Several months ago, when planning for their trip to Chile,
my parents booked a boat trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. Its a
4-day/3-night excursion on a ferry/passenger line, the route zigzagging through the
islands, fjords, and channels of southern Chile. Many overlanders who travel down to
Tierra del Fuego / Ushuaia utilize the ferry, either to avoid the 2,000kms of gravel roads
through Patagonias Ruta 40, for their return north after driving south, or just for
the scenic views.
The cost for a 2-person AAA cabin is $1,584 ($792/pp). The cost for an AA cabin (4
person) is $1,592 ($398/pp), basically the same total cost! My father offered to treat us
to this trip, as it would cost my parents would save $4.00, and enjoy the time with us.
Three squares are included in all pricing, and either above option offers travellers a
private bath and window. The difference is the AAA cabin has one set of bunks, a small
desk, and small sofa, while the AA cabin fills its interior with two sets or bunks. There
are also "A" cabins for $345/pp which are 4 person berths without window and
shared toilet, or dormitory rooms with 22 bunks for $297/pp. Motorcycles are an additional
$44 each. All pricing is one-way. There are 2 ships which sail round trip every week,
allowing for 2 trips a week, in either direction.
Monday, Feb 18th: We woke early at Hospedaje Rocco, had breakfast, packed
our gear for the trip, and left the non-essentials (motorbike stuff) behind. My parents
had spent the night further north in Fruitillar, a lovely town 45 minutes north that they
had visited years before. We traipsed our gear down to the port, checked in, and were told
our luggage would be in our cabin when we boarded later in the evening. We had some time
to kill before boarding at 6pm, but knew how to fill the time usefully we went into
town to gather some extra supplies for the boat trip: Fruit, Cookies, Chocolate, Water,
Wine (5 bottles worth), and a bottle of Tequila. It is not uncommon to pay a premium for
these items on a ship at sea (lack of a competing supplier on board), so we decided it was
best to stock up on these important items.
Mom & dad also needed to use an Internet café, to tell their friends they were
still alive, and brag a bit about being in southern Chile. They each got their own
machine, and pounded away at the keys until Erin and I were forced to drag them away from
the screens they were like children watching Saturday morning cartoons!
We reported back to the Navimag offices/pier for the 6:00pm briefing/introduction,
after which we were allowed to board our ship, the newly refurbished SS Magallanes. She
carried 2 floors for vehicles only, of several dozen truck trailers each, plus about 30
cars, and has additional decks with sleeping capacity for 300 passengers, a cafeteria, and
bar. Most of the foot passengers are foreign tourists (North American, European,
Asia-Pacific) heading to Torres del Paine National Park for views of the Glaciers and some
of the best trekking on earth. Carrying our hoard from the supermarket, I thought we
looked like a group of refugees, carrying our heavy possessions in plastic bags. We found
cabin 228, a 4-person closet with a large window that was sealed closed, small private
bath (with shower), some locking storage, and stale air.
Shortly before 7:00pm, we had all our gear properly stored in our cabin, although it
things went much smoother with 2 people fussing about at a time while the other 2 stood in
the hall. We were one hour from departing, and 2 hours from sunset. We made our way to the
top deck, where we poured some celebratory cocktails and began to relax as we gazed into
the clear late-day sky.
The ship pulled away from the pier only a few minutes after 8:00pm a minor
miracle in Chilean tardiness. Most things in Chile, and the rest of South America begin
late. Its a common theme, and not one to get excited or agitated by.
Dinner was adequate (as all the meals would be) very similar to high-school
cafeteria food, with proper nutrition, quantity, and a faint semblance of taste. It was no
better, and no worse.
Tuesday, Feb 19th: We all slept well, and woke just before the 8:00am
breakfast bell. The four of us rolled out of our bunks, surprised at how well we all
slept! After breakfast, we headed to the upper decks, found seating, and sat for hours
soaking in the fjords, snow covered volcanoes, and glaciers. If youve
visited/enjoyed the fjords of Norway and/or New Zealand, you will be impressed with this
Around 3pm we arrived in Puerto Chacabuco where we landed for 90 minutes while some
passengers and cargo were off-loaded. We were free to wander around the small, nondescript
town, which most of us did, simply to stretch our legs. For motorbikers travelling north
from Tierra del Fuego who dont want to ride on the more difficult parts of Ruta 40,
this would be a good place to travel get off (rather than continuing to Puerto Montt). It
is at the bottom of the Camino Austral, just north of Coyhaique. The views and roads to
the north are gravel, but very easy and well worth the wonderful scenery!
Before retiring for bed, we had to take a few precautions for the upcoming journey in
the open sea of Golfo de Penas ~ we were warned to expect heavy seas and a very rocky
boat. We all took some Dramamine (which helped), and mom even brought the little
wristbands (which also helped). Fearing it wouldnt be enough, we had a few drinks
earlier in the evening, just to be sure J I woke a few times
in the middle of the night to the rolling of our ship, but managed to close my eyes and
fall back asleep almost instantly.
Wednesday, Feb 20th: Waking just before 8:00am, we all felt pretty good.
That is, until we got out of our beds the rocking is very soothing when sleeping at
night, but trying to get to the toilet I felt like I had just drank several large beers in
the last hour. We all bounced off the walls, literally, until about 10:00am when the boat
found its way back into the calmer waters of the protected Messier Channel.
We went through several beautiful fjords and channels, encountering seals, many types
of birds, and we even spotted a pair of small whales of the port side in the late
afternoon. They were about 150meters away, but we could clearly see the spouts of water
each time their airholes broke the surface.
Just before dinner, we encountered a large white object floating in our path. From a
distance it looked like a power boat, but as we got closer, its true form came
apparent it was a piece of an iceberg! The captain brought the bow right up to the
edge of this chunk as all the passengers gawked over the leading edges. We were stopped
with the iceberg bumping lightly against our bow. After sufficient "happy snaps"
were taken, we nudged the berg out of our way and continued down the spectacular channel.
Another beautiful sunset was spent sitting on deck, staring, enjoying the peace and the
Thursday, Feb 21st: The buzzer sounded just after 7:00am, and we were
instructed to get on deck if we want to see the famous Torres del Paine
stone/mountain pillars. The sun was barely up, the clouds were low, the air was cold, and
the wind was strong We were freezing, but the views were spectacular, forcing us to
loiter on the outer decks in the cold wind.
After breakfast we returned to our cabin to pack our belongings, and we reached the
dock just after 10:00am. The friendly staff was there to bid us farewell and wish us well
as we made our way off the ship. On our way off the pier, we stopped for a final photo in
front of the ship, grateful for the journey and wonderful memories.
To book a trip on Navimag or elswhere in the region: www.Travellers.cl For more information on