Magellan Straits, Chile
We decided to splurge a chunk of our meager travel budget and catch the Navimag ferry along the coast of southern Chile. The journey began at Puerto Montt through island channels, including the Magellanes Islands. The journey was relatively calm except for about 24 hours when we needed to cross out into the ocean because the ferry is too big to pass through the narrow channels.
The passengers on our trip ranged from 20 to 80 years of age, the largest group being a Chilean mob with 10 of the loudest 60-year-old women ever heard on this planet. They must have practised their vocal ranges during movies, presentations and safety talks; their special talent was happily ignoring the poisoned stares directed their way.
Carlos and I quickly hooked up with three senoritas who became our sea mates as we bonded over the Chilean spirit, Pisco Sour, each night for the Happy Sour Hour. We glided through breathtaking scenery of dotted islands and jagged coastlines, scanning the horizon for elusive seals, dolphins and out-of-season whales.
One day we spotted a rocky outcrop covered in penguins, but I begrudgingly admit they were probably only seagulls. We were amazed at the fortitude of the flightless Steamer Ducks as we saw them miles from land, bobbing through the channel swells on their own. Between this scenery and wildlife spotting, we were well fed three times a day although cravings for pizza went unsatisfied. The only exercise we did get was doing laps around the ferry, to spot wildlife.
One of our crazy senoritas decided to photograph the sky in one thousand different moods. She succeeded admirably, although her friends and family back home may not appreciate the feat after they have looked at their 756th sky photo. Another mate on board was a dog Carlos named Bowsen. Bowsen wandered onto Navimag about four years ago and now makes every trip. The funny thing was that whenever the Navimag pulled into port, he trotted off into town by himself, and returned promptly the next day for departure, as though he could read the timetable.
Each night we cradled a good Chilean red and stood out on the deck in our winter clothes pretending we could not feel the cold. The rough ocean crossing night interrupted our usual evening activities. The sensible ones on board popped seasickness pills two hours early, whilst the not so sensible took theirs about two hours too late. The stupid and the brave did nothing and may have been responsible for most of the involuntary purging for the next twelve hours.
Being in the not-so-sensible category, I spent the night in bed, clutching my stomach as it swelled and twisted in sympathy with the ferry. Carlos sat upstairs tucking into his second helping of pasta. Our last night on board, the crew organised a Bingo game, something that ignited the competitive tigers in all of us. We scrambled to get our hands on a pile of bingo cards, especially when we saw the Chilean Mob had about six each. We cheered madly when the grand prize was won by Eric the Swede, and not by one of the Chilean Mob who had taken nearly every other prize.
A disco followed the Bingo game and we bounced around the floor drunkenly, creating traditional Aussie dances for those ignorant enough to trust us. The disco was closed two hours early, which may have been partly our fault, so we took our dance party outside onto the deck. After a few hours, Carlos and one of our senoritas were still awake. For the next two hours they amused themselves with the coastal signal lights, playing a ferocious game of “kick the can”. They then sang down into a pipe that led straight into the bridge. Their brilliant wit was not appreciated by the crew and after being threatened with the ferry jail, they tottered off to bed.
We finally arrived in Puerto Natales with all passengers still safely aboard. The trip was a fantastic experience but long enough. We tottered off into town on unsteady legs, keen to start our next adventure with lots of pizza.