The Isle of Chiloe holds many charms and delights for the avid traveller. From cute penguins to oversized oysters and mythical creatures to medieval churches. It has natural beauty and a culture all to its own. Yet we weren’t to truly experience the island without visiting, on a whim, the lovely home created by Marie and Francisco at Isla Bruja.
It was 2 weeks into our Chilean road trip and were accustomed to our new life on the road. Where everything is kept, how to sleep stealth, and getting a handle on the etiquette and intricacies of driving in Chile. While it is all part of the adventure, getting used to a lack of regular showers, cramped quarters and preparing camp stove meals can make you appreciate what you normally take for granted!
Isla Bruja immediately stood out as a home away from home. A lodge nestled in the woods overlooking a bay, a hearty home-cooked meal and reports of a wood-fired hot tub to soak in with perhaps a glass of wine within arms reach! It was then with little hesitation that we booked in for the following night, appreciative that owners Marie and Francisco were able to accommodate us at short notice.
Bienvenidos Isla Bruja!
Isla Bruja is located in an out of the way location on the road to Quellien. Not to be confused with Quellon further south. It was accessed via 20km of dusty rutted roads, known to Chileans affectionately as ‘ripio’. We pulled up outside the main gate and, after unlooping the rope, made our way down the steep driveway. We were immediately greeted by Lana the concierge, come golden retriever, followed by owners, Marie and Francisco.
The lodge had rustic appeal in abundance with roughly sawn floorboards leading down to a relaxing sunken living room. The homely smell of a log fire was ever present in the air and French doors led out to a wide porch with views of the shimmering bay.
We met Torpe, an adopted orphaned sheep who honestly thought it was a dog! On the bay, a few horses looked stranded on an island at high tide.
“They do that most days”. Commented Francisco.
Chiloe certainly had a charming quirkiness we were getting used to, as much as our new digs for the night.
Taking a ‘semi’ self-guided walk
Franciso had built both hiking trails and a small downhill mountain bike course on their property. He had created some gnarly jumps through the thick forest that would challenge most downhill cyclists. After we hiked the trails we arrived down at the lake on a pebbled beach. From here Lana took over as our tour guide.
We followed the beach around to an old wood-shingled church, the type that Chiloe is arguably most famous for. A mix of European Jesuit traditions but using local timber and know-how. Many are now UNESCO listed sites and have an imposing and eerie appearance.
After two weeks camping, a shower with fresh towels felt great. Dinner at Isla Bruja is a communal affair and we were to enjoy Maria’s delightful home-cooked meal. Only one other couple were staying so it was just six of us for dinner which was extremely pleasant. After 4 weeks in Chile and not being fluent in Spanish it was good to have a more in-depth conversation, learn a little about Chiloe and also understand how Isla Bruja itself came to be.
Marie and Francisco had taken a punt and purchased the lodge with the dream of making it a viable option to escape a more conventional 9-5 existence. They had learnt that Chiloe works at a much different pace to the rest of Chile. And, not surprisingly, the effort and new skills required to operate a remote boutique hotel in the woods! It was great to see the results of their dream and it was also inspiring to hear their story. A story that has plans for expansion with a new secluded lodge under construction during our stay.
Bring on the hot tub!
Smoke had been seen most of the afternoon wafting out of the stove pipe behind a circular pool cut into the lower deck. A log fire had been lit earlier in the day below decks to heat up the water. An after-dinner soak was a perfect way to end our day. The water was piping hot, so it took a while to adjust!
After falling into a spacious bed for the first time in two weeks we quickly fell victim to its sleepy spell, waking only when the smell of coffee wafted upstairs in the morning.
Though slightly envious of our fellow guests who were staying another night, we took to the road refreshed and ready to take on the next leg of our journey, the Carretera Austral, thankful for our brief interlude in Isla Bruja.