Monday, April 14, 2008

On the Agua, Day I

Puerto Montt Not long after having my camera bag stolen a few weeks ago, I decided that I would abandon my idea of traveling throughout Patagonia with my own car. Between the expense and potential complexity of buying a car and now that I don't have a driver's license anymore, I decided to go the traditional route of taking buses and whatever other means I had at my disposal.

A few other travelers in Santiago told me about a ship that goes from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, and I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. So, I e-mailed the ship company—Navimag—reserved myself a spot, and gave them my VISA information.

The beauty of flexibility—I just saw a beautiful sunset with Puerto Montt in the foreground, and a couple stunning volcanoes of the Andes Mountains topping off the scene, with seagulls soaring on the winds in the middle of it all. I'm sitting on my bunk bed writing this post as I steam toward the depths of Patagonia on a Navimag ferry.

Volcán Osorno This morning, I got up at a lazy 9:00 A.M., showered, and had breakfast at the hotel in Puerto Montt. They served a glass of juice, coffee—for those who drink it—two slices of toast, one slice of cheese, one slice of ham, butter, and a couple types of spread for the toast. The e-mail I had received from Navimag said I needed to check in at 10:00 A.M., so that's what I did. I wish it had told me boarding time and departure time, but I went with what I had.

There were several other people checking in at the same time, all with backpacks, apparently on the same kind of trip through Latin America as I am. After checking in and receiving my ticket, I walked about a hundred meters to a different building where I could check in my backpack. That left me with just my shoulder bag so I could walk around town for a couple hours until reporting back to get on the ship at around 2:30.

While checking in my pack, I met Julie and Don from McMinnville, Oregon. They're a retired couple traveling for a few months through South America. They're somewhere between the typical older couple traveling in luxury and the younger traveler backpacking and roughing it. We left the baggage check in area together and began walking along the street to see some sights, but with my photo-snapping, we didn't stay together long.

I peeled off the main street that runs along the waterfront and took a side street that leads into a residential area. I walked uphill along this street for a block or two, then The bridge hung a left along an even steeper hill that led up to a ridge line. To get to the ridge, I walked up a set of stairs at the end of the steep street. The stairs let to another street that ran along the ridge. From there, I had an extraordinary view over Puerto Montt, the harbor, and the Andes in the background.

After heading back down, I found a peluqueria (barber shop/beauty salon) and went in to get a shave, as my whiskers had grown longer than I wanted to deal with, figuring they would just clog up my razor. I think the lady dealt more with women than men. After finally communicating to her that I wanted a shave, she went into the back and fiddled around for a few minutes. Beginning to worry, I asked her if she had shaving cream. She showed me her can of shaving cream which was clogged, then went back to fiddling, as though concocting her own shaving potion. Under my breath, I spoke the words to myself, "I'm scared," which I was. She said she was going to put hot water on my face, which she did with blobs of cotton. I guess she somehow figured hot water would be a good lubricant with which to slide the new razor blade across the skin on my face. Long story short, she was pretty careful and I got a halfway decent shave, but the skin on my face is a little irritated right now. It could've turned out much worse.

From there, I headed toward the supermarket to pick up some snack food for the voyage. On the way, I ran into three other travelers I had seen when checking in earlier. After getting my junk food, I met them for lunch. We each had a big bowl of soup and a bit of bread—a decent meal for around $3.

After checking back at the baggage check-in room at the port at around 2:30, we received a little speech about safety on the ship. Shortly thereafter, we all shuffled out to the ship. We stood on a large steel platform which rose to the next level of the ship—kind of like the aircraft elevators on aircraft carriers.

Eating dinner Shortly after settling into our rooms, we all gathered in the cafeteria to watch a safety video, first in Spanish, then English. Then the "cruise coordinator," Andrea, discussed the route we'd be taking and told us what we could expect to see along the way. She also told us when meals would be served. Breakfast will be from 8:00 to 9:00, lunch from 12:30 to 1:30, and dinner from 7:30 to 8:30.

The price I paid was $380, for a room with four beds and a private bathroom, and all meals—and, of course, moving me from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. This kind of room is a relatively small premium over rooms without a private bathroom.

After being dismissed from this meeting, I scrambled back to my room, grabbed my camera and a few lenses, and headed out onto the deck to get the light of the setting sun on the city and the mountains. Unfortunately, the ship departed a little bit late, so the sun didn't last long after we were let out of the safety briefing. Most of the seventy passengers were out on the multiple decks taking photos and enjoying the scenery. After about an hour-and-a-half out in the freezing winds, my hands were numb, but I had captured some amazing sights.

Now my hands are thawed and I'm typing at full speed. To close out this portion of this post, I will simply announce that it is 7:30 and I'm going to go eat!



Dinner consisted of salmon, mashed potatoes, juice, soup, a dinner roll, and fresh fruit (pear/peach), It was a surprisingly good meal, as I had read not to expect too much from the meals on this trip.

A while after dinner, they projected a movie onto a large screen located in the cafeteria/lounge area—Motorcycle Diaries—about Ernesto "Che" Guevera's road trip through South America. For a Commie, he seemed like a pretty nice guy.

It got very cold and windy outside after dinner, but the ship was quite cozy inside, and each room has a small heater for fine tuning your comfort. I'm a bit surprised how much the entire ship constantly vibrates. I guess it's not a cruise ship! I paid bottom dollar, so I shouldn't expect too much. Having said that, the bed was pretty comfortable and I slept well. One of my roommates did wake up at three in the morning when the ship began rocking and rolling a bit. She got up to take a seasickness pill. Overall, a good night.

Signing off for now. Stay tuned for the rest of the three-day tour.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Somehow I'm getting a mental picture of Johnny Depp in a scene from "Sweney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

After all, turistas do go missing on a regular basis in the wilds of the southern continent of the Americas (as Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro found out).

Nice to see that some of the natives are indeed friendly rather than avaracious (even if they have no working cans of Edge Gel).