OK, maybe I oversold it a bit when in my enthusiasm I pitched Julia the 3-day Patagonian ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, Chile as “the opportunity of a lifetime.” True, it’s not every day one finds the need to travel from the deep south of Patagonia to its deep middle via ship meandering Patagonian fjords, but still.
Actually, the point was almost moot, since we nearly missed the ferry. When their confirmation email said “6am departure,” what they really meant was “boarding ends at 8pm the night before and the ship departs at 4am.” What?! We were lucky to even find this out, and showed up well past 10pm, probably the last passengers to board the ferry, shuffled aboard between big rigs and assorted cargo.
NAVIMAG's Evangelistas ferry, docked at Puerto Natales, Chile
Far from a cruise ship in passenger comfort or luxury (but not in price), we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that, while it may be spartan, we would be regaled with a Patagonian water journey filled with sights of incredible awe and wonder. Until we woke up to this:
Not to be deterred by a minor setback, we figured we’d go above deck to get a better view. After 15 seconds or so, I noticed that I had lost Julia, who had fled to avoid to bitterly chill south polar winds:
And then the smell hit us. Before I explain, I should mention that I was woken up by mooing in the cabin next door (sounded like the person was 6 inches from me–actually, they were, plus a thin partition). Anyway, I thought I’d heard mooing during the night, but when I heard the woman next door mooing away, I hesitated to come to any theories or conclusions as to why. To each his own.
Until the smell. As we walked above deck, it hit us. Hard. Gagging and following my nose, I walked into the direction from which it emanated, and looked down to this:
This still didn’t explain my neighbor’s vigorous mooing, but it certainly explained the smell. Cattle trucks. Many of them. Or, to put it another way: sustainable manure-generating bins. Blech!
All seemed lost.
An iceberg field, fresh off a glacier (can you spot the rainbow?):
And an invitation to visit the bridge of the ship:
Darned cool. That, plus the meals were surprisingly tasty. And so at this point I thought all was good, that all would continue to be well. Such a silly notion.
Around noon on the second day the ferry entered what is called–and I kid you not–the Gulf of Pain. Fully exposed to the swells of the Pacific, the ferry moved to open ocean.
Now, I’m not going to exaggerate the swells here. They honestly didn’t look like much. But 18 hours of rocking sea motion caused even Julia, who’s previously spent 3 months on a sailboat, to retire to the cabin in full seasickness.
Everyone was green. Dinner, except for some folks with mutant bodies, was a nonevent. Laying in our small cots, rocking back and forth, and bemoaning our cruel fate.
Which ended just in time for breakfast, thank God. And a derelict ship, creepily home to thousands of birds:
And then, a day of beautiful sunshine and plentiful views of scenic Patagonian landscapes, with poetic sunsets dragging on deep into the evening:
The opportunity of a lifetime? But of course! 🙂
Julia’s Comments: Yes, it is true, Gabriel did tell me this ferry would be an opportunity of a lifetime. To forget about the cost (which was as much as a 5 star luxury cruise ship per day) because traveling up the fjords of Chile would be breathtakingly spectacular. So I thought, Ohh my gosh!!! Ok!!!
After the first 24 hours of staring at this:
And doing this:
I thought it was important to reaffirm to Gabriel just how amazing this opportunity of a lifetime was (every few hours). Out on deck, where there was zero visibility and it was 25 degrees, opportunity of a lifetime! Laying in the bunk beds of our 5ft by 8 ft cabin, I’d knock on the ceiling of my bunk to get his attention, opportunity of a lifetime!!! Here’s his expression after I mentioned it once:
Mostly I was concerned for the cows though. They had no room to move and had a whole boat of people cursing them for the overwhelming stench they cast on deck. Can cows get seasick???? I was pretty torn up about it, but Gabriel promised me they were taking them to a beautiful, endless pasture in the Chilean country side to roam freely for the rest of their lives. That made me feel better.
Overall, was it worth it? Most definitely. You know why? Because on the last night, there was BINGO!!!! The game where you almost win every single time. But seriously, I did almost win, every time. So did Gabriel:
It was just like a ferry tale.