Cruising Chilean fjords with the Navimag & Cris!!
Trip Start Oct 01, 2007
99Trip End May 07, 2008
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The boat was late, the captain had a heart attack, the weather was cold and windy but what an amazing trip.
First things first... we had no opinion on this trip and pretty average expectations of what the food, accomodation etc would be like. It turned out too that the boat was delayed meaning we had to spend an extra night in Puerto Natales which we had gotten a little bored with 2 days earlier. But everything was about to get so much better and it started before we even got onboard. We arrived to the Navimag ferries offices on Thursday and spoke with one of the guys in the office about check in etc and out of curiosity we asked him what the best area of the C cabins (lowest class) were for our bunks. He replied "come back tomorrow and I will have a surprise for you" as he began typing something on the PC. SO we left excited as to what lay in store.
On Friday we got up and headed down to the terminal to check in our bags and get our boarding passes from the same guy still excited about the surprise and with no luggage on our backs we headed up the town again to get supplies for the trip. Supplies for us meant 6 litres of wine, 1 large bottle of vanilla absolut vodka and some snacks like crackers and chocolate. We found out that day that there are only two aisles in the supermarkets in Puerto Natales only ever really used by shoppers/backpackers. Aisle 1 containing all of the articles one would need to hike the mountains of Torres Del Paine and aisle 2, the drinks aisle used by all those boarding the ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. So here it was that we made the first of our encounters with Eamonn (from Kilkenny) and Edwina (from Oz). Of course it wasn`t hard to make out or spot those who were making the ferry trip with us as we walked around the streets before departure. They were mainly the people carrying large plastic bags with jingling bottles of Rum and vodka and wine. The booze cruise came to mind.
So after a brief few minutes in the departure lounge getting our briefing we were all dumped on board and our surprise was unveiled. It turned out to be the same class bunks in C but it was two bunks on their own with large window and a radiator. Most of the other bunks were in a layout of four and some didn`t have windows. So we were delighted and looking forward even more to spending 4 days onboard. 4 days in which we ate some great food like Hake, Salmon, Beef, Chicken, Lasagne, Spaghetti Bollocknaise ets etc. The food was much more than we expected it to be and the servings were more than enough. Sometimes too much in the case of the Salmon which would feed 3 people normally but nobody was complaining. The beds were really comfortable too and felt like you were in your own room as the bunks had curtains on them!
So over the four nights we gathered together a rowdy bunch. I feel they all need an introduction so as we can remember their names when looking back on photos. There was Eamonn (Kilkenny), Edwina (Oz), Richard (Wales), Ken (Dublin), Orla and Kierna (Cork), Patrick (Galway), Damo (Oz), Matt and Barbara (Oz), Angela and Vicky (Milton Keynes), Jeff and Heather (England and Scotland respectively) Barak (San Francisco) and a whole host of French, Germans and Americans including one dude who looked like Bill Murray (Chris) and told some of the funniest bullshit stories ever.
It was basically a huge pissup. The boat itself was the perfect place for it too. Large deck areas to smoke and dance and jump around and even a large chess board with 3 foot pieces up to your hip to play with. We were allowed to visit the bridge all day everyday, although not at night when the drink started flowing and they showed at least 2 films a day including Happy Feet which was very appropriate for the area we were in. The two guides on board were very nice and would call everybody in the morning over a speaker for breakfast "passajeros please,...for your attention...we thank you..."and give us info on the areas we were passing through. The scenery was beautiful and we even detoured off the main channels on the second day to get close to glaciar.
On the second night we were supposed to be headed out into rough seas but due to bad weather we were circling a large channel right into the early hours (or so we thought) before heading out. The thought of open seas didn`t faze any of the seven or so of us who stayed up drinking and singing and playing cards. The next morning we all awoke to find out that the captain of the ship had had a heart attack and we were now anchored about a kilometre off the shore of a small village where apparantly the captain had been brought to land in the early hours to be airlifted to hospital. We were anchored there until after midday until a new captain could be flown in. Such drama. It din`t bother anybody though. It meant another night on board and we were having such a great time anyhow. So off we sailed with our new captain to head for open sea this night.
The swells got bigger and bigger as we aproached the blunt force of the pacific and the boat was pounding through fairly big waves. Apparently there was gale force 7 winds and I would well believe it. But while everyone else was laid in bed durgged up with anti-motion sickness pills, where were the rest of us? Yep... we were in the bar playing a drinking game Ken showed us which had everybody laughing and falling all over the place for most of the night. When we weren`t playing the drinking game we were all up the front of the boat jumping as high as we could at the crest of each swell watching the boat drop about 6 feet under us until we would be ushered back to the bar by an apologetic memeber of staff. So we all survived that night and awoke to calmer seas with nothing less than a dry mouth. Although Damo and Richard woke up with sore knees and elbows after supermanning a few flights of stairs. It turns out that quite a few of those who abstained from the drink and took the pills were in and out of the toilets all night. There`s definitely an irony there.
The last night we were all looking forward to Bingo and entertainment with Christobal. Paul & Conny had told us to get front row seats for Christobal so we were eager to see him in full swing. He had played the first night too. (Paul we laughed our heads off thinking of you guys on the boat, haha, very funny and a great surprise!) After dinner everybody advanced upstairs to the bar with their rum, wine and vodkas and with their bingo cards in hand. And off went Christobal. A one man band with a keyboard playing some tunes we heard before and some we hadn`t but needless to say we all screamed and gave him a standing ovation at the end while shouting "Uno Mas, Uno Mas" (one more). He obliged us and played us out with Guantanamera. Check out the photo for the obligitory arm in the air when someone takes a photo of him! Cheestastic! And to compound the talents of this man it is important to note that he also dons the over-alls during the day and gets his hands dirty with all sorts of chores on board.
The rules of the bingo were easy. If you called bingo and you didn`t have bingo you had to dance for the crowd with no prize. If you didn`t dance for the crowd you were out of the game. If you did have bingo, you had to dance for the crowd before you recieved your prize. Simple eh. And of course who was the first prize winner...... Lou. Sweet. Off she went and danced her merry heart out for the chance to win a map of the Navimag Ferry`s route. A nice map at that and she danced amazingly well for it too. None of the robotics I would normally slag her about (he´s talking about you too Carol!!) So after all was won and lost in the bingo we had a disco and ended up all drinking once again into the wee hours singing and telling jokes. Connie we even got the disco ball that night!! Great! No VIP though! Easily the best 260 euro we have ever spent. Arriving in Puerto Montt felt like a downer after such a great time.