Ferry through the Chilean fjords
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
124Trip End Nov 30, 2011
There are seven different classes of cabin on the ferry, and we were at the bottom! This was not really a problem as I didn't see foresee us spending any time there apart from sleeping. Our accommodation turned out to be better than I expected - it consisted of a large open plan area with lots of small sections, all containing four bunks. There was a curtain to pull across the bunk while you were sleeping, and a locker at the end of the bed for your belongings
It was a beautiful sunny day in Puerto Montt with clear skies and a wonderful view towards the volcanoes Calbuco and Osorno. However there was a bitingly cold wind blowing up on the top deck so we had to shelter in the lee of the ships cabins. We were expecting to leave at 2pm but it wasn’t until an hour later (we had to wait for the arrival of a ship coming into port) that the black smoke started billowing out of the funnel and we made a very tight left hand turn out of port.
There was not really much to see that afternoon, bar the volcanoes previously mentioned and the odd fishing boat. The channel was very wide so we couldn’t get any close up views of Chiloe or the mainland. After our safety briefing I spent the rest of the afternoon on the top deck, sitting on the lifejacket containers sheltering from the wind, reading my book and taking the odd photograph while Andrew stayed inside in the warmth.
We all congregated in the dining room at 7.30pm for dinner, which was surprisingly nice despite it being just like a school canteen, and Andrew and I decided to open the Undurraga wine to accompany our meal. We quickly learnt after being in the Galapagos that the best thing to do on a cruise is bring your own booze as the bars can be quite pricey. After watching a beautiful sunset at 9.30pm (the days are starting to get longer now as we head south) it was off to bed where I slept incredibly well. Others complained about hearing the engine and people snoring (one of who was Andrew who claims he must have been tired!) but I heard nothing until 7am the next morning
Saturday morning was overcast and misty and stayed that way for the rest of the day - very common weather for this part of the world. It was nice to have some time to just sit and relax, read and write the blog.
We passed through a relatively narrow channel where we saw some dolphins swimming along next to the ship, before we turned and headed out towards Anna Pink bay (named after an English ship that sunk there) and the Pacific Ocean. We had been told that at 4pm we would reach the open ocean where there could be large swells, so Andrew and I had taken seasickness pills - prevention for this is far better than cure. Almost on the dot of 4pm we reached the ocean, and it wasn’t long before we saw the first casualty of the swells! Others very quickly followed. We saw some more dolphins and sea birds, but it was quite rough so hard to see much else - very little chance of seeing the spray from whales’ blowholes in that weather.
Dinner was a very quiet affair - half of our group were not feeling well and had gone down to the bunks, and the lack of people in the dining room suggested a lot of other people felt the same
It was calm when we woke up on Sunday morning, having returned to the shelter of the fjords in the middle of the night. It was still very grey and misty, but people were much livelier than they had been the day before. It was very cold up on deck still, and I was beginning to worry slightly that I might not have enough warm layers with me for hiking and camping in Torres del Paine, let alone Antarctica.
Later that morning we entered the English Narrow - so called after an English ship sunk there after hitting the only rock in the whole channel! In this piece of water we passed the Cotopaxi wreck- the Greek crew had deliberately tried to sink their ship on the same rock (I’m not sure why they thought this was a good idea), but instead it had become impaled on the top of the rock and hence is still visible above the water line. The channel gets as narrow as 180 metres in places, and as such there are a lot of beacons to guide ships and some intricate maneuvering needed.
At the end of the English Narrow we stopped at Puerto Eden, a very small settlement with only 150 inhabitants. Andrew and I had opted to stay on board the boat rather than pay $8 each to get off - a little pricey just to go and stretch your legs. The weather was still overcast and cold and we decided we wouldn’t see much more than we could from the boat. Whilst the majority of the passengers did disembark, it provided some quiet time for the rest of us until we were invaded by a large number of new passengers - workers from Puerto Eden returning to the mainland for Christmas
Finally as the weather started to brighten up after lunch and the mist began to clear, the scenery became more dramatic and we were able to see glaciers on the mountains around the fjords. Unfortunately there was still a little rain which meant that the camera lens kept getting spots on so I had to keep dashing inside to wipe it! But the sun finally decided to shine and it was perfect timing as our next place of interest was Pio XI glacier, the largest in South America. I knew we were getting closer as I spotted my very first iceberg - it wasn’t very big but what struck me was how incredibly blue it was. It also started to get very cold, as you would expect with a lot of ice around - note to self to buy some gloves before Antarctica!
Pio XI glacier was incredibly beautiful - bright blue ice and large crevasses. At its snout it is 6 km wide so is very big indeed – I just wonder how big the rest of it is! Unfortunately we couldn’t get that close, but we were able to see and hear ice breaking off to form icebergs. On our return to the warmth of the bar area, we were able to buy drinks with glacial ice - they just happened to have some ready for us
After dinner we returned to the bar area ready to play bingo! I was very excited by this and we got there early to grab comfy seats and buy our boards before they ran out! However it lost a little of its appeal for me after the first game when the host admitted that he had forgotten to tell us that if we won, we had to dance in front of everyone before we could get our prize. For those of you that know me well, you might remember that dancing is not one of my fortes, and I try to avoid it as much as possible unless fueled by a little alcohol! The second game started and I was beginning to become a little anxious as my numbers were being called out rather frequently. So concerned was I that I asked Geraldine whether she would come up to the front and dance with me if I won as I knew Andrew certainly wouldn’t. And several minutes later there I was, reluctantly walking up to the front with my winning board in hand, and after performing a little dance (with Geraldine as my partner), I was given a much needed bottle of wine and a baseball cap!
Monday morning dawned grey and misty once again, with a temperature of 7 degrees C - a slight improvement on the day before
There was just time for lunch before we docked at our destination, Puerto Natales, situated on the Last Hope fjord. With the rain falling and a cold wind blowing it certainly seemed like it was the end of the world.
Next stop is Puerto Natales.