March 2023- Chile
Earlier in our stories told you about our visit to Puerto Natales at the southern edge of Patagonia. https://slowcarfasthouse.com/2023/07/09/a-ferry-to-patagonia-here-we-go/ While we were there we met a sweet American couple, traveling in their Volkswagon Vanagon. They invited us to come for a visit to their island sheep farm on Isla Anihue. While that seemed far away at the time, we had to accept such an great opportunity when we were in the area.
To seize this special opportunity, took a few steps and some planning and preparation. First, we had to take the rig on a ferry to Isla Chiloe. https://slowcarfasthouse.com/2023/08/13/isla-chiloe-a-step-back-in-time/ We explored the island for a few days and enjoyed the relaxed island lifestyle. Then we needed to shop and prepare for a week, or more. Then we had to drive and camp at the nearest boat ramp and wait for a shuttle boat to pick us up and take us to Isla Anihue. There are no vehicles on this little island, so we needed to load up our backpacks with food, clothes and supplies for the four of us for a week or so away from the rig.
The doggie backpacks were bulging with a weeks worth of dog chow. They happily pranced down the boat ramp. We boarded the boat with our packs and bags of food and supplies.
We sat at the back of the boat to avoid the biting cold wind, but still have some fresh air. The thirty minute ride was smooth. But the dogs were nervous about the vibration of the boat from the engine and from the waves lapping against the hull. Quickly Nica discovered that if she sat on Geneva, she did not feel the vibration through her paws. And Pacha settled up tightly beside those two. So the ride looked like this-
From the boat we got our first glimpse of downtown Anihue. We later learned that this little island is home to under 100 people. It has a small grocery store (pink), a seldom used church (silver roof line), a school with four students (yellow peak) and a social/meeting hall (turquoise) for community business. This photo includes nearly all of those buildings and a few of the original residences on the island.
Our host met us at the island dock with an ATV to transport us back to the farm. The dogs, backpacks, humans and supplies piled on to the little machine and we sputtered off down the main, dirt street through the center of the island.
He paused the ATV after a few minutes and pointed across the inlet to some sheep and a yellow farmhouse. That is where we were headed. He owns the highest and largest farm on this little island. The motorcycle shown here was the first motorized item on the island! It is still in use.
Our host has owned land on this island for over 15 years. He now owns almost 100 sheep, which roam his fields. When he visits his other home in Port Townsend, USA, the neighbors watch his flock and keep an eye on his home. It is a very hospitable, tight-knit community and he is a strong, supportive part of it.
In recent years he constructed a small, comfortable cabin on the farm. His cabin is located close to the waters edge and has full services and good insulation. This move left the original, rustic farmhouse available for storage and guests. The two story, yellowish farmhouse was to be our lodging.
We stayed on the ground floor of the old farmhouse. This structure raised many generations of children. It was simple and even crude in some ways. The living areas were clean and suitable. But the unused spaces showed signs of age and decay. While the boards barely fit together and the windows were drafty, the central wood stove kept us warm and cozy during our entire visit. The kitchen included a gas stove and hot water. The bathroom was tidy and the shower had hot water. We loved our historic accommodations and showed our gratitude by cooking delicious meals and baking breads to share with our hosts.
The videos below will show you the interior spaces of the farm house. And also a brief story about the puppy that just moved to the farm. She has been brought on to work the sheep. She will live with them exclusively in the pens and barns (see photos below) and is not a pet in any way. That was tough, but understood.
One warm afternoon we boarded the small boat that our host has restored. He motored us out into the small bay to collect mussels. The locals drop weights on ropes attached to styrofoam buoys and floats. The mussels, and other creatures, attach to these ropes and grow quickly in the clear, cold, salty water. It was fun to watch the ropes being pulled up and see the barnacles, mussels and other clumps of sea life, come aboard. They pried off the non-edible parts and tossed the mussels into a basket. After just an hour, we had a full basket of giant mussels for steaming when we returned. The evening meal was delicious mussels, pasta, ocean greens, home made applesauce and fresh baked bread.
Another day we took a stroll around the island. We were able to observe many interesting and beautiful parts of island life. We also picked a ridiculous amount of blackberries to make jam and deserts back at the farm. Here are a few of the things we saw while exploring Isla Anihue.
The green parrots are a destructive nuisance on the island. They gather in large flocks and destroy crops. On the farm they pull the seeds out of the apples and drop the ruined fruit on the ground. The apple orchard has very little useful fruit remaining. We gathered what we could and made delicious, chunky, applesauce.
One sunny day we made a trip to the other side of the island. (walking distance) There we met an amazing craftsman who is building a boat. This man is sawing and hand working each and every piece of wood that is in this boat. The piles of sawdust show his long days of effort. The beautifully aligned ribs of the boat show his quality craftsmanship. The hull of the boat is smooth and beautiful, hand sanded wood. This boat is truly a work of art.
Another day on the island, Mike had an opportunity to participate in the final steps of the potato harvest. He helped fill sacks and dump the potatoes into a storage shed. Our final meal on the island was at neighbors home for a celebration of the end of the potato harvest. It was very special to be included in the celebratory meal. The main course was a large, grilled fish. (Can you see the kitten waiting for drippings of fish oil?)
The delicious fish was served with homemade, fermented, apple cider and of course, potatoes.
This was the perfect conclusion to our amazing visit to Isla Anihue. We packed up our backpacks and waited for the green and white boat to pick us up and return us to the dock on the main island. It was hard to say goodbye to new friends and a very special, slow paced life on this little Chilean island.