1 Jun 2018

Mushrooming in Chile: Canada South


by Jan Thornhill



I’ve just returned from a fabulous mushrooming trip to Chile. Before I left, I joked that I was going to “Canada south” – my simple way of explaining that I would be visiting a temperate country when it would be cold and wet – the best time to collect fungi. Of course I didn’t mean it literally; I didn’t expect Chile to actually be Canada south. But in a lot of ways, 
particularly outside of urban areas, it was. Which was not only disconcerting, but discombobulating.

I've been trying to find a word to describe the strange brain/mind phenomenon that kept happening to me. I'd be looking at a woods before we went in, (there were 26 of us fungi fans), and suddenly I'd be transported for a moment right back to Canada. It wasn't déjà vu, or even déjà vu's little sister déjà visite, the feeling while in a new place that you've not only been in that place before, you know the place. It wasn't that at all. 


The French have a word for another phenomenon, dépaysement, which is used to describe the feeling of not being in one’s own country when travelling, of being out of place, of being uncountrified. As far as I'm concerned, that feeling is the whole point of visiting foreign lands – glorying in the differences between the new and the familiar. But in non-urban parts of Chile, sheltered in the woods and countryside from the culture and language, I kept having the opposite experience – that, in a dreamlike way, 
I was actually in Canada, and not 10,000 kilometres away. Anti-dépaysement.


In those moments of being in Canada cerebrally while at the same time being almost as far away from home as possible, the fun was in the double-takes, when I was suddenly taken aback by one or more details that just weren't right, or that were radically different – and my sudden remembering that I wasn't home would instantly teleport me back into Chile again. It was one of the weirdest and most entertaining things I've ever experienced. I loved it.

Here are some photos I took that might give you an idea of why this kept happening to me.

Near Punta Arenas 

This picture could easily have been taken on a 
Mycological Society of Toronto fall foray...

...except the ground was covered in the TINY 
leaves of Nothofagus – the southern beech...

 ...and some of those trees sported really weird 
mushrooms, like these edible Cytaria.

Torres del Paine National Park north of Punta Arenas


Is that the Rockies? Are those 
animals in the distance deer?

Nope. That's the southern Andes, and the animals 
are guanacos, a type of llama. 

We also saw the very un-Canadian 
Nandu, or Darwin's Rhea.

Banff? The Yukon? 

White foam collecting on the shore?

 Nope. An Andean salt lake. Big salt.

 And flamingos!

Near Puerto Montt

A lovely Canadian fall scene...except 
the trees aren't quite right...

...and some of the nearby flowers are just plain weird...

...and exotic fungi (Aleurodiscus vitellinus
grow in the trees...

...and the tree trunks are submerged 
in knee-deep lava ash...

 ...lava ash so deep it had to be plowed off the highway.

Near Curarrehue in Central Chile

 A typical Canadian fall scene...

...but turn to the left and that's a volcano...

...and turn a bit more and you're back in 
Canada again, except that's a flock 
of parrots landing in a tree.

El Parque Nacional Conguillío in central Chile


Northern Ontario? Quebec?

Not when you pull out and see the lava plain...

...and when you turn the other way you see 
the astonishing amount of lava and lava ash from 
a 2009 eruption of Mount Llaima...

...and only a couple of kilometres down the road you enter 
the other-worldly Araucaria or Monkey Puzzle Tree Forest...

...ancient conifers that are truly weird, and completely 
un-Canadian, though some grow in Vancouver. 

 And, of course, when the clouds finally
move out of the way, there's a giant volcano... 

..and in the scant soil, an orange truffle that no one
in our group had ever seen before...

...that might be an undescribed species.


And of course there was the southern night sky, 
crowded with stars that looked different than 
what I'm used to in the northern hemisphere,  
but the bigness is the same wherever you go. 

1 comment:

Dania Madera-Lerman said...

Wowwie Zowwie! This was just terrific Jan! I loved venturing vicariously with you through your trip. Pictures were great and so were all the little captions. Thank you so much for giving me a trip to Chile without having to board a plane. You are one special gal!!!!xxxooo