In town, across the twinkling waters, the bugs are fewer, replaced by leech-like men: loco locals and pickled expats, attracted to light eyes and freckles and exposed skin like moths round a candle. “Hermosa” they say “Que bella!” They give you a hibiscus, a blessing, a kiss on the back of your hand, and their bloodshot eyes are mournful and lost and lonely.
The landscape was perpetually transforming. I had never seen so many shades of green, such vibrant vegetation, such enormous leaves emerging from the ground, hanging off the trees, sprouting from the cliffs. Storms swirled around. If I wasn´t under a tempest, I was entering one, or driving out of one. The atmosphere was intense, nature was tangible, I was charged with energy.
Clinging to life between sea and storms on the splintered coast of southern Chile, the remote archipelago of Chiloé is drenched in fairytale and legend. This soggy Patagonian wilderness is both protected and threatened by the many mythical creatures who govern this part of the world: the evil witch who spews her intestines out every night; the hideous dwarf who impregnates young virgins; the kings, keepers and bloodthirsty villains of the sea.
At five foot ten, Juan the shaman was unusually tall for an Aymara indian. He lived alone in the forest under the dense canopy of a mahogany tree, alongside the jawbones of his long-dead ancestors.