This article is about my failed attempt to investigate and learn more about the legends and mythical stories from Isla Chiloé. The term “failed” illustrates the fact that it won’t bring anything new, other than some Googled info, which makes it almost entirely useless to read, unless you haven’t heard anything about those legends at all…
Chiloé is Chile’s largest island (8300 km2). It is known for its palafitos, AKA wooden houses build off the street-level out into the sea (see the pic above), seafood and typical carpentry-architecture.
Another thing the island is known for is the above mentioned witchcraft and pagan mythical stories. Unfortunately, I could not get to know more about those during my short visit because there wasn’t anywhere to get the information from. I’ve browsed the local joints for two nights in order to meet locals to get at least some spoken word about those stories without any success.
All I could get that it’s a mythology, a thing of a past. I’m not sure if my feeling was correct but it felt like it’s a thing the locals were not so proud off or they just didn’t want to talk about it because they are still superstitious, the latter option making me even more curious. There were supposed to be ghost ships, wizards, and many bizarre creatures, out of which some can trick you into having sex with them as Bruce Chatwin once described in one of his books. And all I got was two absolutelly unmythical hangovers 😀
A singing, fair-haired beauty similar to the German Lorelei is called la pincoya. It is said that if she dances towards the coast the sea will bring a lot of fish. A ghost ship carrying the souls of wrecked sailors, similar to the Flying Dutchman, is called caleuche. And if someone tells you he or she was seduced in the forest, it might have been the fiura or the trauco, which is often blamed for venereal disease or an awkward pregnancy. A very pitiful figure is the invunche; as a baby his orifices, including his eyes, were closed and one leg was sewn to his back, so that he walks on three legs.
But there wis more than just stories. In 1880, there was a real trial with a secret society of “wizzards” of La Recta Provincia (the Righteous Province), which was involved in kidnapping babies, killing loved ones and so on. All sorts of dark stuff, right? From my semi extensive reading on this subject, it appears that it was some sort of an underground government of which scarce tactics were witchcraft and all sort of dark shit.
Besides the ghost stories
The rest of the island reminded me of Ireland for some reason. Green, rather plain and wet. One can visit numerous UNESCO churches of Chiloé, the Puñihuil Penguin colony and Chiloé’s National Park, which is together with Ahuenca region habitat for diverse wildlife.
How to get there
From Puerto Montt it’s a couple of hours drive, the non-expensive buses leave every hour or so. From the east, you can take a ferry from Chaitén. From the south, you have the option to take the long ferry from Puerto Chacabuco as described in this more useful and practical piece.
At Castro, I’ve stayed in an Airbnb place called Hospedaje Familiar Magaly. Located about 3 minutes walk to the main square, it’s a nice little place at about the best price for a private room in town. For $17.20, the friendly Alicia and her family will welcome you in their family house warmly and make you a decent breakfast with coffee in the morning.
What would I do differently if I was there again with the knowledge about Chiloé I have now?
I guess that due to my previously explained frustration that I could not find out more about the local legends and mythical stories, I’d try to spend more time doing so. I would even go for the tourist-trap version, this is however only due to my subjective fondness towards such stories and legends.
Other popular destinations heading south of Castro
- If you are in the area, I’d definitely recommend exploring the stunning Carretera Austral
- While you are at it, you can also visit the little village Puerto Rio Tranquillo to experience the beauty of Marble Caves
- About 1/2 day’s drive further south on the Argentinian side of Patagonia, I’d recommend visiting El Chaltén to take upon some treks in the Los Glaciares National Park, the town is surrounded by
- If you made it this far south, please do not miss out on what I guarantee would be one of the best experiences in your life and visit the town of El Calafate to reach the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier
- Hopping back over Andes, you’d get to Puerto Natales, from where you can access the iconic Torres del Paine National Park
- Further 1/2 day’s ride from Puerto Natales will get you to the end of the world’s town of Ushuaia at Tierra del Fuego
Some destinations heading north of Castro
Only few hours drive north, you’ll end up in a picturesque but resorty town of Puerto Varas. Furthermore, after a stunning ride across Andes, you can explore San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina. Read more about both places here, in case you were interested.