In Chile, if you´re a young woman (maybe person in general...I´ll ask the opinion of some guys) without your family, you´re automatically in need of special assistance from anyone who can help. There are downsides to this, of course (namely that my host mother still won´t let me wash my own clothes, and I have to run to the kitchen after dinner so she doesn´t have time to wash the dishes before me and deny me my only non-monetary contribution to the running of the household), but it comes in superhandy on the road. We met all sorts of mother-hen type people who made our lives easier when we missed busses or were trying to find kayaks. One woman with her sister and niece at the hostel at Villarrica would check in on us, though she thought we were insane for being so far from home without our families. In Ancud, the northernmost city on the island of Chiloé, we were determined to go kayaking and had to ask about five different places before finding a guy at a tourism place who gave us the number for a guy named Fernando who rented kayaks in Chepu, a small town about 40 minutes away. The morning bus left at 6:30 in the morning, so we wandered around Ancud as the sun rose, not quite sure where the bus left from. Luckily we saw it at the gas station near the rural terminal and hopped on and asked to be let off at the stop for kayaks. Don Fernando, a long-haired former electrical engineer from Santiago who had a mid-life crisis and decided that you can´t go a medidas (I think in class we decided the closest translation was "half-assedly") with such things, so moved to Chepu and started an ecoturismo type set-up to remind people why conservation is so important, met us at the stop and fed us tea and cookies while we waited for the fog to let up a bit (we hadn´t been able to see anything on the mad bus ride), then piled us with gear and instructions and pointed us inland. A massive earthquake/maremoto (earthquake at sea, whatever the english word is) in the 60´s had rocked the island, and a huge chunk had fallen into the sea, creating a river-like submerged forest that we could travel up. It was probably the most incredible part of the trip...everything was still and foggy, with wisps of mist rising off the water and the remnants of the trees reaching up through the water. It´s not that surprising that Chiloén mythology is so rich; i think it goes hand-in-hand with foggy islands (leprechauns?). Don Fernando chatted it up with us while we waited for the other bus of the day, and his daughter gave us a free yoga lesson. People are nice.
We also took a penguin tour, because it´s the thing to do in Ancud. Apparently, the area is the only place where two species of penguins (Magellenic and one other type...) roost together, and because it´s close to shore, they can chill without worrying about orcas. They were adorable, of course, but I don´t think cormorants, an equally ridiculous bird, get the attention they deserve. Props to them.
400 variedades de potato and not one place in Ancud or Castro that serves anything but the standard. Blargh.
The fog there made me a little sentimental for Santa Cruz, but the heat here in Santiago has cured me of it. The stupid hole in the ozone layer is right over our heads and I´ve been going through Coppertone like a madwoman to no avail. I´m excited about fall.
Gracias para todos por las felicitaciones for my birthday!