The island of Chiloe, is at the heart of the Chilean culture and the focal point of many stories. Stretching 180km long by 50km wide, Chiloe is South America’s second largest island (after Tierra del Fuego). The indigenous community – the Huilliche’s and Chonos are still very present and it’s easy to spot these descendants. On the pacific coast, there are few people, as most of this side is national park. On the sheltered eastern side, there are many densely populated fishing communities and some bigger towns such as Castro, the islands capital.
We arrived in Quellon and started cycling to “Point 0” – the starting or ending point of the Pan-American highway that goes more than 20,000km all the way up to Alaska. On the way, we stumbled across La Fiesta Del Cordero. An important regional event to celebrate “sheep” and everything that they bring to the Chilote culture.
It was a fantastic local event, where farmers brought their sheep to exhibit, their wooll
en products to sell, to listen to local music, eat lots of lamb and generally be merry.
It was fascinating to hear about the fall and rise of the Chilote Sheep. A direct descendant of the first Iberian sheep that over 500 years has adapted to the conditions and weather of Chiloe to become an ideal
meat, wool and milk producer. Unfortunately, the big agro companies have done their best to accelerate the demise of the Chilote by introducing sheep from New Zealand and the UK, that don’t adapt so well and require more care and antibiotics.
Talking to the sheep owners, it was also shocking to hear about the problems of sheep rustling and wild dogs. One guy I met had a flock of 90 and lost 70 to wild dogs. Now they are having to run electric wiring around their farms, and also train dogs to protect the flock. One system was identical to the way I saw dogs being trained in Botswana, a month before.