Cruising the Chilean Fjords

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Dec 16, 2008

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Flag of Chile  , Patagonia,
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Chilean Patagonia is one of the wildest and most remote places left on the planet - and without roads, it is difficult to explore. 

I booked passage on the Navimag Ferry - four days cruising the chillean fjords, weaving between islands, skirting icebergs, and escourted by dolphins, whales, and sea lions. 

The ferry mostly carries backpackers, a few locals, vehicles, and supplies for the small fishing villages along the way.  

The best part of the journey was spending four days aboard a ferry with 160 backpackers who have nothing better to do than watch the scenry flow by, tell stories, play cards, drink chillean wine and pisco sours. 

The drinking part got me in a little trouble, though. We had to go out into the open Pacific for 12 hours and experience what 35MPH Patagonian winds do to open water.   

We were playing cards in the bar and working on a second bottle of wine when the cruise director announced in a monotone German accent "We will be entering the Pacific in 2 hours.  We advise everyone to take sea sickness medication now."

Reaching for my glass of wine, I confidently decided I've spent enough time on ships that I can handle anything the Pacific can dish and ignored the advice. 

The problem is that sea sickness pills knock me out - if I take one, I have about 20 minutes before slipping into an 8 hour coma.  Sure enough, within an hour of the announcement, half the people in the bar were asleep! - I wish I had thought to take a photo of dozens of people asleep on couches, curled up in chairs, and heads down on tables.  Many fell asleep, drink in hand...

On que, the ship started it's up and down motion and within an hour, we were rolling over 12 foot waves.  Between the combination of one too many glasses of wine, playing cards, and the rolling of our boat, I started to lose my confidence that everything was going to be OK.

The final blow was the spaghetti for dinner.  I took one look at my plate and just couldn't do it.  Spaghetti on open sea night is a sick joke...

I took the pill and slept for 12 hours.

Save those 12 hours on open seas, the ship stuck to the calm water in the narrow passages between mountains and the scenry was spectacular!  Dolphins would surf our wake, seals would swim by and check us out.  Condors circled above while icebergs floated by.

The bridge came to be the second most popular place to hang out - we had open access to the bridge and it was a nice, warm place to watch the captain maneuver through the fjords.  Every time it started to rain, everyone would dash for either the bar or the bridge. 

On day 3, we passed a glacier and the captain took us close to get a better view. 

Two of the crew were lowered in a zodiac and zipped out to get pick up a small iceburg, brought it back, cut it into chunks and the bar special that night was 10yr old scotch over 300yr old glacieral ice!

...It rained one night and my room had a leak.  Drip by drip, the water filled one of my inconveniently located waterproof shoes.  Everyone was giving me grief for wearing sandals out in the freezing weather.  I endured as long as possible, but  as my toes turned red I ran in to put on my wet shoe.  

The best part of the Navimag were the friends I made - by the end of the four days, there were 25 of us who got to be close, and most all of us were planning to hike in Torres del Paine National Park. 


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Where I stayed
Navimag Ferry

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