The Story Behind la Punta Pirulil and el Muelle de las Almas in Chiloé

Have you ever seen am image of some faraway place that immediately called to you and invited you to explore it? This is how I felt when I saw a photo of la Punta Pirulil and el Muelle de las Almas, the Dock of Souls. There was something about it, invoking feelings of serenity, seclusion, natural beauty, and mystery. A stand-alone dock off the coast of the Island of Chiloé – a southern island known for its myths and legends – called me and I went.

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Earlier this year we met a woman, Renata, who lives in Cucao, a small farming and fishing village between Lakes Cucau and Huilinco and the western coast of Chiloé, the same shores where Charles Darwin set foot on in 1834.

The area has an enormous beach coast, a tranquil lake, virgin forests, and a lush green panorama at every sight – a perfect place to live a couple of days grounding yourself in nature and seclusion where your only companions are hundreds of unique bird species, Chilean deer and farm horses and cows. Renata also told us that one of the ‘must-sees’ was the Punta Pirulil and el Muella de las Almas, and after seeing photos of it, there was no question about it.

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On our way to the park, being very amicable and chatty, our local driver began to tell us a bit about Cucao, then he asked the big question, “Do you know the story behind the dock?”

Up until that point I hadn’t really considered it. I was so concerned with going there that I completely forgot to question why it was there. Blushing with embarrassment, I admitted that I had no idea and I came because I saw a photo of the place. Giggling, he said, “Everyone comes here for that reason.”

Our drive to la Punta Pirulil

Our drive to la Punta Pirulil

The story began with the Mapuches, an indigenous culture in Chile, who believe that once people pass away, their souls travelled to the Punta Pirulil where they met a boatman, Tempilcahue, who transports them to their eternal, happy and peaceful resting places at “the other shore’’.

Being a short-termpered boatman, he is known to have punished souls by hitting them with oars and charging the souls who came with their dogs or horses. The fee to aboard the ship was paid with llankas, small turquoise pebbles. The poor souls who were unable to pay the fine were sentenced to wander la Punt Pirulil, some say you can hear the suffering souls’ anguished cries mixed in with the ocean waves for having never reached peace. They call out for the boatman, but he never comes to get them. This is where the myths and legends were born.

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There is a legend of a foreigner who heard about the boatman and his ship and made fun of the local beliefs. Deciding to prove the locals wrong, he went up to the Punta Pirulil, but did not meet the boatman. However, at the time of his death years later, the boatman appeared to take the foreigner to join the wandering souls of Cucao to avenge the insult.

The Dock of Souls, el Muelle de las Almas (Kuy Kuy Tempilkawe) is an art installation paying homage to the Chilote beliefs, traditions, myths and legends. Although the locals don’t visit for fear of breaking a taboo and approaching death, do you dare? Would you taunt the boatman Tempilcahue?

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