The road to Chiloë, 1835

The 25 year old adventurer Charles Darwin passed Chiloë (and the Chonos) on his travels with the “Beagle”, in the southern summer of 1834-1835. He spent some time in November – February on Isla Grande, Lemuy and other islands. He found Chiloë a troublesome but fascinating place. It was terribly rainy, the forest impenetrable and impossible to clear by burning. The people were incredibly poor, although very friendly and helpful.

Charles visited many of the places we did. Strangely enough it is easy to recognize today’s Chiloë in his writings, for example the openness and friendliness to strangers: “Everyone on this road acts on a ‘hail fellow well met fashion’ and one may here enjoy the privilege, so rare in South America, of travelling without firearms.”

He was riding from Ancud via Castro and Chonchi to Cucao and tells of the dangerous roads. “Even where paths exist, they are scarcely passable from the soft and swampy state of the soil.” Some roads were made by logs but they were very wet and slippery. He wondered at the strange manners of women, very unlike that of fine English girls: “Our female companion, who was rather good-looking, belonged to one of the most respectable families in Castro: she rode, however, astride, and without shoes and stockings”.

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3 Comments

Filed under Charles Darwin, Chile, Literature, South America, Travels

3 responses to “The road to Chiloë, 1835

  1. Birgitta Göranson

    Fascinating! It suddenly brought back my own memories of the fantastic week I spent in Castro, Chiloë, in March 1971. I do not often think of those days, but when I do it is with very sweet remembrance. I have never ever had such tasty fresh seafood served by such friendly and openhearted people! One day I’ll be back – perhaps on my way to Tierra del Fuego??

  2. The beaver

    Dear Birgitta
    Good to hear that you have a similar impression of Chiloë.
    I hope you will take the chance to come there once more. I didn’t mention the seafood yet but I may still do so…

    See you in Castro, and Ushuaia?

  3. Pingback: Charles Darwin - happy birthday « Earthsea

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