Wandering in America del Sur

Chile-Travelogue  |  Travel time: July 2005 - March 2006  |  by Allison Webb

The Nauti Navimag

Leaving the island of Chiloe we were bound for another seaward adventure, the Navimag! Billed as one of the highlights of Chile, a 4 day and 3 night cruise (and I use this word loosely) through the Chilean fjords of Patagonia. Starting from Puerto Montt and ending in Puerto Natales, the Navimag boat, more for carrying cattle and cargo than people, plies these southern waters all year round, but in Dec - Feb, the boat fills with eager tourists hoping for great weather, whales in full breach, icebergs and glaciers and a whole lot of fun in the pub!

The Navimag leaves Puerto Montt on Monday only and on that day, the usual boisterous and seedy city is turned into a tourist mayhem with lineups in the grocery store as boat goers fill the aisles with bags a plenty including copious quantities of alcohol. Everywhere close to the office and launch, the sidewalks crawl with foreigners, doing last minute souvenir shopping, killing time before the very official "welcome lecture from the captain" at 2:30pm.

In the parking lot in front of the office the sun shined, games were played and everyone was checking out who was who before we got on board to our new little home. The boat consists of cabins and shared berths made private by little curtains strung across. Chaos ensued as soon as we were on board with everyone trying to swap berths and we did the same, but finally things settled, people began to unpack, throw their backpacks in their one locker and prepare for our voyage!

Fortunately for us, there was a contingent of Canadians and honourary Canadians and we bonded on the deck in the sun over stories of the Beachcombers while watching Puerto Montt recede in the distance, the mountains looking so much like Howe Sound that we couldn´t stop reminiscing about BC ferries!

Unfortunately, that sun was the only sun that we would see for the rest of the trip. From then on, as we entered Chile´s rainest area, it lived up to its reputation varying between light mist and full on downpour obscuring our view and feeling a whole lot like the BC coast.

Days passed easily in the company of strangers and it all felt vaguely like summer camp. There is nothing quite like being woken at 6am by the voice of the cruise director, "Senor Pasajeros, Dear Passengers, whales on the starboard side!" And then the very familiar call to the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner - all in shifts because there wasn´t room for us all! "Remember, dear passengers that there are two options for dinner so please choose the right option!"

And between the book reading, lounging in the bar, playing scrabble, talking to Eddie, Lisa, Mike, Bessie, Curtis, Billie and our bunkmates from Holland, Paul and Cindy, there was Happy Sour, a take off on Happy Hour with the ubitiquous national drink of Chile, the pisco sour which I can truly say does taste good at 11am! And at night there was dancing and drinking ´til dawn or until the last people have fallen or so we were told ...

The second day we were greeted with warnings for crossing the Gulf of Penas - the open ocean - where the swells could be huge, accompanied by seasickness. So the friendly bartender, Mr. Pollo (not likely his real name!) not only began to dispense drinks, but also drugs which many people took. The day turned to night and the lounge was full of comatose people asleep on the couches. Walking, especially with a full tray in the cafeteria, became challenging as the swell increased and the boat seesawed back and forth. It was like being drunk all day and night! But somehow I loved it as it lulled me to sleep in my little berth, remembering sleeping on Pretty Woman, my friend, John´s boat in the Panama Canal!

The next day the worst of it was over and we were able to go outside without the rain for about an hour to see the most spectacular site of the trip, a huge glacier spilling forth into the ocean. The wind was powerful and frigid off its surface and in its whiteness of snow and ice it was magnificent. The perspective from the boat was unique as well and it cheered everyone up and made us forget about the rain.

But, no doubt, the most memorable time on the boat was the farewell party where the lounge was packed, standing room only and competitive bingo was a must for all. Plyed with wine and pisco sours, the entire passenger list and crew, danced and sang ´til the wee hours to 80s tunes and versions of Spanish pop gone bad. It might be a strange way to bond, but bond we did and the next morning, despite the tired and green faces of a few, we waved goodbye to our fellow passengers and plodded off the gangway with a bit of sadness that our Navimag experience was over.

With fellow Canadians and friends, Bessie, Greg, Mike, Kurt and Ingo. Note the sun - never seen again!

With fellow Canadians and friends, Bessie, Greg, Mike, Kurt and Ingo. Note the sun - never seen again!

Puerto Eden - remote village looking a whole lot like home

Happy Sour with bunkmates Paul and Cindy

Happy Sour with bunkmates Paul and Cindy

The first of many more Patagonian glaciers to come

My little home, 4 berths and our very own window (thank gawd!) - much better than being stuck in the dark hallways!

My little home, 4 berths and our very own window (thank gawd!) - much better than being stuck in the dark hallways!

Professional bingo! Go Curtis and Billie!

Land ho! Saying goodbye to the Navimag boat at Puerto Natales - note patch of blue sky as we were departing!

Land ho! Saying goodbye to the Navimag boat at Puerto Natales - note patch of blue sky as we were departing!

© Allison Webb, 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
My trip through Peru before heading to Chile to work for 6 months and then travels afterward in South America
Details:
Start of journey: Jul 05, 2005
Duration: 8 months
End of journey: Mar 02, 2006
Travelled countries: Peru
Chile
Argentina
Uruguay
Ecuador
The Author
 
Allison Webb is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 14 years.