Four days at sea on the Navimag ferry through Chile’s stunning Southern Patagonian Fjords anyone?
After a never-ending wait for the ferry due to delays because of bad weather and after a rough night’s sleep on the Navimag ferry, we finally sailed out of Puerto Natales around 07:30hrs. With breakfast served at 08:00 hrs, truly on our way now.
The initial sail saw us gliding along through some gorgeous scenery but the best was yet to come…
Life aboard Navimag
A little on life aboard the ferry…
Regardless of the vessel, typically, life on the water revolves around food, sleep, and scenery – and I doubt this trip will be different.
Meal times are understandably regimented and served three times per day. (Sleep and gazing at scenery times are not strict.) The food on the ferry is better than expected. Not exactly A-la-Carte dining, but very tasty and enough to satisfy any hunger, which the sea air tends to develop for you during those long hours at sea.
As it is out-of-season, this trip does not offer the usual activities, various walks, and ferry stops.
This trip does hold extremely informative scheduled lectures once a day delivered by Percy and Chris – Biologists, I believe. Both are excellent presenters and both know their stuff – very knowledgeable and passionate about all things Patagonian!
A downside is the fact that this ferry carts livestock from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, so the four days. This is not advertised anywhere on the Navimag site, nor are you advised of this when purchasing your ticket. I did mention this also in my last post: Waiting for the ever-elusive Navimag ferry in Puerto Natales, Chile!
What you can expect on this trip…
Incredible scenery followed by more spectacular scenery!
If the weather is kind during the four days, then expect a smooth sail. If not, then it’s going to be a rough trip for twelve hours or possibly more, once out into the Pacific Ocean.
If your trip is in Autumn like this one, then expect bitter freezing cold and windy weather.
Although sometimes it is hard to walk on the ferry’s decks, the cold is definitely worth it, even for short bursts. There is always a hot drink and warm cabin waiting for you inside – remember, you’re only here once.
Villa Puerto Edén
The stop is for a couple of hours only to drop off supplies at the Cilean hamlet of Villa Puerto Edén. Located in Wellington Island, this hamlet is home to the last Kawéshkar people (meaning ‘muscle eaters’ in Yaghan). Together with Easter Island and Villa Las Estrellas, Puerto Eden is considered to be one of Chile’s most isolated inhabited places. To give you an idea on how small this hamlet is, the population in the 2002 Census was 176 – I can’t find an updated number since this count.
Although I am very much looking forward to exploring the hamlet, albeit for a brief moment of a couple of hours, sadly, passengers didn’t get the opportunity.
The ferry arrived at Puerto Edén at around 05:00 hrs when we were all still asleep and only the shunting of supplies woke everyone up at about 06:00 hrs, which by this time, crew informed us it was too late. I’m not sure why the crew didn’t wake passengers as I know most wanted to walk around the hamlet. All we could do is admire the sheer beauty from the decks of the ferry…such a tease and disappointing as the scenery surrounding the hamlet is incredible and surreal!
The early morning’s low light revealed a thick fog that wisps and curls around the fjords and small houses, hugging everything in its path. Although this tiny fishing village is around 6,000 years’ old, the small number of inhabitants and the village is only reachable by boat. There are no roads in or out and no airport. Only pedestrian boardwalks connect houses and shops. This village is completely isolated. The people of Puerto Edén live here for free with the government paying for everything.
Puerto Edén is also reputed to receive the highest rainfall frequency in the world, with only Bahía Félix (further south), receiving the most rainfall in 1916 (Guinness World Records) and only eighteen days without rain in that year.
The ferry slid silently away, leaving Puerto Edén, without even a glimpse of a local in the village…apart from a few workers collecting supplies at this early hour.
Onwards and upwards
Snaking through the incredible fjords as the fog thickens above the pond-still icy water, feels as if we are gliding through clouds.
Trance-like and mystical…a feast for the eyes and camera.
The continuing day held this shrouded dreamlike backdrop for us strangers wandering through this wonderful part of Patagonia. It is as if the fog is wrapping itself around the ferry and drawing us into a cloak of mystic white. Totally captivating and beautiful.
With our tour guide Percy mentioning that he has never seen this passage so fogged whilst completing this passage 29 times this year, passengers realise that we are extremely lucky to be experiencing such great, but also unusual weather conditions…so far. The weather is fickle in these deep southern latitudes.
On our third day through the fjords, the changeable weather did indeed become changeable displaying a grey sky with much rain, and also freezing cold.
Apart from the desperate smokers that braved the unfriendly weather momentarily, most passengers stayed indoors all day. This change just makes you appreciate even more how truly lucky we are for experiencing the last two glorious days.
Arriving at Puerto Montt
On the fourth day you arrive at Pt. Montt around 04:30 hrs and crew start to unload the trucks at this time.
Unloading starts with livestock first (thank goodness), by which time cows and horses are pretty smelly, having lived in their own stench for four days. Not to mention our cabin is also smelly with the stench permeating through our ensuite vent and into our cabin – sickly on all accounts.
This is the aspect about this ferry trip I really don’t like or agree with and find this animal cruelty too much, especially as there is a road that can be used.
Like military precision, breakfast is served early today as everyone has to disembark by 08:00 hrs. I have to say, this trip has been organised well by Navimag.
The memorable four days has come to an end.
We all piled into the Navimag bus, which drove a couple of minutes to the Navimag office, still situated within the terminal. Shortest bus trip in South America yet, funny as! The Navimag office is where we purchased onward journey bus tickets to Pucón (CH$7,600).
Said our goodbyes and everyone went in different directions, continuing to new destinations…sad when you think about it, but hope to keep in contact with a few friends from the ferry.
Leaving Puerto Montt
Turning right at the terminal’s entrance and an easy walk of about 500 metres is the bus station. Here we sit and wait for the bus that will whisk us away (hopefully soon), on our next 6-hour short trip north to Pucón, by road this time…