Posted by: robinson2000 | June 26, 2011

Beers, Brawling & Boats in Valdivia

20th – 22nd June

I dragged myself from my warm bed and into the icy morning to catch an early morning bus to my next stop, Valdivia. The weather that night had been terrible, a huge storm had blown in from the coast with howling winds that made the buildings shake. More importantly, it meant I got little sleep, being kept awake by both the noise of the storm, and from the constant barking of the family’s dogs that were left out all night. I said my goodbye’s to the kind family that I had stayed with and trudged out into the cold morning and down to the bus terminal for the 8am bus to Valdivia. I had expected the weather to be even worse in Valdivia but the dark skies turned blue as the bus sped through the countryside and reached the coastal town in 3 hours. I was aiming to catch the Navimag ferry that would take me down to Patagonia on the 22nd June, so my time in Valdivia was limited, but it turned out to be an excellent couple of days.

Valdivia is a very pleasant city found on the banks of the River Valdivia and was once one of the most important centres of Spanish colonial control over Chile. Valdivia was founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1552 but was abandoned as a result of a Mapuche insurrection a few years later. After which, it was briefly occupied by Dutch pirates and then finally retaken by the Spanish who built several coastal fortifications at the mouth of the river for protection.  

My main purpose was to visit these forts, so I quickly found an excellent hostel, had a cup of tea with the owner and headed back out to the bus terminal. 18 km away from Valdivia is the coastal resort of Niebla where I found my first fort, Niebla Fort that was closed for the day. Being undeterred, I found the dock and jumped on to a small boat to Mancera Island where I found my second fort, Castillo San Pedro de Alcantara (Isla Mancera Fort). The island was tiny and virtually deserted so I was able to take my time and explore the fort, plus it was free entry! Feeling satisfied with my exploration, I headed back down to the dock and waited for the next boat. Some fishermen had just returned with their catch and were in the process of gutting the fish and throwing the scraps out to a waiting flock of pelicans. I had a couple of hours to kill so I sunbathed on the harbour wall and played with the fisherman’s cat and dog.

After a short boat trip, my next stop was the small town of Corral where I found my third fort, Castillo San Sebastian de la Cruz (Corral Fort). The fort was pretty dilapidated after a 10 metre tsunami had battered it a few years ago (1960), but it still had 20 of the original canons that the Spanish used to defend their base. Alongside Corrals seafront is a statue of the great sea-wolf himself, Lord Cochrane, who lead the Chilean navel squadron in 1820 and captured four of the forts (Fort Ingles, Fort San Carlos, Castillo de Armargos, Castillo de Corral). Cochrane’s method of attack was once he captured the first fort, his men were able to join the fleeing Spanish troops, which caused confusion and subsequently lead to the capturing of the next fort, until four forts were taken. The following day the remaining forts surrendered giving Cochrane and the Chileans a huge victory, especially when you see the number of forts that are protecting the bay. Lord Cochrane needed only one ship with 50 canons to defeat a huge Spanish army with 118 canons. If you want to read a more detailed account of the victory then this Lord Cochrane fanatic describes it in much more detail (link).

Valdivia has many great beers to sample as it was once the centre for German colonization in the 19th Century. My room-mate for the night, a Chilean lawyer who was visiting Valdivia for a course, offered to show me around town and we headed out to some bars. After being thoroughly impressed with Valdivia thus far, I was shocked to see a full-on street fight between two gangs of students from rival schools. A number of us had to intervene and call the police as the fight got out of hand with chairs being thrown and a student being kicked in the face. My Chilean friend later told me that Chile’s youth is particularly violent at the moment as the Government are closing a lot of state schools, leaving students with no choice but expensive private education. With the fighting aside the night was brilliant and I got to taste some of the best beers in the Americas. The Chilean lawyer also taught me some Chilean swear words to add to my limited vocabulary.

The following day, I was booked on the 6pm bus to Puerto Montt, where I would catch my ferry the next morning. Fuelling up with coffee, I wandered out after breakfast to the riverside fish market where you can watch huge sea lions wait for scraps to be thrown from the market. I then caught a bus back out to Niebla to have a quick look round that fort that was closed the previous day. Even with the sun out, it was still cold, so I made my visit brief and had a quick look around the small naval museum. On my return trip I stopped off at the Kunstmann brewery for some more German influenced beer, and then back to Valdivia where I found a dozen sea lions basking on a jetty. They were absolute monsters and looked huge out of water.  

A short 3 hour bus ride took me to the bleak town of Puerto Montt that evening. Puerto Montt is the gateway of the shipping lanes to the south, namely the island of Chiloe and the wilds of Patagonia. Arriving in the dark is never ideal and I formed an instant negative impression of the town as the bus drove past some graffiti covered social housing estates. I was tired and cold so hopped in a cab to a hospedaje run by an eccentric widow who loved dogs. She was quite welcoming but I was made to remove my shoes at the door and wear worst shoes ever invented, crocs. She then explained in great detail how to get the correct temperature in the shower before finally leaving me alone. Over breakfast the next day, things got even stranger as she made her three small dogs dressed in red coats perform a dance for their food. Thankful to be leaving both the company of the loony lady and Puerto Montt, I strolled down to the ferry terminal to check-in and to find that there were only 8 passengers booked for the four day ride South!

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Responses

  1. Your travels are touching some many places and some really weird people.
    mick and I have been to Westminster abbey to celebrate Chiliean Naval day,
    several times. Afterwards would be a reception with pisco sour. A real ‘throat grabber’. have you tried one??? once will be enough!!!!!
    30′ here today a great relief from the rain.

    Take care,

    Sue and Mick xx

  2. Did you mean a “limited vocabulary” of just Chilean swear words or Chilean in general, LOL 🙂 There seems to be a wildlife theme running through Chile so far. Do tell me that head shot is of a sea lion, and not you with a hangover! 😀 Temperature here in sunny Welling got up to 34 degrees on Monday, not Chile at all! Take care, xx Carolyn & Colin.


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