cm long. Luckily easily dissuaded from feasting on the slow-moving humans, no one in the party was seriously harmed, although one or two photos have unexpected and mysterious black blobs in them…

Once we within river-reach of the pacific ocean, we stopped at a jetty and cut across country (through redoubled swarms of enormous horseflies) until we reached the beach. And a lovely sweep of beach it was! Rough rocky headland at each end, strewn with pippi shells at the tide line, and the rusting hulk of an 80’s vintage logging barge (an industry that never was, apparently), stripped of machinery long ago. Alfonso introduced me to the orange-red meat of some sort of moss-covered sea creature that was growing on the rocks. I missed what he called them. They took a fair bit of manual effort to break into, but they were lovely: fresh like an oyster, but fleshier, and with a bit more flavour. I wouldn’t even have recognised them as a creature, on the rocks: they just looked like more moss-covered rock. They haven’t made me sick yet, six hours later, so I have to assume that they were food.

Since picnicking was not advised, thanks to the host of horse flies, we ate lunch in the van on the way back to the hotel, stopping at Dalcahue on the way. Cath remembered the little cafe that we had visited in 2016 and bought three lovely felted sheep souvenirs, and wanted a couple more. Found the cafe, found the sheep. Borrowed cash from our driver to buy them, since they didn’t take card and we had no cash. Sigh: the future really is not evenly distributed.

Back to the hotel earlier that yesterday, so we have time to sort phots and write blog entries before dinner!

2 replies on “Punting the Chepu river and the sunken forest”

Were the red edible things on the rocks cunjevoi? I googled them and discovered they are eaten in Chile.
Also one of the beaches in the Galapagos was horrendous for horseflies.
Love reading about your trip.

I couldn’t remember the name cunjevoi at the time, and I missed what our guide called them, but that’s certainly what they looked like. Horrendous-looking on the outside, but some vigorous and skillful breaking of the skin revealed something quite delicious.

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