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Published: March 5th 2007
Finally, the so much awaited trip on the boat was here. I checked in at the office of Navimag for a 4 day cruise in the Patagonian channels, south to Puerto Natales, and I had a day for myself in Puerto Montt. The city itself is quite a dive, with the shoreline filled with dirty looking sailor bars and shabby looking tourist hotels. I disappeared in a nice local restaurant where I spent the whole day reading my guide and a Spanish book. I was pretty much their only guest, and so the cook always invited me to the kitchen and pick my items, fish, spices, veggies, and then she made it for me, in front of my eyes.
In the afternoon I stocked on the food, pisco, and wine for the ship, and here I was, aboard! The boat itself was quite interesting, a massive aged ferry used primarily to haul goods to the south. I thought I would meet some cool people there. And didn’t I! Most people on the boat were, just like me, looking for an adventure and planning to hike in South Patagonia. Just an hour or so on the boat I heard someone
speaking about Czech football. It turned out that not only was he Czech, he was a good friend of my great friend from high school. It was quite surreal since Michal even knew my worst nicknames that I had not heard for ages. (I guess we can never quite escape from our past.) I also met there our future hiking companions - three German girls (Isa, Judith, and Tine) with whom I would later travel to Torres del Paine and Ushuaia, and a Chilean, Pedro, whom we would always make embarrassed talking about sheep and goats, speaking dirty in Spanish, and making comments about women (by end of the trip he was leading these discussions). It was like we had formed a village on the boat, and had a huge non-stop party for 4 days.
Besides the people, we had a spectacle everywhere we looked, in nature. Imagine navigating through hundreds of bays, channels, between islands, surrounded by mountains, glaciers. Most spectacular was the sky. One day, we saw a halo - a rainbow-like circle through half of the sky- a sunrise with a view on an abandoned old boat in the middle of the channel, and a bleeding-red
sunset that lasted forever. We saw cormorants, sea lions, dolphins playing in front of the boat. As with everything, there was a price for it. One evening we sailed in the open ocean - exciting waves, I though! My excitement diminished quickly when I was running down to the bathroom only to meet there my friends who also refused to take the seasickness pills.
One morning we woke up heading to the only inhabited bay between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales: Puerto Eden. It was first established as a meteorological station, but later served as a refuge for sailors and indigenous people. Sadly, today, there are no indigenous people left here, and really nowhere south of Puerto Montt, in whole Patagonia. They were hunted, died off from the diseases brought by Europeans, and the rest have assimilated. It is actually a sadly looking town, seemingly sitting there without a purpose now, alone in the hundreds of kilometers of wilderness around it…
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