Cruising the Chilean Fjords

And so we were off! Or not quite, as the first night on the boat it wasn’t going anywhere – it was remaining in port and setting off at around 8am the next day. Apparently there is a very narrow part of the journey that they are only allowed to go through at high tide and in daylight – so the exact departure time of the boat depends on this, and therefore varies a little.

We had a lovely clear night with not much wind, and so we hung around on the decks until it went dark.

Puerto Natales – as seen from the deck of the boat.

At around midnight, we went to bed and settled in for a good nights sleep. Or… NOT! Because in fact the ship would be loaded with cargo all through the night… OH DEAR. I can honestly say that it sounded like a football team running around with heavy metal chains and banging them constantly against the side of our cabin FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT – except for around 30 minutes – must have been the workers’ break or something….. So it was a terrible night’s sleep. Oh well… lots of coffee for us today!

The captain signals for the boat to be released – we are off!

The weather on the first day was very overcast, but not actually raining until late afternoon – so we had a lovely first day looking at the fjords and mountains – with the odd glacier or two as well. This first part of the journey was through very narrow channels, so we were always very close to land. Day 1 definitely had the best scenery.

A boat in the distance as we leave Puerto Natales
Cruising the narrow channels.
Another boat in the channels… and the weather is getting worse…

Percy told us that as soon as we rounded the corner that put us on the wrong side of the Andes, then there would definitely be some rain – as it rains nearly every day in this part of the world….

He also told us that this part of Chile is totally uninhabited – we would not see a single town or village for 24 hours – even in the far distance – just wilderness…..

Passing a glacier with a hole in it!
Patagonian fjord wilderness.
The weather is definitely wild and windy now….

We saw a bit of wildlife here and there – seabirds, some condors, dolphins a couple of times, and the odd sea-lion – generally in the distance and quite fleeting views even with binoculars!

This is the best dolphin picture that we could get..!

But all in all, it was an excellent day of watching the wilds of Patagonian Chile pass by. Unfortunately, due to the boat schedule – we would be arriving at the only stop on the whole trip – Puerto Edén – at 5am in the morning, when it would still be dark… BOO.. so we wouldn’t get to see what it looked like.

We met 3 South Africans on the boat who were getting off at Puerto Edén, and were going to kayak back to Puerto Natales?!?? I kid you not – I thought they were joking at first – but one of them was a navigator in the navy, and he had all the charts and plans with him. I asked them if they knew about other people who had actually done this, and they said that they were aware of ‘a few’, they had found on the internet.

So this is 4-5 weeks of kayaking in an area known for rain and storms, with absolutely no human settlement anywhere at all on the journey… bit of an undertaking! I found a website by someone who did it in 2016:

How to kayak from Puerto Edén to Puerto Natales….

Anyway – we were tucked up in bed when they got off the boat at Puerto Edén, and we awoke to better weather the next day. We spent the morning on deck again checking out the scenery, which looked a little less wild.

Blue skies ahead
The blue sky didn’t last long…
Passing a cargo ship.
Many layers of land.
This shipwreck has apparently been wedged on this rock for years and years – and shows no sign of being dislodged.

But, the big news of this day, was that this afternoon we would be going into the first stretch of open water – the Gulf of Penas – which means ‘Gulf of distress’ in English… Hmmm… We were warned that if we were prone to sea-sickness then we should take some sea-sickness medication…

Well, I’m not really sure if I am ‘prone’ or not – but I have been seasick before – and seeing as the ship doctor had some available, we went to get some. CC was quite worried about being seasick on this journey, so she was definitely going to get some!

At around 3pm it started to get pretty rough, and it was rough until around 6am the following morning… however… the pills were miracle pills!! We were both completely fine and spent the afternoon on deck bird-watching. The only challenge was carrying our hot drinks out to the deck – this had to be done one at time, so we had one hand free to hold onto the rails.

A lot of people were sick 🙁 Not sure if they had not taken a sea-sickness pill, or if they had taken a pill, and it just hadn’t worked for them… so many people were sick, they merged the two dinner sittings into one sitting as only around 50% of people actually ate dinner that night….

CC was so pleased, that she hunted the doctor down the next day to find out what the magic sea-sickness pill was. For the record, it was Dramamine

The advantage of the high winds, was that it meant that lots of seabirds followed the boat – slipstreaming as they went along – and we got some AMAZING views of HUGE albatrosses soaring right next to the boat 🙂

Southern Giant Petrel
Wandering albatross – juvenile
Another wandering albatross – juvenile

When we went to sleep that evening, the boat was still wildly rocking – and strangely we had the best night’s sleep on the boat so far!

The final day on the boat had the best weather, but because we were in the Gulf of Corcovado – a big open expanse of water – all the land was quite far away. Despite the good weather, there were lots of clouds all over the horizons – meaning that we didn’t get to see any of the volcanoes that we went past – ah well….

On this day, we mostly took pictures of clouds (yes, we do know how to entertain ourselves…), and looked out for whales, which live in this area (we didn’t see any whales – just lots of sea-lions)

Clouds on the horizon.
Ball cloud.

We arrived in Puerto Montt at around 1am, and the ship docked while we were in bed. Breakfast was at 7am, and disembarkation at 8.30am. We hung around on deck watching the ship be loaded while we were waiting to get off. The ship would be leaving again to go back to Puerto Natales at 4pm that same afternoon.

The ship is docked and ready to unload.
Trucks that have been loaded on to the ship.

And so that was it…. We were kind of sad to see it come to an end, but more of Chile awaited…..

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