We've been Sailing with a Cargo Full of ...

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Monday, January 2, 2012

.... Love and Devotion

So onto our four day trip aboard the Navimag. This is a ferry service from Puerto Montt south to Puerto Natales covering about 700 miles. The coastline of Chilean Patagonia extends for some thousand miles along endless fjords, desolate channels and uninhabited islands that are covered by virgin temperate rainforest and overlooked by the snow-capped peaks of unnamed mountains that stand above the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields. There are no roads in this part of Chile. The only way to get to Southern Patagonia is either to go into Argentina and down the Ruta 40 (famous road that goes all the way from the north to the south of the country – bit like the M1 but with stunning scenery and no Watford Gap services), or by boat.

Before we boarded we headed off to the Supermarket to get a few essentials for the journey – red wine and cheesy puffs. I was extremely taken by the supermarket as it's called 'Bigger’ (even took a photo much to H’s dismay). I think they should bring it to the UK.

So the ship – let’s just say this isn’t a cruise liner, it’s not even the Pride of Dover, It’s just like being on a the Isle of Wight Ferry for four days. It’s basically a cargo ship which has some space for people as well. So you are travelling with huge containers, trucks and apparently in the winter there’s even livestock on board. There is a bar, a restauarant that is more like a school canteen (and food that tastes like it’s from the school canteen). We paid for a cabin to ourselves which is four beds and an ensuite bathroom. Heaven knows how we would have coped with another two people in there with us. You couldn’t swing a cat.

We left Puerto Montt at about 2.30 in the afternoon. Past the seafront with activities such as zorbing and hobby horses. A strange town really – it’s like a cross between Southend and Dover with the odd really nice bit, like the colourful wooden houses. We had a safety briefing. Apparently they do not have enough life boats for everyone so if you do have your Gold Award in Life Saving you have to swim for it (no your 10m swimming badge is not sufficient). But before you do you must pop to your cabin, take your shoes off, put on your pyjamas and jump in trying to reach the brick. Once you have retrieved the brick you must swim for shore, but half way across you must turn your pyjama top into a float and tread water for ten minutes. We also were introduced to the crew and the two guides who would do special talks and the announcements. One looked like Anthony Worrell Thompson and the other was like Silvio Berlusconi -so we had every faith, both a couple of crooks - although we might get a nice soufle. Every couple of hours or so the public address system would crackle into life and you would get information about the day, where we actually were and whether cabins ending with an odd or an even number would be first to be allowed to go to dinner.

Then there are activities on the boat. Unfortunately Jane McDonald was not onboard (she’s currently appearing at the Potters Leisure Resort in Great Yarmouth) to give us a talk on ‘How I made it from the Cruise to become a  Loose Woman’ followed by songs from the show of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Instead  there was a seminar on ‘The Fauna of Patagonia’. I was already happily settled in the bar watching One Tree Hill but Helen went along and apparently it was an hour of pictures of birds and a very interesting tale of how dangerous it is to close to a beaver. Then there was the one on ‘The Flora of Patagonia’ (it's got plants like Britain - funny that as we at a similar latitude) –  Didn’t go to that one either (How I Met Your Mother and a beer) and one of Glaciology (New Years Day).

On deck there is a checker board painted out so people can play chess and draughts. No coyts though and certainly no swimming pool or jacuzzi. There are also some really uncomfortable benches. So most people sat either in their bar, or in the canteen reading or having a chat. Everyone now and again there would be an announcement over the tannoy and everyone would run outside to see the view. We did get to see some dolphins but no whales (we were promised them though). Me and Helen did actually come up with the cunning plan - in the event of there being no comfy seats left in the bar area - all you had to do was shout Whales - and everyone woul run outside - and you would get a seat. Yes I know - genius !!

There were two hundred other passengers on board, all ages, all backgrounds, all tourists. Most people are very outdoorsy. Everyone is decked out in goretex  (well apart from Helen and one women in a lovely flowing white dress and high heels). Cotswold could shoot their latest catalogue on board. Also half the people have big SLR cameras. Finally I am back with my kind !! This was a people-watcher’s paradise. It was fascinating because on the ferry there was time to watch relationships develop and personalities emerge. It was like a social experiment in which you put 200 people from all over the world into a confined area for four days (including new years eve just to add a new dimension). Forget Big Brother – this should be the new reality (is there actually reality in Big Brother anyway?) TV show. My favourite part was  the game of trying to work out which nationality everybody was. It’s great because you can determine the nationality of people by their brand of outdoor gear. The French are all in Millet, La Fuma and Quechua (or British if they’ve  been to Decathlon). The Germans and Swiss are in Mammut, the Americans are all in North Face and Mountain Hardware (people must think I’m American) and the Canadians in Mountain Co-Op.

So back to the cabin (these were no superior deluxe like the rest of my family travel in).  I decided to take the top bunk, I made an excuse that it was becasue I find it a bit claustrophobic on the botton bunk but it was more because there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of my getting my bag onto the top bunk. I was very proud of myself when with an element of gymnastic poise I managed to hoist myself up onto the bunk. It was like being a kid again. However, this all unravelled at 2 in the morning when I woke up needing the toilet and I realised I hadn’t the faintest idea about how I was going to get down. It was pitch black, Helen was asleep and I couldn’t get onto the ladder. Finally after 10 minutes and with no gymnastic poise whatsoever I managed to somehow get off  (I did work out a far better dismount in the morning – even managed a double somersault with pike as I came down, oh and one of those put your arms in the air and stick your chest out bits at the end – Beth Tweddle eat your heart out, 2012 olympics here I come !! - was going to do syncronised swimming but might change my event now).

So the ship basically sails through the Chilean fjords, however there is a small section where it needs to head out to sea. This is pretty much on the second night of the journey – which happened to coincide with New Year’s Eve. The weather deteriorated and around 4.30pm we headed out to sea for 10 hours. The boat was already pretty isolated anyway as we had no internet or mobile phone reception (probably for the best on New Years Eve – at least I wouldn’t bankrupt myself by texting and ringing everyone), but heading out into the Pacific made it even more isolated. This was going to be a very strange way to see in the New Year. To be honest I wasn’t feeling much like celebrating the new year. It’s always a weird night and I always have a tendency to get a bit reflective, when actually it’s no different from any other night. Last new years eve I was all full of the excitement (and completely petrified) of the year to come. I remember chatting to Kathy and Paul about it all (and look what’s happened to them in the last 12 months – Kathy is about to give birth). 2011 was the year I was going to quit the job, sell the house and head off travelling. I had a plan to get myself of all the things that weren’t right anymore in my life (no not you all of course).  But 2012 is where it get’s really scary.– I have the travelling bit pretty much planned out and organised , it’s just the 1st of June that’s the problem.  Because I don’t have much of an answer as to what I will do then.  So many people I have met over the last couple of months have been so full of impressed by what I have done – but that was the easy bit – getting rid of what wasn’t right. A new year and here comes the tricky bit of coming back and starting again, finding somwhere to live (and where exactly in the country will it be) and getting a new job. I had managed it all so far (with a lot of help from family and friends) but did I have it in me to start again and make new things happen. So far I had just tidied up loose ends at work to pass it onto others and then dealt with estate agents and solicitors to sell the house. Then the travel - travelling is the easy bit for me, I’m pretty good at it, I can read a Lonely Planet and make a few bookings on the t'internet -The basically I am a good organiser. The problem is the rest of life that I can't book through expedia  – not my strongest point.  Could I really do it?

So after a bit of contemplation I decided to get a grip. It was time to fire up the cheesy tunes on the ipod, crack open a bottle of wine and off to try to find a bloke in a panda suit. So Helen and I had dinner with Jan. Jan is a German guy we had met who sold combined harvesters and tractors for a living. We had some wine and then headed up to the bar. At this stage it was pretty rough and the boat was moving up and down quite a bit. Helen was on the sea sickness pills but I decided to stick with my usual trick of ‘having a drinks and pushing on through’ (worked in the Galapagos). It was all pretty quiet in the bar as half the boat were either throwing up over the side or dying in their cabins. Helen had a chat with Copenhagan Gary about dry rot (I don't think it was a topic of conversation that Helen initiated) . Copenhagan Gary was originally from the UK but moved out to Denmark many years ago. So I started talking to a group of British, American and Canadian travellers who were playing some kind of slapping your hands on the table drinking game – I did join in,but I didn’t last long as like most drinking games the rules seemed to change every two minutes and I didn’t have the faintest idea on what I was meant to do.

Just before midnight the bar staff brought out some party hats and champagne. We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t have Big Ben bringing in the new year still have no idea if it’s the first bong or the last bong), but seeing as it had already happened 3 hours earlier in the UK (I did rasie a glass to you all at 9pm) and we were on a ship in the Pacific we had to settle for Gary from Manchester, who took it upon himself to start the countdown at sometime near to 12 and we all cheered in 2012.  At this point everyone seemed to perk up and the party kicked into action. All of a sudden the multi-nationality goretex gang found their dancing feet and the party got into full swing. Helen did comment the next morning that I had been doing my muppet dancing and every two minutes I would come trotting past with someone different on my arm. Muppet dancing ! I have no idea what she is talking about. I am famed for my smooth moves on the dance floor. And as for a different person on my arm every time I went past – I was just doing a public service by ensuring that everyone could stay upright in the adverse weather conditions - PLEAASE !

So New Years Day and everyone was feeling a bit jaded but a least we were out of the rough seas. Apparently at breakfast (never actually made it myself) they were giving back all the belongings that people had left behind the night before – it was hilarious as one bloke seemed to have left half his stuff. After lunch we had a stop at the only settlement between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales – a tiny fishing village called Puerto Eden. Pretty much everyone on the boat got off – not to see the village, but just for some change of scenery. Puerto Eden has a population of about 150 people and 200 dogs and it has a very small church. It is located south of the Penas Gulf and Puerto Edén's coasts were inhabited by predecessors of the Kawéskar people (no idea). It is accessible only by sea and the region uses a weekly transport boat to leave the land. The village has no road and only pedestrian boardwalks connecting housing and shops. I have no idea how people could live in such an isolated place. Later on in the day we saw our first major glacier. Glacier Pio XI is located in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, which is completely inaccessible except by boat.  Pio XI Glacier is as big as Santiago with a surface area of 1265 square kilometers. It is the largest glacier in the Patagonia Icefield. It is now about 64 km (40 mi) in length, and it is the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. It was an amazing sight and a pretty good way to start 2012. That night there was bingo but I refrained  - Helen came back very upset though. She thought she was going to win as she knew all of the bingo calls from playing with her family as a child (she is from near Wigan - and probably watched Bob’s Full House on a Saturday night – I think I was too busy watching Dusty Bin and Dempsey and Makepeace on the other side).

So onto Monday and we were finally getting off the boat for good. It had been an amazing journey sailing though the channels with mountains and volcanoes on either side. There was wonderful waterfalls and lush green forests and one of the world's largest glacier - oh and quite a lot of rain !! Just before we (well the crew – not me and Helen!! – imagine that !) arrived they had to navigate a very narrow section where there was only 8m to spare on the sides. The captain did an amazing job and we swear he actually upped the speed before we went through. When we arrived in Puerto Natales we had to wait 90 minutes for them to off load some cargo so we could get off and then it was off to dry land and time to get some washing done.
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Bill. on

Strange feelings of elation and despair at the same time. Please think of the present the future will come soon enough.

You have made a lot of family and friends extremely proud and jealous, especially me.

Your a really wonderful lady remember that.

Love Bill.

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way.

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends they're acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all


Well you seem to be having a really good time - having travelled on the Isle of Wight ferry (Red Funnel Service) it was nothing like the tug boat you were on!! but as you know i have come up in the world since then having been on a Caribbean cruise. Have got my apartment!! up for sale keep your fingers crossed. xx

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