Life on the Ferry, and how not to play Bingo

Trip Start Jan 19, 2008
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Trip End May 01, 2008


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Where I stayed
Navimag Ferry

Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, February 4, 2008

We´re now in Puerto Montt and have 4 hours before our bus to Pucon, which is the "Adventure Sports Capital of Chile" - apparently. It´s also a nice lake with a smouldering Volcano that Matt hopes to trek up on one of the next few days. So we´ve got a few moments to reflect on our 84 hours of captivity on Navimag´s converted cargo ship sailing between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt through the Chillean Fjords.

Everyone was crowded into a small waiting room whilst we awaited the boarding anouncement. There were people of every nationality and age. The people with the best cabins boarded first and so on, until the people in the dorms boarded last. We had paid to stay in the second best class of accomodation - an ensuite cabin shared with another couple but everyone boarding the private cabins seemed to be pretty old. Nerves set in as we approached room 125, our room, to see who we would be sharing with. Phew - a young Danish couple called Tomas and Ann who were to be our drinking (although not as much as us...) and card playing buddies for the next 3 days. The beds were comfy although that is about the best we could say about the cabin´s as they were pretty cramped considering the price we were paying.

As Kat started to unpack the essentials (wine, beer, crisps) I thought I'd get out from under her feet by taking a tour of the ship. 2 minutes later I was back in the cabin. There´s not a lot to the ship. A restaurant (reminiscent of a school canteen) and a bar (muy pequeno - very small) and plenty of space out on deck. So, to business - we cracked open the first of our 3 1.5 litre boxes of house wine (suprisingly quaffable at only 1 GBP per litre) and toasting the journey ahead with our roommates we headed up for a brief briefing in the canteen. The boat was to sail at 6am Friday morning so Kathryn and Ann went off to bed whilst Matt and Tomas headed up to the bar. Tomas is studying to take over his father´s pig farming business so conversation centred naturally on discussions of Geopolitics and the EU Common Agricultural Policy - heady stuff indeed.

The first morning saw the sunrise over a beautiful day. It was quite windy and with the odd cloud but a lot better than we gather is the norm for this cruise - particularly at this time of year. After breakfast (the same for all 4 mornings - scrambled egg, stale bread, ham, cheese and yoghurt) we went to take a look at the bridge. The crew obviously trust the passengers a lot, as there was only one crew member on the bridge (presumably the captain), and he was busy scanning his charts, checking the radar and twiddling his knob (making minor course alterations). There were lots of buttons and levers but Matt somehow resisted the temptation to try them out...

Most of the remainder of the day was spent taking in the view from deck as we passed through the fjords, reading in the bar (fortunately there was a book swap scheme operating, but unfortunately there was only ever one English book there at a time - when we swapped Kat´s completed Jackie Collins novel for a period piece the book swap stalled and Jackie was still there when we disembarked a couple of days later...!), playing cards, watching movies in the canteen (canteen seats do NOT make comfortable movie seats - numb bums...) and glugging our way through the aforementioned wine (did we also mention we´d brought aboard some 1 litres bottles of beer as well - just in case...)

A highlight of the first day was spotting some dolphins who followed alongside the ship for a couple of minutes. There were 3 together jumping out of the water every now and then in unison. Also for a while a large bird, maybe an Albatross, took advantage of the thermals generated by the ship's exhaust to get some easy lift and it would switch every few minutes from flying above the ship, to swooping down to the sea when it spotted some food, and then back up into the thermals again.

We then took a small detour to visit a glaciar (they´re two to the penny over here honestly). Whilst the boat turned around after visting the glaciar some of the crew took a motor dingy out to collect one of the icebergs that had fallen away - and this served as the ice we would get in our drinks from the bar for the remainder of the trip.

With so much time on our hands we looked forward to meal times with much anticipation - however food was pretty bland by and large and definitely not a highlight...  

The other two days followed much the same pattern as the first with the exception of the weather. The second day was gloomy and overcast - for much of that day we were in the open sea and not in the sheltered fjords. We'd been warned about seasickness, and were armed with pills, but in the event the ride never got too bad. Lots of the passengers had bought "Sea Sickness" pills at the bar and took them in preparation. As Tomas and Ann later found out from a doctor, the pills were in fact nothing more than really strong doses of sleeping pills! The ship was a bit quieter that afternoon.

Also, on the second day we passed a shipwreck which looked particularly eery in the mist...

The third day saw beautiful weather, with no wind or cloud and we spent most of the day on deck (needless to say, Kat is sunburnt again!) playing cards and just enjoying the weather (and finishing what was left of the drinks supplies).

The final evening saw the famous (or should that be infamous) Patagonion Bingo night (more accurately - bingo 'hour'). Due to a mix up between Matt's minisculo knowledge of bingo and Kat thinking he'd won and encouraging him to shout out, Matt yelled "Bingo" enthusiastically skipped his way to the front of the bar, only to be informed by the bingo caller (over the loudspeaker, so all the passengers could hear) that it wasn't sufficient just to get one of the numbers, and that in fact an entire line was required... "Boo" were the calls from the crowd, red was Matts face. 

In fact the really funny thing was that the Canadian lady next to us had just finished telling is a story about how in her Bingo hall back home, they gave dunces hats to people who didn´t understand how to play..."I got it yells Matt" - unfortunately we didn´t have a Dunce hat to hand, but were in hysterics for muchos time after! In fact, Kat broke out into sporadic uncontrollable spasms of laughter throughout the rest of the night.

We were in fact glad that we did not win any of the prizes, because it turned out that you had to pick a partner and dance with them in front of everyone before you could claim the prze - not sure a Navimag cap or t-shirt meant that much to us!!

Finally, it was a beautifully clear night, so the four of us wandered out onto deck to gaze at the Milky way, and since we're in the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross, Jewel Box, and some of the other constellations not visible from the Northern Hemisphere.

At 8am this morning we disembarked and have a bus to Pucon at 2pm. We should arrive around 8pm, at which point the search for accommodation begins again. Wish us luck!
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