Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Patagonia from the Navimag Ferry

Chilean fjords
Chilean fjords

We spent three nights on the ferry, sailing through the Chilean fjords.
Chilean fjords
Chilean fjords  

As well as being a convenient way of travelling the over nine hundred km south from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, it is supposed to have some great views and the chance of seeing penguins and whales.  It is not a cheap trip, far from  it, so we were hoping that it would live up to its billing.

Life on the ship was fairly basic.  The food was set meals canteen style.  They were OK, but not great and tricky with my no fish and tomato requirements, especially the day when we had tomato soup, fish in tomato sauce and a tomato side salad.  I could eat the rice pudding and thankfully they did eventually find me an alternative main course.


From the Navimag bridge

We went along to one of the briefings about the route and the flora and fauna of Patagonia.  Not overly exciting, but it did help us to identify the brown and black browed albatrosses and the steamer duck that we saw later in the trip.  I rather liked the steamer duck.  It doesn't fly, but it crosses that water by turning its wings in circles through the water, propelling itself along like a paddle steamer.  We saw a couple and recognised them by this very distinctive and somewhat amusing way of moving.  

We generally tried to avoid the entertainment though.  After the karaoke the first night, we were treated to a film on the second night.  Still not quite sure what was going on in the film, but it isn't ideal when you're in the bar and want to chat.  
Puerto Eden

And the third night we had the dual delights of bingo and a party.  This was so good that we and our stalkers put on our fleeces gloves and hats and sat outside on the deck instead!  Though not before we'd seen that winning on the bingo meant a Pontins style ritual humiliation of having to get up and dance to some dodgy tune before you could claim your prize.    

 But the scenery was pretty good.  A lot of it was general hills and mountains, but every so often you would have a beautiful snow capped mountain range, or pass through a narrow channel with little islands.

 The main attraction though was the Pio XI glacier.
Pio XI glacier

We took a detour into a glacier lake to see the huge glacier that was creeping down through the mountains and gradually melting into the lake.  It is apparently the largest glacier in South America and is 1265 squared km.  We could only see the end of it, but it was still pretty impressive.  With a mix of white green and blue colours, it had little caves eating into it and little waterfalls where streams ran through it.  It did look amazing. 

Capitan Leonidas

We also passed the Capitan Leonidas which is a wrecked ship that ran aground in the 1970s and now sits abandoned and skeletal in the Messier Channel acting as a warning beacon and covered with birds.

Albatross (I think!)

We also managed to spot a bit of wildlife along the way.  As well as the brown and black browed albatrosses and the steamer ducks that I mentioned before, we saw evidence of minke whales as they blew water jets into the air, other whales, penguins, and dolphins.  None were especially good sightings, and we didn't really get any decent pictures, partly because we are expecting better opportunities later, so we thought we'd just watch for now.
Lots of birds

We made our way through the Last Hope Fjord, so called because a ship trying to find the Magellan Strait to sail from the Pacific to the Atlantic in 1557 had failed in all its previous attempts and this channel was their last hope. It wasn't the right place do they failed again and gave up.

However it was the right place for us, and we finally docked into Puerto Natales at seven pm, somewhat later than the advertised time of around midday, and made our way out through the bowels of the ship rather than having to wait while they unloaded the cargo.

Puerto Natales

Did the journey live up to it's expectations and price.  Well yes and no.  It was a good journey and we did see some nice scenery, and if this is the only chance you'll have to see scenery and wildlife like this then it is probably very good.

The Navimag Ferry

But it is really quite expensive, even if you take a dorm bunk, so whilst I would recommend the trip for itself, sadly I don't think it is good value for money.  But perhaps I would feel differently if we weren't in the lucky position of going to Antarctica later this year.


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