Sunday, March 16, 2014

Navimag & the Patagonian Fjords

One of the well-known routes through Patagonia is the Navimag Ferries, and indeed, after trekking through Patagonian mountainscapes, why not cruise through Patagonian fjords?

The Navimag ferries though, are not actually tourist passenger ferries. They were originally used for transportation of cattle and goods (and still is), and someone had a brilliant idea to capitalize on the demand from tourists to not just travel through the channels and fjords of Chile, but sightsee at the same time. There are two main routes : Puerto Montt - Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Montt - Puerto Natales, gateway to the famed Torres del Paine National Park. I took the reverse route from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt.

It was an interesting experience. As noted, this is not a usual cruise ship. The embarkation reminded me of an entry into a maximum security prison as we were bunched together, waiting for the huge cargo lift to bring us onto the cabin level. On the ship also, were of course the cattle, and I have to say, it's not everyday that you can have a view of glaciers and caged cattle all in the same scene. There had been complaints about the quality of the food onboard but I find it really quite exceptable. Yes, there were some meals that were pretty bland, but some were good. My main complaint is the lousy instant coffee. Also, different ships were used for the different routes (to-and-fro), so conditions of the food and rooms may be different!

Tourists waiting to go up to their cabins

Views of glaciers and cattle cargo hold

The scenery on the way was great of course, but weather plays a really important part. My 4D3N journey was rainy and misty almost all the way, which somewhat made the whole experience less than ideal. Still views of glaciers are always great! It has to be noted that the journey passes through the Gulf of Penas, an area open to the elements of the Pacific Ocean. Having weathered a total of 4 days through the Drake Passage to Antarctica, I embraced the entry into the gulf with smug confidence. That smugness was emphatically purged out of me as I joined the many who staggered to the toilet in retched misery. It was my first seasickness experience. Luckily it was only 10-12 hrs of passage, and for those on the northward route, most of it is through the night.

Detailed information on the Navimag ferries can be found on their website, and most guidebooks too. From 2-bedded cabins to 22-bed dorms (yes, tourists are part of the cattle!), I think it's a "cruise" like no other!

Puerto Eden, one of the coastal villages that the Navimag makes a stop
Misty and rainy weather for almost the whole part of my trip

Beautiful dawn light at my destination - Puerto Montt

No comments: