Wwoofing on Chiloé

View of the entire Al Norte Del Sur Property from the top of the neighbor's hill. The farm house and restaurant are on the left and the refugio where we slept is on the right.

View of the entire Al Norte Del Sur Property from the top of the neighbor’s hill. The farm house and restaurant are on the left and the refugio where we slept is on the right.

We were enchanted by the island of Chiloé. I’ll forever think of it as the land of wood burning stoves, homemade cheese and jam, countless varieties of potatoes, ‘yes that is poop on your shoes’ and some of the warmest people we were lucky to meet. Chiloé is where we first milked a cow, ate sea algae and drank yerba maté; where the weak are separated from the wwoof.

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A common thistle-ish plant

A common thistle-ish plant

Perusing the Wwoof Chile list of member farms is both exciting and intimidating. Exciting because each listing seems to describe a mini paradise which has the potential to be your new, temporary home. Intimidating because it seems almost impossible to know which farm to choose. Jordan and I knew we wanted to start to explore southern Chile, and had heard wonderful things about the island of Chiloé, so we were able to narrow our search. We emailed a family farm called Al Norte Del Sur and were excited to be invited to volunteer with them for the month of January.

waiting to be picked up at the bus station in Chiloe

waiting to be picked up at the bus station in Chiloe

To get down to Chiloé from Santiago, we took a Pullman overnight bus to Puerto Montt. We were pleasantly surprised when the bus flight attendant seved us box snacks for dinner and breakfast! Most long bus rides in Chile come fully equipped with TVs and flight attendants (for lack of a better description!) who serve drinks, snacks, and even tuck you into your gratis blanket at night! From the Puerto Montt bus station, we easily bought tickets to the city of Ancud, where the family would be picking us up. Currently, Chiloé is only accessible by boat and so all the busses actually drive right onto the ferry! There is much political debate regarding the construction of a bridge to connect Chiloé to the main land. A bridge might indeed boost the growing tourism business there, but many are against it, possibly for fear of losing the geographical and cultural independence instrinsic to the island. We saw penguins and sea lions swimming in the water on our way over, which helped get us super excited to explore this unique place.

Better than penguins, we were greeted by the cherub like chubby cheeks of the newest addition to the Al Norte family when we were picked up in Ancud. The semi-uncertainty of what our future tasks around the farm would be was laid to rest when I met this adorable baby because I figured I would be lucky to change his diapers for a month. Look at those cheeks!

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The farm is about 20 scenic minutes from Ancud, on a windy road that hugs the bay. You can thank Jordan and I for the 5 newly painted signs, complete with logo, guiding your way there (probably our only adroit work addition, being so ‘green’ to farm work and all). We couldn’t have been happier to pull into the farm to see an incredible vista of the hilly terrain, a strawberry patch and a young farm pup named Weicha running around in front of their small family restaurant.

the farm house

the farm house

view from the front of the house

view from the front of the house

view from the upper pasture

view from the upper pasture

view from upper pasture

view from upper pasture

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Weicha!

Weicha!

After meeting the family, we were given the day to explore the farm on our own. The 15 hectare homestead included stunning views of the bay from the upper pasture, as well as patches of forest, milk cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, dogs, and cats.

apparently turkeys love sitting on fences

apparently turkeys love sitting on fences

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Another wwoofer was also volunteering on the farm for the month of January and he did a great job of posing with many of the farm animals for us.

George, the other wwoofer, having a laugh with Rosita.

George, the other wwoofer, having a laugh with Rosita.

The cute cat, not yet hardened from living the tough life of a farm cat

The cute cat, not yet hardened from living the tough life of a farm cat

He also taught us that in the UK the term pudding, actually refers to all types of desserts! That’s not confusing at all! The family cultivated numerous items including myriad vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, calafate berries, blackberries, grosella, apples, pears, and more.

Gigantic Garlic! It's just regular old garlic, but apparently when the soil it is planted in is kept loose, it will grow this big!

Gigantic Garlic! It’s just regular old garlic, but apparently when the soil it is planted in is kept loose, it will grow this big!

garlic plants

garlic plants

quinoa

quinoa

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We did a variety of tasks during our month on the farm, the most common tasks being berry picking and collecting or chopping firewood. Personally, I feel that I have become adept in the art of strawberry size classification, knowing instantly if a berry would be considered a ‘pequeño’ or ‘malo’ for jam, a ‘medio’ for serving in the restaurant, or a ‘grande rojo’, the cadillac of berries, for selling at the market in town once a week. Jordan’s already bulging muscles grew to an almost unsightly size after his wood chopping mastery. I was also lucky to get the chance to help out in the kitchen at the restaurant often and learned some pretty great recipes!

learning to make Chilote style bread

learning to make Chilote style bread

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The only machines on the farm were a chain saw and a blender. Everything else was done using traditional, ancestral methods.

The only machines on the farm were a chain saw and a blender. Everything else was done using traditional, ancestral methods.

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All the heat and most of the cooking at the farm was produced by several wood burning stoves throughout the house and restaurant. I had never lived in a place that utilized wood stoves so exclusively. The family was constantly checking the stoves to observe the strength of the fire. It was so pleasant coming in from a cold day and sitting next to the stove to warm up. When we emerged from our tent in our refugio in the mornings, I was always excited to see the smoke coming out of the chimneys because that meant that food was being made and hot water would be ready for tea.

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There were many charming aspects of the farm life. While we were there, four chickens hatched little chicks. They were so small and delicate, constantly exploring but never more than a few inches from the mother hen. I’d be picking berries in the dense raspberry bushes and all of a sudden would hear the lightest little chirps as the hen and her brood passed by under the safe covering of the raspberry plants.

chicklets!

chicklets!

Also, while most of the sheep and the goats kept to themselves away from people, there was one house goat and house lamb, Rosita and Robin, respectively. Rosita was abandoned by her mother, possibly because she seamed weak at birth since it took her a little while to stand up. Robin has a lame leg. Thus both of the young outcasts became best friends and always hung out together near the house, waiting to receive their daily bottle of milk.

best friends

best friends

There was that time Weicha the farm pup followed a bunch of boy scouts all the way to the beach and thus was missing for a few days until one of the scouts returned her. We got a private performance of a traditional dance called the Cueca from the oldest granddaughter of the family, attended a local festival called a ‘Costumbrista,’ and saw the most incredible stars at night from our rustic refugio.

our cozy little refugio!

our cozy little refugio!

The best part by far of our wwoofing experience was being fully immersed in the family who generously hosted us. Our Spanish improved, we learned many new things about farming and sustainability, and the warmth and patience of our new friends made our stay at Al Norte Del Sur unforgettable.

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Sunset view

Sunset view

16 thoughts on “Wwoofing on Chiloé

  1. Thanks for posting! I’ve been looking for WWOOF reviews for Chile and will be heading to Puerto Montt in a month. I overlooked this farm on the list but will definitely be contacting them now. Any other tips for traveling/wwoofing in Chile? Safe Travels!

    • Emily, thanks for reading! It was a great experience for sure. Chiloe is beautiful place to be, but the lakes district also seemed incredible. Weonly bussed through it and would have liked to have seen more. As far as tips, be prepared to encounter some difficult accents down in southern Chile, also, Chilean spanish in general uses many different words and phrases from the Spanish I learned in the United States. Not sure where you are from or how your spanish is, but try to brush up on some key chilean vocab! Also, we found people to be incredible warm and welcoming so I am sure you can’t go wrong with any of the small family farms. Good luck and have fun! Would love to hear where you end up 🙂

  2. Pingback: Chilote Curanto: A Fire Pit Feast |

  3. Hello Emma! I am planning a long 4 month trip to chile and argentina in January, using WWOOF and helpx. Your photos looks so beautiful and the experience sounds really magical! Thanks for sharing your time in Chiloe. It brought Chiloe to my radar. Alas, I’m trying to narrow down options, and reduce travel time/expenses. I would really appreciate your advice on this.

    My plan so far has me coming in from Bariloche Argentina, into the lakes region of chile. This will be the final leg of my trip. With my limited budget+exhaustion from long bus rides in mind:

    1) Should I stay and wwoof around the lakes region? which would translate into an easier trip for me back up to Santiago to catch my flight.. OR

    2) Chiloe is really that special and magical of a place to not be missed? which would mean missing out on the lakes region, and spending significantly more amount of time and money on a bus.

    Thanks for your insight!!!

    • Tiff,

      Thanks for your question, what an exciting trip! Unfortunately Jordan and I did not spend time in Bariloche or the Chilean lakes district other than busing through both areas because we were prioritizing the good weather window in patagonia. However, my boyfriend and I agreed that the lakes district of chile and was utterly beautiful from the window and we have vowed to return and explore it one day. Chiloe is definitely a unique and amazing place, but I am confident that you will get an incredible experience in the lakes district…plus you’ll be closer to some volcanoes and hot springs! If you had more time/money I’d say absolutely add Chiloe to your list, but i don’t think you will be disappointed with your first option! Let me know if you have any more questions and have a fantastic trip!

      Emma

      • Thanks so much Emma! hahaha, I’m glad you gave such a decisive perspective! I think the lakes district it shall be! Thank you for taking the time to respond, really appreciate it!

        Tiff

  4. Hi Emma

    Your photos and description of the fawn you stayed at sounds just like the sort of place my boyfriend and I are looking for! Thank you for your posting!
    We are currently researching for woofing opportunities and would love to get in contact with The farm you stayed. We just purchased the list but can’t seem to find the exact one. Does it come under a different name? We have also tried emailing them but so far no reply. It would be great if you can give us some advice and point us to the right direction. Thank you so much and we look forward to your reply!
    Fawn and Bruce

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