The miracle of Puerto Montt!!

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February 14th 2013
Published: June 26th 2017
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Valparaiso to Puerto Montt

Today is February 14th, Valentines day. I was so chuffed. I had worked out all by my self that Valentines Day would occur when we were away. When Roisin woke up she was welcomed by a card and a heart shaped box of chocolates. OK not the most original of ideas but when you're celebrating this day 6,000 miles away it has to be the thought that counts. These chocolates could well have ended up in San Diego! And in my case, I was in the process of giving me a proverbial 'pat on the back' when Roisin leaned over to her bedside dresser, opened it and produced a card.

‘Happy Valentines Day Sweetie', she said. ‘The man hasn't brought your pressie yet.'

What man? What pressie?' I thought. Panic was starting to set in.‘ This can only mean one thing. That Roisin has gone and done it again by doing something thoughtful and more impressively – original!

We have noticed that our shower is only luke warm so I intended leaving a polite note for the cabin steward to get it sorted.

Maybe it's because we're using the shower at peak times', Roisin said.

‘Oh what?' I started, feeling sarcasm taking over, ‘so there is a giant emersion heater somewhere onboard and once all the hot water is used up we have to wait for the water to reheat?'

Ignoring my remark, Roisin said, ‘Well, while you're at it, ask for a couple of bath robes as well'.

Today we have anchored off shore at Puerto Montt. This is the first of three tender ports. That means there is either no facility for a large ocean going vessels to dock or the waters are too shallow to accommodate a cruise ship therefore all passengers are ferried ashore in one of several available lifeboats. We are in port from 07:00 to 17:00 so there is no hurry to go ashore. We have plenty of time. We are not booked on an official excursion so we waited until 09:00, when all the tours would be well on their way before going to breakfast.

Today there was a brisk 30kmh wind blowing so no shorts and t-shirt and a jacket was definitely required.

Puerto Montt lies the end of the Pan American highway. Depending on your perspective, Puerto Montt could also be situated at the beginning!!

The town was founded on February 12, 1853, after government-sponsored immigration from Germany that began in 1848 populated the region and integrated it politically to the rest of the country. It was named after Manuel Montt, President of Chile between 1851 and 1861, who set in motion the German immigration.

The Lonely Planet Guide gives Puerto Montt a far from glowing report stating the locals refer to this town as Muerto Montt (meaning Dead Montt) It's most redeeming feature is that it offers a lot of exit points!! Not wanting to judge a book by its cover, we headed for deck 4 to catrch the next tender.

We made it ashore after a brief 5-minute journey and followed the arrows through to a small customs hall where our bags were searched. The Chileans are very strict on bringing food in to the country so a declaration has to be completed and carried with you at all times.

Outside the customs hall, some stevedores were struggling with makeshift barriers and the wind seemed to be winning. One of the stevedores, stood out from his colleagues as he was wearing a ‘gold' hard hat. Now my theory is that either his mates have played a prank on him by painting his yellow hat gold or having done 30 years working for the Chilean Dockers he had been presented with a gold hard hat for his continued hard work and dedication. To be honest, he was just standing there so didn't look very dedicated to me. I think the prank theory is favourite!!!

Leaving the stevedores to battle on, we approached the narrow exit gate where we were greeted by the usual plethora of cab drivers elbowing each other for the best position. They all held ring binders, open at a page showing snaps of tours they had on offer.

‘Taxi?' One man said to us.

I looked at the taxi then turned my gaze back to him ‘I know!!' I said as we continued walking, turning left on to the Corniche.

Thank you Lesley Neilsen for keeping this ‘one liner' alive and as fresh as the first day it was used in Police Squad almost 30 years ago!!!

Walking along the coast road it was becoming increasingly surreal to see Spanish road and street names sitting in front of structures that looks as if they're straight out of the Black Forest. It's estimated that 20,000 Germans arrived here in hopes of starting a new life. The legacy still remains with establishments such as the Dresden and the Salzburg bars.

In the short time we have been in South America, I have noticed that the mentality seem to be if there is a hill, stick something on top of it!! Probably the best known is Christ the Redeemer in Rio but whether it is Santiago, Valparaiso or even Puerto Montt, focus on the nearest hill and there will be a statue, building, pole or a cross atop.

Studying the tourist map we had been provided with, I noticed a church ‘Mirador' on Isla Tenglo. A cross marked the spot. Roisin was first to spy this rising in the distance. A cross marks the spot, literally!! Before us we saw a church on top of a headland with what was the biggest (in proportion to the church) cross we had ever seen. The cross was at least 5 times bigger than the church!! This must have been a very ambitious project in its day or else the building plans became smudged. It should have been a 5-foot high cross. The 5 became a ‘3' and two coffee stains made this look like ‘300'…. easily done!!!

At the end of the Corniche or promenade, is the Plaza de Armas (seems to be a popular name for a square!!). Here we entered the Iglesas Cathedral. This cathedral is the oldest building in Puerto Montt being finished in 1856 and built entirely out of Alcerce.

On the wall of this small cathedral hung a cross-shaped painting of the last days of Christ with Mary ‘what's-her-name' looking on. The image was about 15 foot tall and towered above the alter. A very strange thing happened next. We have no explanation but as soon as Roisin took a photo of this very striking and powerful image, a message appeared on the LED display' ‘Blink detected!!!' Not quite stigmata or the experience of Saint Bernadette. Nevertheless, could this be a sign??!

Like Valparaiso, there are many stray dogs roaming freely on the streets. All the dogs are unperturbed by humans and content in just going about doing their own thing, as do the humans!! A perfect example of 2 species living side by side in harmony. We have noticed however, a distinct lack of the feline species present in Chile! Perhaps that's why the dogs appear so content!!!

Along the waterfront we passed 5 plinths with the busts of 5 (I assume) famous people thereon. Of course, our old friend Bernardo O'Higgins was the centrepiece. The inscription below read: ‘Libertador. Bernado O'Higgins del Instituto Bernardo O'Higginsiado de Chile' O'HIGGINSADO?? Nice try but that still sounds about as Spanish as John Constable was actually in the Police Force!!!

Puerto Montt has many similarities with Izmir in Turkey. Both have a Corniche or Promenade that follows the curvature of the bay. Both have a square at the far end of the prom complete with a place of worship. (Puerto Montt has a church whilst Izmir has a mosque.) Both have a gym al fresco and both towns have one person using said gym at the time of our visit!!!

We made a detour via the bus station. This was a very busy thoroughfare with many young back packers queuing at ‘Informacion' or just hanging around, sitting on their back packs having used Puerto Montt as a ‘stop over' before heading on their way that will take them further into the lake district or North toward the countries capital.

Referring back to the ‘Lonely Planet' Guide it states that Puerto Montt doesn't offer much for lingering – it's really a large transit town. From our experience with the bus station, the statement appeared true enough. We decided we had also lingered long enough and started walking in the direction of the pier where a tender was waiting to take us back to the ship.

Back on board, we headed to our cabin before grabbing a bite to eat.

‘The man's still not been with your pressie', said Roisin.

What man? What pressie?' Panic had now turned to paranoia!!

For some hours now I had felt a little below par. My whole body ached. Every time I heard a creak I couldn't distinguish if it was the ship or my bones!! However, the show must go on and we ventured down to Explorers lounge for the afternoon session of Trivia.

My favourite question was: ‘What's at the epicentre of the spot where the Hiroshima atom bomb was dropped?'

A bloody big crater was not the answer!!! To my relief Roisin had made an educated guess and had written ‘A Peace Memorial'.

This question was one of fourteen we got right. The winners (again) got 20/20. There is something fishy definitely going on here. They couldn't be cheating because you'd at least get one wrong to curb all those doubters! They even knew how many islands make up Hong Kong (235). Considering we overheard one of the team talking to an Argentinian lady and this team member said. ‘Isn't that the other side of the Andes??' This is not the response I would have expected from a team who know that both a Giraffe and a mouse have 7 neck bones!! As they sit in the same spot every session, we'll be moving closer to them next time. And before any of you say it, don't "it's only a game me!" They don't obviously think so!!

Back in our cabin I had to rest my eyes, I was starting to feel the cold (which wasn't a good sign.) 10 minutes after crawling under the duvet a ‘tap, tap' came at the door. I jumped out of bed and opened it.

There before me stood a steward, bud vase in hand and within the vase protruded a single red rose, the most vivid red I have ever seen. I took the rose and read the card that was clipped to the stem of the flower. The message is not for publication and will remain between the giver and the receiver!!!

My bones suddenly stopped aching and I began to felt so much better. I cast my mind back to the incident in the Cathedral. From now on, this moment shall be known as ‘the power of the blink!!!'

Today was our first experience of the Elite/Platinum lounge. This is a service between 5-7pm every evening and offers hors d'oevres with discounted drinks. The soiree takes place in Skywalkers Lounge situated on deck 18, aft. The Lounge is bolted on to the aft deck like an aerofoil on a 1970s Ford Capri! The Grand Princess had Skywalkers removed during its last refit and with it went some of its character. Skywalkers is connected to the rest of the ship by a moving walk way.

The cocktail of the day was a ‘Chairman of the Board'. As this is the closest I am likely to get to this position, I ordered one. It is a cocktail made from Grey Goose Vodka, Bombay Gin and Cointreu. Not a cordial or fruit juice in sight. That's my kind of cocktail!!!

I don't want to teach my grandmother etc…but those readers who haven't worked it out, double click on a photo to enlarge then use the right and left arrows to navigate through the photo album. I find it easier than trying to squint at the thumbnail photos!

We both have a great respect for Captain McBain, as he seems to take pride in his job. He makes an announcement every few hours with an update on the weather and what we can expect in the coming days. It would be easy for him to leave this to one of his subordinates but we admire him for taking his responsibilities seriously. He could, of course be buttering us up for when the disappointment of missing the Falklands finally arrives!!!

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