Could be in the Alps

Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
Trip End Mar 19, 2006

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Into Chile

It seems like ages ago now but I was in Chile last week! After Ushuaia, I jumped in a short flight which I got as a special offer, and saved 12 hours on the bus and US$10!!! That got me as far as Punta Arenas, where I arrived in the airport with no Chilean Pesos and not a cash machine in sight. Anyhow, I bumped into 2 grumpy English guys who were heading towards the ferry too, and shared a taxi with them to the bus terminal with a stop at a cash machine on the way. Nelson, the taxi driver, whose English consisted of listing all of the famous English people he could think of (eg Pink Floyd! Rolling Stones! David Beckham! Margaret Thatcher!) didn't seem to mind, and eventually we got to a bus which was to take us to Puerto Natales. 3 hours later and here I was meeting up with Rebecca, and boarding the Navimag ferry the next day to head north. The hostel was nice, kind of haphazard, but they didn't mind us hanging around until 9pm on Thursday watching videos until we were allowed to get on the boat so that was good


All I really knew about the ferry before I got on was that it is mainly a freight ferry travelling the Chilean fjords (there aren't any roads), it was highly likely I would be sick during the part which crosses the open sea, the scenery is stunning and it was a good idea to take along some booze! So having stocked up at the supermarket, we presented ourselves for boarding and clambered on to find out bunks. We had batted our eyelashes at the chap at check in so were pleased to find that we had been given a 2 bunks kind of separated from the other 20 in our area, which were all in groups of 4, and we had our own little window! Hurrah! We spent the night in the port, and were due to sail at 6am on Friday. During the night there was lots of clanking as the freight was loaded, and then the mooooos started. So no question that there were a few bovine friends aboard too. By the thord day, we could really smell them, but once the cabin was aired out, the farmyard atmosphere subsided a little bit. The bunks had little curtains and were very cosy, in fact I slept better on the ferry than I have in quite a few hostels. We were kept entertained by talks on glaciation, the history of the area, movies and bingo!!

4 days passed really quickly, despite the fact that we had been warned that it could get quite boring. All our food was included so we trooped up to the dining room 3 times a day to sit in plastic garden furniture and eat bland but plentiful food, lots of soup and dodgy scrambled eggs. Most of the time about 20 minutes out on deck was enough to freeze our toes, but on the third day, we entered a really calm and windless part, it was quite nice outside so that was good. Then we started seeing a little bit of wildlife: penguins, a few dolphins and lots of comical seals. We had been told we might see a blue whale but that didn't happen. Acutally we had been told we would also get the chance to go ashore at Puerto Eden, a tiny remote community of 250 odd people, with the 7 remaining members of one of the indigenous peoples in Patagonia living there, but that didn't happen either. Despite good weather when we arrived, the people of the town didn't seem to want us to visit as they didn't come and get us in their boats. Our guide on board said it was maybe because they had drunk too much the night before..... Hmm not sure if the visit ever happens but never mind.

The scenery was really stunning through the whole trip. I'm really glad I got to see such a remote area, where barely any people ever go. The fjords were mainly calm and the surrounding mountains were beautiful, quite often shrouded in cloud but with amazing purple and grey colours and the odd waterfall in the distance. We turned out to be really lucky with the weather during the only bit that could have been unpleasant when we crossed out of the shelter of the fjords into the open sea. I took a tablet and was very chuffed that I wasn't sick! Apparently, the swells can be 10m high, but ours were only a puny 3-4m so mostly we were ok.

Over the Andes

Once we arrived in Puerto Montt, Rebecca, me and Christy and Andy, an Aussie couple, jumped on a bus to Bariloche, Argentina. We tootled over the Andes and messed about for a while at customs (very entertaining officials blatantly playing soliaire on the computer whilst we shuffled through getting our passports stamped). Eventally we arrived here in Bariloche, which is part of the lakes district here in Argentina. Its a pretty town, very touristy though, and very much like Swizerland or France, with the smowy mountains in the distance and clear lakes all around. Rebecca and I went to the posh Llao Llao hotel for coffee yesterday (although they didn't like the look of us at first we managed to get in eventally!). Then we went up on a chairlift to get a really good view of the surrounding area. Its really stunning to see all the different lakes at once and gives a really good idea of the whole area. Mostly today's agenda involves sampling the local chocolate and maybe even a fondue! Seriously, its very like Swizerland!

We're going to travel up to Mendoza tomorrow, a 19 hour bus journey, to get a bit warm (feel like I've been freezing for weeks) and visit some vinyards (yum!). So will update soon, hope you are all well, lots of love sfrom Sarah xxxxx
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