Monday, February 16, 2009
Monday, Feb 16th, Santiago
Monday, February 16th, Santiago
We’re in the Santiago Airport after our adventure on the Southern Coast of Chile. We only have an hour between planes, and I can’t count on wi-fi in the hotel in Calamas on the Atacama where we’ll be for the next five days. So, I hope to upload the photos taken over the last three days. They’re not spectacular, but they do help tell the story.
If so, however many I can get up (there are 193) will be at: Ferry in South Chile
Friday, February 14th
Today was a day to get re-accustomed to travel without a tour guide. Yesterday, we traveled by taxi and plane and bus and foot from Santiago to the Navimag ferry awaiting us in Puerto Natales. There are some photos, notably of deserts and a llama from the bus. Everything went smoothly, and we re-traced our steps south. We’re doing this because we’d like to see the coast of Chile up close. This ferry takes three days and four nights, and we just experienced the first night.
After dinner in Puerto Natales at one of the nicest family restaurants in the area, we boarded the ferry. The meal consisted of complimentary Pisco Sour, Chilean salad (lettuce, tomatoes, and onions) , salmon with white sauce, potatoes, and a local beer. It cost about $16. We walked to the port and the boarding room across the street from the ferry dock. Forty other passengers waited for the 9pm boarding, and milled about each trying to gain assurance they were in the right place, and had done all necessary to catch the ferry. With the exception of one Canadian couple, who complained that they couldn’t understand the broken English spoken in the desk staff announcements, all passed the time reading or nodding off.
Our first indication that Pat’s ticket decision would accord us special treatment came when the chief boat guide (Marcelo) announced that passengers in cabins 131-138 should please follow him to the ferry (we are in #132). Six of us got up and followed him through the waiting crowd, and were escorted across the street and up the gangplank, stairs, and into a guided tour of the ferry and to our cabins. We were AAA passengers, entitled to our own dining room (with chef and waitress), large rooms (with showers that you don’t have to pump yourself), and staff who seem to recognize us wherever we go. The rest followed 20 minutes later.
After departure at 6am, Cecilia served us fruit, toast, eggs (scrambled or fried), yogurt, coffee or tea, and a very cheerful disposition. One other couple from Switzerland joined us, rounding out the French, German, and US origins. Conversations are a patch of Spanish, French, and English, and the others seem to be very well-traveled.
The ferry has three decks. The first is cabins, first and second-class. Second is the main dining room, and more cabins. The third has a bar/lounge, bridge and bridge. We can visit the bridge during the day, and the instruments and crew are helpful in showing us where we are, and are going next.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the ferry, watching films in the main dining room, and photographing cloud-covered mountains and glaciers as we passed through narrow inlets at 12 knots. In the afternoon, the film was “Motorcycle Diaries”, a fictionalized period of Che’s life. The film of the evening was “Manchuka”, and I highly recommend it. Three youths in a Santiago private school during the time of Allende.
Saturday, February 14th
Saturday morning, we paid for a special excursion to a village on an Puerto Eden, a historic meteorological site and island of 160 native houses. We walked along a slippery wooden walkway around part of the island for an hour, passing residents selling their crafts. I slipped more than Pat, but managed to get a few good photos of local boats and unique flowers. Cecilia takes her mother ashore, and they pick mint and other Chilean plants.
After lunch (lots of fruit, salad, soup, wine, and good entrees – I’m going to eat more than usual), we are told to be sure to make sure our room wine bottles are secured, as the coming 24 hours will see us sail into the open sea for about twelve hours. I set my computer up in the lounge on a table, and play a slideshow of 1,000 photos from the area which I obtained from Glen Patterson. Quite a few passengers view it, as most are generally bored with the drab scenery outside. Slowly, we get to know some Americans traveling with us, and listen to the conversations of the others in mostly Spanish.
Dinner is a comedy of sliding plates, opening cabinets, and mutual support as Cecilia does her best to provide us with a meal. We hear one of the chefs has broken his arm in a spill. The film of the night is “My Big,Fat, Greek Wedding”,and we pass. The evening doesn’t go well with our sleeping. Fifteen foot waves rock the ferry, and it is later learned that the captain believes that if he’d had better weather reports, he would have stayed at Puerto Eden for the night.
Sunday, February 15th
Breakfast is delayed until we reach calmer waters, and most have had time to catch up on sleep. We hear that our arrival at Puerto Montt will be five or six hours later than expected, and we inquire if we can be first in line to get off. Our flight is at 1:30pm, and we still need to get to the airport. Of course, our AAA status gets us first disembarkation
We read in the lounge, and I catch a few audio clips of some musicians in the group. Also, Pat encourages me to get some wind and rain sounds. Lunch is very welcome, and consists of a beef, olive and egg empanada; tomato and avocado salad; steak, fried egg, and french fries, and ice cream with a merlot/syrah wine. We have a great conversation with our French friends (Andris and Christina) about their sailing experiences, and travels in this area. We mention our good fortune in Torres del Paine, and they inquire where we stayed. I retrieve our itinerary materials from the tour, and we loan it to them until dinner. They will return next year, and are very interested in the tour and the Hosteria Las Torres Hotel.
After lunch, we returned to the cabin to read and write. At 2:30pm, we listened to Marcel provide a talk on “Puerto Montt, Chiloe, and the Surrounding Area”. I have to remember that when a speaker asks the group if they know why a certain town is the most important town in the country - that the answer is “because I was born there”. It’s happened twice now, and Pat is sure they all learn that in guide school. The afternoon movies were outstanding, and were “The March of Penguins” and “My Favorite Enemy” (Chile-Argentina War in 1978).
This evening’s dinner was a hearty tomato soup, Chilean salad, salmon and mashed potatoes, a dessert of tuna (a kiwi-like fruit which grows on cactus) and grapes, and wine and coffee. We learned that the arrival time would be a more normal 10am tomorrow morning, and have expectations of making our flight after all. We’ll probably skip the “Only one in Patagonia Bingo” game followed by a dance until 2pm tonight in the Lounge. Our cabin is becoming quite cozy, and we have not much ambition to party on. Probably signs of real fuddy-duddy setting in.