But where are the cows? There's meant to be cows.....


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South America » Chile » O Higgins
February 14th 2018
Published: February 14th 2018
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So our cattle freighter day finally arrived. Didn't know whetherto wear my full milking maid costume but decided to leave it in my rucksack for later. We had to check in at a very posh Holiday Inn where the doorman took a look at us and wouldn't let us near the lift to the public rooms but ushered us up the stairs to where others in the same state as us were waiting. A mountain of rucksacks and interesting people awaited us. The actual boat was 15 km away so we boarded a bus for our trip to the freighter depot. Our cabin was 506 so 5 flights of steps to carry our stuff. Wonderful boat with about 85 passengers and freight. NO COWS. I thought we should ask for a refund.

We will pass down the coast of Chile protected from the Pacific by islands until around 3pm on Saturday when we would have to turn right and head for the open sea for a while. The water was very flat and we passed close to islands all of which were uninhabited. We were accompanied by Percy who was a larger than life man who knew a lot about flora and fauna and spoke the most amazing English.

The rest of the passengers are an interesting bunch. Hods of doctors of course (one of them told me that doctors are like God and like dust...everywhere) of every nation and lots of people heading for Torres del Paine like us. Quote from one lovely retired GP “I think I would die of starvation if I had to eat at your table very often” (meaning of course the Pete Lowe cross examination technique was in full flow). Anya and Gunter from Germany are here (we met them in Ancud, Chiloe), also an American doctor who is travelling permanently since retiring and his wife joins him occasionally. Funny thing to stop completely for 3 days – no exercise and just sitting on the deck watching the world go by.

Once we hit the open sea everything got very rolling. Sea sickness tabs were handed out by the staff but I had already hit the stugeron. Anya said that you needed something in your tummy so it had something to do so and she was right. We went to bed as the ship was still rolling but when we woke up we were back behind the islands for our continuing trip southward. Passed a shipwreck in a very narrow place apparently the location is just on the edge of a steeply sloping shelf and the captain had been trying to scupper the ship for the insurance money. But he scuppered it in the wrong place and now it serves as a lighthouse to warn others that this is NOT the deep place to scupper a ship.

Delivered some goodies to Puerto Eden which is the only inhabitation on the whole trip. There are 80 houses there and around 40 people living there, surviving on fishing and selling their catch via the twice weekly ferry (us). 11,000ml rain yes 11,000ml falls here and it rains 360 days a year so we did well to see anything at all. Some of the channels are very narrow and the ship had to be at then right point of the tide to get through. Not for a novice captain! There was intermittant sunshine throughout the voyage which was a bonus, but we didn’t see the glaciers we’d hoped for as they were behind the coastal hills.

We enjoyed watching the docking manoeuvres at Peurto Natales. This is a frontier town. Hoards of people toting rucksacks and boots. Torres mountains peeping through in the distance. The hot weather has brought unusual snowmelt which in turn has submerged one of the park access roads, leading to much scheming about how we get to our pre booked accommodation in the park. We’ve spent a few days here finalising trekking. Went to a great info talk about trekking in the park. It appears wind will be the main adversary and that we will treasure our walking poles. We move to a campsite tomorrow so are stocking up on food this afternoon and having an early night having polished off the bottle of decent local vino tinto. We had a useful planning session over veggie lunch and roughed out the next 2 weeks, realising that we need to start working backwards from our departure date!

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