Sunday, December 28, 2014

Trip to Patagonia - Dec 28, 2014 - Visit Local School; Home-Hosted Lunch; Ferry to Chiloé Island

- from the Itinerary:

After breakfast this morning, we’ll continue our travel in Chile with a visit to a local school (when in session). We’ll meet some young students and get a look at what a small, rural school is like in this part of Chile. Then we’ll be the guests of a local family in the community of Pargua, where they will prepare a traditional meal called a curanto for us.

Curanto is a stew consisting of typical local fare—shellfish, meat, potatoes, and
vegetables, cooked in a hole in the ground lined with rocks. As the meal is cooking, we’ll help prepare a few popular local snacks, like milcaos (fried potato pancakes). Then we’ll sit down to lunch with our hosts, enjoying the flavor of these local specialties.

In the afternoon, we’ll take a 20-minute ferry ride to the island of Chiloé, where we’ll transfer to our hotel and have dinner.

Today was unlike any other, and nothing we had ever done before.

We drove to a local school in the countryside that is supported by the Grand Circle Foundation (part of the OAT family). However, because it was Sunday, the school was closed. We gathered outside the school and was given a description of what their support has done, flooring, play areas, etc.


We then walked down the road to the Parqua Community Center where we met with several of the village women to discuss how their community lives and works together. We also got to meet one of the school students. Because the villagers did not speak English, all the conversations were translated through the local guide and the trip leader.

These ladies we so excited by our group's visit they had tea waiting for us. We all drank out of the biggest collection of mismatched tea cups and saucers I ever saw. They served homemade biscuits and cookies and loved telling us about where they lived who was related to who.

The community center's floor was old rough cement and the rafters were open beams with loads of nails and hooks. This center is used for weddings and parties, too. Humble, clean, and well used. A cow looked through the window during our meeting.


Parqua Community Center

Parqua villagers

After about 45 minutes (and the ladies did not want us to leave), we left and boarded the bus for a short ride to another family home in Parqua, where we were going to have a typical meal with them. This meal is known as a Curanto and is cooked in a pit dug in the ground. The curanto is a traditional gathering feast for barn buildings, holiday celebrations, and any other reason they can come up with.

A fire is built in the pit and large rocks are added to be heated for cooking. Once it is decided the rocks are sufficiently hot, the coals are carefully removed, leaving only the hot rocks. At this time, a large amount of mussels were added directly on the rocks. Then chicken pieces, sausage, chunks of pork, potatoes, chapaleles and milcaos (2 different kinds of potato dumplings). The whole thing is then covered with fern leaves and then bags and sealed around the edges with dirt to keep the steam and heat in the pit. After an hour or so, it was all uncovered, taken out of the pit and served as a sit-down meal. It was very good and great experience.

We ate family style on two long tables in their home heated by several wood burning pot belly stoves. Red wine and a really sweet white wine was served.


Heating the rocks



Mussels



Chicken, sausage and pork
has been added



Chapaleles and Milcaos



Covering the pit



Adding dirt to seal



Starting to remove things



Removing the meat
and mussels



Everyone gathers
around to watch

While the curanto was cooking, our host took us for a walk around the family farms. One of the really neat things was an old barn just waiting to be photographed. The homeowner said that the wood will be reused in other building projects.











When we were finished with lunch, we boarded the bus for a ferry ride to Chiloe Island and our hotel in the town of Ancud. Dinner was at the hotel. The hotel dinner was good but could not match he curanto.

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