Castro, Chiloe Island, Chile
With dawn breaking over Castro, it is a morning breakfast of scrambled egg and coffee by a burning wooden fire, admiring the class views from the water's edge. This £13 hostel feels like a cosy five-star hotel and despite the temptation to try and run around the island this afternoon and explore some wooden churches and virgin forest before my overnight bus leaves for Santiago, it would be madness with my current near-zero energy levels to not take advantage of this chill pad for a few hours.
In town it is quite apparent that the good folk of Chiloe are rather more rough and ready working class than in those parts of Chile i previously visited. Many people here, judging by their weathered faces, look like they've had pretty hard lives, not helped I am sure by the stormy climate of this archipelago. The majority of blokes work out at sea and aside from a few drunken rioters in Santiago, it is the first time I have felt a little wary of the locals. No, there is nothing threatening about the place but I wouldn't fancy being in a bar near kick out time.
It's not a bad town. It is even sunny today! It has got plenty of character and streets that resemble San Francisco as they drop down to the water at perilously steep angles. The central church - bright yellow and huge - looks like it has been dropped here from Belarus or Russia, while many of the houses are built using wood shingles, which also have an almost Belarusian vibe to them.
Pride of place are definitely the palafitos (houses on stilts), and as well as the Gamboa district where i am staying, there is another long stretch of palafitos in the Costanera area, close to the port. Years ago this is the kind of town i would have had romantic ideas about staying and living in for six months; far away from it all and with lots of character. These days I see these kinds of places as great places to visit and explore, but also places I am happy to get on the bus out from a day or two later.