Monday, January 28, 2008

Chile: Navimag Across The Open Seas

Atencion Pasajeros! Retiring our hiking boots for awhile, we boarded the Navimag to ferry our way northward from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. Unbelievably, this is one of the most efficient ways to travel this stretch of Chile, as the land is a broken (and beautiful) mass of fjords, islands, and snowcapped peaks. Eric was a tad nervous, as just looking at pictures of boats often makes him queasy, but we stocked up on anti-nausea medicine and hit the decks for adventure. Eric nervously took his first sealegs pill within moments of boarding, claiming the boat was moving, despite the fact that we weren´t scheduled to depart until the next morning. Reports indicate, however, that he did not respond well to teasing on this issue. But happily, for the most part it was smooth sailing past glaciers and undeveloped mountain scenery. We glided past sea otters, dolphins, and even blue whales spouting in the far distance.

With bunk beds, a shared bathroom for 22 of us per dorm cabin, and a dining room that was the spitting image of a junior high cafeteria, it wasn´t exactly the Love Boat. Not that we expected it to be, since it´s mainly a cargo boat that now caters to the backpacking set. Evidently in the winter, the cow to human ratio is stacked firmly in the bovine´s favor. But when the sun was shining on the deck, it felt like a decadent cruise. We ran into a charming Dutch couple that we´d met in Torres del Paine, and we spent much of our time drinking wine and swapping tall tales with them, amidst the constant multi-lingual announcements letting you know everything from when to eat, when to take pictures, when to take seasickness pills, and when to use the bathroom (practically). Sometimes these announcements came on at full volume at 6:30am, followed by a lengthy interlude of new age underwater music, which made us grumpy.

Seeing the Amial Glacier was a highlight, and the crew sent a zodiac boat out into the water to collect ice for the bar. Classy. We easily became accustomed to lazy days with nothing to do but re-enact scenes from Titanic (without the sinking part), read, nap, and drink wine until the stars came out. Lovely. At times the boat felt like a floating bar full of adventurers with stories to tell. One of our favorites was the surfer blonde Canadian who wore a white linen suit to dinner (in the cafeteria) and a shark tooth around his neck and told exaggerated tales of his time in Borneo. His traveling partner was a long-haired German sporting a lumberjack shirt with the sleeves torn off that he met in the airport. They were a reality TV show waiting to happen. As they say on the Navimag (several times a day), for your attention, thank you very much.

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