Chiloe Island - big trip - diary - chile - march 2003

One of many ferries to Chiloe

Marc De Lesseps and his Series 1 Landy

Lads struggle with the local dish, Curanto

No its not...

Monday 24 - Tuesday 25 March

As we approached Pargua and the channel of sea separating Chiloe from the mainland, we could see a ferry coming to dock. Just in time, we thought. Turned out to be not really an issue as there seems to be at least 8 ferries in the water at once and they are even queuing up at the dock. Luckily the way over was sunny and our ferry had a low deck so we could watch the seals jumping about in the clear waters alongside

Ancud is the first main town on this island which appears to be lost in a bygone age, milk churns stand by the roadside waiting to be collected, oxen pull carts and small farms dot the lush green hillsides. Cruising by some cows down the main street in the town we checked out the small museum which shows some of the history of the island and the strange statues fabled to have magic powers.

Back in El Calafate we'd met Bruno De Lesseps, great great grandson of the frenchman who made the Suez canal and started the disastrous first go on the Panama canal. Bruno had invited us to visit his father, a landy fan living here in Ancud. Marc now owns an immaculate Series 1 and has owned a number of other Series landys in his time. He told us some good stories and recommended a few places to visit as we had tea in his house.

On the way to sample the local dish Curanto, a hotch potch of seafood, potato, sausage, chicken and smoked pork, we bumped into Chris and Lynn, fellow first class passengers from the big ferry trip. We passed a pleasnt evening with them before camping near Marc's house.

Oxen and cart...

...little did we know... useful they could be

After a tranquil night by the sea, we set off to explore some of the island. Following a dirt road past farmland things started getting more interesting and a treacherous descent in low box led us to the end of the track, where only horses can pass along the narrow trail. Off to one side, a tracked digger was carving out a new pathway down the hill but had only made a hundred metres of it so far. Time to turn back after a chat with a local guy leading his pair of oxen to their field, just as the rain started to fall. B set off to climb the slippery clay slope alone, T staying out in the rain to lighten the load. The landy didn't make much headway up the hill, all four wheels spinning uselessly in the clay. The rain was now torrential and the mud getting rapidly worse as streams starting flowing downhill. Sliding backwards into a ditch had us stuck fast, the wheels not meeting any kind of hard ground under the mud.

Carlos, the ox expert, must've heard the wheelspinning and came back to offer us their help. That would be a cool new way to be rescued. The oxen were attached to the webbing strap and pulled as hard as they could, green poo being ejected with each heave making for interesting driving seat viewing. The landy moved an inch or so but only dug itself deeper into the mud hole. We tried pulling sideways and backwards to no avail. Check out the VIDEO below!!

Finding an alternative route...

...but watch for low branches

Time to get the winch out. Last time we used it was in El Calafate to lift out the transfer box. That was when it was discovered that the handle had gone missing. A short piece of pipe had been enough to lift the transfer box but wasn't giving nearly enough leverage for extracting the landy. Two of us could hardly move it, we were stuck and by now, soaked to the skin. The winch had never failed us before!

After some discussion, T went down the track to ask the men with the digger for help. They turned out to be real aresholes but after offers of cash and a lot of negotiation they sent the digger up the track. It was slippy too and the digger had to use its bucket to pull it up the slope. Each time it pulled itself up a bit but when it lifted the bucket to advance, it would slide back to the same place. It got to the stage where it might tip over and fall off the track so they gave up.

Glow plugs?

Filling the radiator between pulls

Carlos had a friend with a tractor, a totally knackered one we'd seen seemingly abandoned by the roadside further back. B went with him to a little wooden shack and roused the friend from his impending rest, made him pull on his waterproofs and get the tractor going. First up was to inflate a tyre, then came the interesting part. The starting procedure involved pumping some fuel onto a rag, lighting it (not so easy in the rain) and throwing it on top of the rocker cover. Then the tractor rolled down the hill it was conveniently parked on and tried to bump start. On the final go with only a few metres of hill left, it started. Fumes chugged out from parts of the engine they aren't supposed to and radiator water poured out underneath. Turning the steering wheel was a bit of a lottery, the steering arms were held together with tape and there were no brakes but the tractor made it down the slope to the stricken landy.

Pulling forwards had the tractor wheels spinning uselessly, oh dear. We tried it backwards, where the track had a firmer section for the tractor to rest on. At last the landy came free. There was no way any of us were going to try and drive up the clay hill in these conditions, the rain still pouring down, so we weaved in and out of the neighbouring apple orchard and surrounding fields until we came out onto the track at the top - 6 hours after we'd first got stuck!

Click to see a wicked ox pull VIDEO (940k mpeg)

We were happy to pay 'quince lucas' (15,000 pesos) for the use of the tractor and some ciggies for the helpers. As Carlos had got soaked to the skin we presented him with the cheapo jacket 'lads' left behind in Buenos Aires. He was well pleased with this, claiming he would keep it 'for best' and wear it to the local disco! We said our goodbyes and headed south towards the town of Castro in the gathering gloom, soaked and covered in mud again.

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