Renowned as a kind of magical, mysterious place, Chiloe has a culture all of its own. It's a place where houses are built on stilts above the water, colourful churches are made of wood, not stone, and shellfish are cooked with meat in "curanto". Mythical beings inhabit the forests on the misty hills, apparently.

The guidebook tells how it always rains... I must have been lucky to find 5 or 6 days of sunshine with only the briefest of showers while I was in my tent.

I hiked up the coast on the edge of the Chiloe National Park, to a campsite practically on the beach... My tent was less than 5m from the sand. The waves roared all night. The National Park is a bit odd... Most of the walks there are apparently not really inside its boundaries. You have to pay to go in a tiny section, though if you enter via the strangely spaced out campsite there, you bypass the entry gate entirely.

I found a penguin on the beach, with not a lot of life left in it. How did it get there, and why couldn't it get away? It was dozens of km from the colony to the north. While I ate lunch nearby, two women took pity on it and moved it into the sea... But I think their well-meaning effort was futile; it continued to struggle, unable through exhaustion or injury to move more than a few centimetres.

A short walk into the ever lush forest from the campsite presented me with a sight of the spectacular Magellanic woodpecker. All black except for a vivid red head, I had seen pictures of it, but hadn't been lucky enough to see one for real. And suddenly, there it was. I watched from a short distance as it pecked sporadically at a tree, occasionally retreating a metre or so to check its surroundings, or so it seemed.

In Castro, where the town drops down on three sides to the water, the houses on the shore don't just back onto the water, they back over it. These "palafitos" are built on stilts. Next to one of them a sea-wolf ducked in and out of the water, sometimes appearing close-by, sometimes further out.

Chiloe is famous for its churches, 16 of which form a world heritage site. I rented a bike for the day to see a few of them. They're made almost entirely of wood. Many features which might be seen in a traditional stone church are replicated - for example paintwork on the columns suggests marble.

Some of them are painted in very bright colours, Castro's notably in yellow and lilac. Inside and outside the decoration differs from one church to another, but all were impressive in their construction.