Posted by on Feb 17, 2013


Niebla. Sunny one day, con niebla the next. Actually rainy the next. This is not cool if you want to play tourist, well, I mean, it is cool, actually it’s cold. Look, point is, the weather is unpredictable.

Niebla is on the coast where the river Valdivia meets the ocean. The river opens out into a bay with an island in the middle. This made Valdivia strategically important historically because forts could be built on both side of the river mouth and on the island making it less susceptible to pirate attacks. Over the river one can see the town of Corral and for $3.6 one can go there and back.

This little coastal hamlet is a popular day retreat with its touristically oriented fort museums and daily displays of traditional Chilean dance and music. Well at least I think it’s traditional.

What I perceive to be the beating heart of Niebla is a large barn-come-mall eartery thing which I shall refer to as ‘galpón gastronómico’. It’s quite something. A large wooden structure comprising of a spacious central area with a high ceiling bordered on all sides by food/drink stalls and a large stage. The central area is packed with rough wooden tables and benches. The place is usually thronging, packed with animated eaters conversing enthusiastically. The cacophony of ebulent intercourse mixes with the heavy smell of roasting meat, the smoke from which fills the eatery giving me the impression of some mediaval celebration.
All of a sudden the blast of a horn followed by the sounds of horse hooves on the cobbles outside announces the arrival of the prince. The large wooden doors are thrown open and silence falls amongst the merrymakers. Through the smoke, a large black stallion strides into the hall followed by mounted guards bearing shields with the crest of Fernando IV. The prince himself cuts a dashing figure in his regal attire as he surveys the crowd. Behind him white horses drawing a splendid carriage announce the arrival of his bride-to-be. A deathly silence falls within the galpón, an eager, expectant silence.
From amongst the circle of champing horses a mounted herald strides forward bearing a heavy parchment scroll drimmed with tassels.
A loud electronic blast to my right drags me back to reality as applause erupts around me welcoming the dancers onto the stage. My brief reverie is over and whatever was to follow in the announcement by the herald of Prince Fernando IV will, alas, not be known to me in Niebla.

As a touristic attraction, Niebla is full of ‘cabañas’ or cabins, the Australian motel equivalent offering slightly expensive short term accommodation. The place is full. This would be it’s most popular time of the year but come rain or fog or drizzle or sunshine, people arrive by the bus loads all day to enjoy the vista of the bay from the fort or eat at galpón gastronómico and buy locally made artisan products from one of the many stalls in the town. Although some of these products are very beautifully crafted, I can’t really buy them because I have to carry them with me, and most of my travels, at this stage, lie before me.

Behind Niebla, just as with Corral, there are cerros, or small mountains. I took a bike and rode up the gravel road behind the town to enjoy the sunset from above. The proximity to nature is immediately evident and the environment surrounding Niebla is lush and intact. From above, one can view most of river mouth and mountains on both sides, as well as the open ocean.