Tuesday, February 4, 2014

South America & Falklands - part eleven

This is my whale photo for the trip. It's already framed. No-one has such a good whale photo as I. When the captain announces whales or dolphins or penguins on the tannoy, Minerva lists as passengers flock to port or starboard, bow or stern, faster than to lifeboats if the ship was going down.

They usually get blurry, unrecognizable images of a distant fin, seaweed mistaken for marine life or, more often, swirl of water where a creature was five seconds previously. Perhaps, if lucky, a whale blowing.

This is frequently my fate. In fact, I have fibbed. The framed whale photo is not mine, but in - blush! - Puerto Montt's McDonald's.

I searched for a more local, more atmospheric café, but it is Sunday morning in Catholic Chile. Heard of the term 'Blue Sunday'? In Puerto Montt, all that's open is McDonald's. 990 pesos for a latte. Gracias.

The only person working - other than at McDonald's - is another panhandling juggler. I hope this doesn't become popular in Toronto. The pedestrian fatality figures would go up.

Just down the street, Scotiabank - the Bank of Nova Scotia - reassuring for insecure Canadians who sometimes fret about our country's global reach.

After church (or a lie-in), inhabitants emerge. I've found my way to nearby Frutillar, a popular lakeside resort and known for a music festival in late January and early February. The garden club has produced a 'piano' and everyone's posing, some more willing than others.

Music everywhere …

… while two ladies gossip.

Puerto Montt - end of the Pan American Highway - is the start of the fiords, islands, mountains and glaciers of Southern Chile.

Overnight we reach Castro. In 1834, Darwin found it nearly empty with sheep in the plaza. Three years later, Castro was destroyed by an earthquake and again struck by a major quake and tsunami in 1960.

As it's Monday, cafés are open. Sitting in the plaza de armas (no sheep), I sample a warm, sugary, local snack. Only half I tell myself ...

... another broken promise.

The municipal offices, in what looks to be a 1930s building, cheer up a grey day ...

... as does the city's exuberant yellow and purple main church.

Look closely and you'll see the exterior is made from sheets of galvanized iron.

Many buildings in southern Chile are similar. Light, strong and corrosion resistant, corrugated metal, a British invention, became popular in the Nineteenth Century.

Here's an extraordinary metal-clad structure ...

... sadly misused.

A metal building with curious Esso sign. Sorry, no idea.