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Full Circle

Day 166: Castro, Chiloé

Michael Palin - Full CircleAfter that there is nothing much to do but drink chicha - the local cider - and not mention the word microwave.

The food, when extracted from the fire two or three hours later, looks visibly shaken and rather muddy, like something dragged out of a collapsed building, but, with the exception of my milcao and capelele, it is very good. Especially if you like smoke. The rain, which has obligingly held off until we have taken the food indoors, now comes down in stair-rods. Singing and dancing begins.

I usually run a mile when I hear the words 'folk dancing', but this is special. The dances are strong and simple and solemnly performed by everyone from the youngest child to the oldest man. A tall girl with lustrous black hair manages to be both graceful and funny while dancing with a half-full wine bottle on her head. The oldest couple in the room become hen and rooster to perform the strutting courting dance they call the cueca, waving white handkerchiefs above their heads and circling in a tight shuffle around each other as the audience urges them on. The music is provided by a unique cailote combination of accordion, acoustic guitars and horse's jawbone. The correct way to play a jawbone is to run a stick up and down the teeth, though you must make sure the horse is dead first. It's a token of the liberating effects of chicha and curanto that I end this bizarre celebration with my first ever, and almost certainly last ever, jawbone solo.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 166
  • Country/sea: Chile
  • Place: Castro
  • Book page no: 225

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