Chonchi is a small, bayside fishing village located on Chiloé Island’s east coast. I ventured to Chonchi by local bus from the nearby city of Castro, Chiloé’s capital. Conchi was a lovely place. Across from the town square was a large, powder blue wooden church with a yellow turret. Near the waterfront there was a central market that sold woolen clothing, wood carvings, and food. At the main pier, various fishing boats rested on the sand, stranded by the receding tide. The town was peaceful and the people welcoming.
After buying a few woolen hats at the market and chatting with a number of locals, I decided to take a walk along the village’s pebbly beach. As I walked near the water’s edge, I was happy to come upon herons, gulls, and shorebirds. Some of the birds I saw, such as the Whimbrel, are super long distance migrants. When I say super long distance, I mean that these birds will nest in the Arctic and then fly all the way to South America outside of the breeding season. The Whimbrel, for instance, will migrate 4,000 kilometers from North America to South America, sometimes making this trip without stopping. Insane! It’s amazing to think that some of the Whimbrels I’ve seen in the Northeastern U.S. may have wintered in Chonchi.
While making my way down the pebbly beach and admiring the birdlife, a pack of dogs started barking angrily from the woodline. I looked up to see a half dozen dogs charge out of the woods and head straight for me. Chile was full of loose dogs. While most loose dogs didn’t cause problems, some did. I watched the dogs bounding toward me, and could tell that I wasn’t welcome on their stretch of the beach. I knew the best thing to do was to stand my ground and not be afraid. When the first dog drew near, growling and gnashing its teeth, I stood tall and began yelling. Each dog then took a turn charging in at me, snapping its jaws and trying to get in a bite. I started to get really pissed. As one of the larger dogs began his charge, I picked up a hefty rock. I was ready to end this conflict with force. As I raised the rock, a man’s voice shouted out from the woodline. Then the man whistled. The dogs paused and reluctantly broke off their attack, slowly returning toward the woodline.
I was lucky that the pack of loose dogs had a herd master. Many loose dogs in Chile were complete strays. The dog situation in Chile was distressing because many of the stray dogs wound up getting run over by vehicles or fell ill and died a slow death. But most Chileans didn’t seem to mind the strays.
Even with my run in with the dog pack, I had an enjoyable day in Chonchi.