Getting to the bottom of the world is tough, far and expensive. Getting there from the top of Argentina involves several 20-30 hour bus segments. We successfully avoided the first by flying from Mendoza to Bariloche since the cost was not much more. The next goal was to get from Bariloche down to El Calafate. That bus route is not well covered and we heard the scenery isn’t great. So we avoided that segment as well.
Just a short five hour bus ride across the border from Bariloche, Argentina is Puerto Montt, Chile. Puerto Montt is not known in traveler circles for much except being a docking port for Navimag ships…and here’s where we cut out the bus. Why bus when you can sail? It’s important to not have visions of Royal Caribbean in your head, though. They call Navimag’s Puerto Eden a ferry boat. It’s not fancy. There aren’t rock climbing walls, nor is there a casino. Just a sturdy, colorful ship that carries people, cars and trucks for 4 days and 3 nights through the Chilean Fjords.
After boarding we settled into our cabin which was bunk beds and a private bathroom. Luckily, the ship was only half full with just 72 passengers which meant Dusty and I didn’t have to share a room with others. Four people would have been tight. We spent the rest of the night exploring the boat and becoming acquainted with the other travelers.
Aside from one Canadian born lady who has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years, we were the only other Americans aboard. Most times people guessed that we were Canadian. When we told them we were from the States and traveling for 7 months, on more than one occasion we heard, “They let you out for that long!?” I guess our kind isn’t known for traveling longer than 2 weeks and if we are, we must be from California. They have heard of Ohio though….it’s that place with mountains and tons of potatoes.
Our ship guide, Percy, made several mentions about another of their ferries that was supposed to take this route but was replaced by Puerto Eden. They had a “stupid accident” he kept saying. Finally, he explained that the other ship had crashed into an island and was in dry dock now being repaired. The hole in the ship was big enough for a car to drive through. That made everyone feel comfy.
On the second night, with visions of boats crashing into islands, we were met with a storm while sailing through the rough waters of the Pacific. Dusty got a few hours of sleep while I didn’t get even a minute. The boat rocked back and forth and to and fro so severely that many of the passengers had to receive injections in order to stop vomiting. The next morning at breakfast, the rough seas continued and our meal felt like something out of a movie. Watch the horizon and listen closely to the sounds in the background.
Early on in the trip we were told that we had a particularly narrow passage ahead that could only be sailed during daylight hours. Since we were behind schedule, the captain wasn’t sure we could take that route. Unfortunately, it was the route that would take us by the glacier. Not only that, we had been having bad weather which was slowing us up even more. On the third day, we were told at the very last second when the captain had decided, that we would be making it to the glacier after all. We began our voyage through the narrow channels and made it to Glacier Pio XI just as it began to get dark and rain.
After the glacier sighting, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip. On the fourth day, we arrived in Puerto Natales, Chile. One step closer to the bottom of the world!
Cost: ranges from $350 to over $1000 USD, our cabin was $400 per person
Includes: Room and 3 meals per day
Alcohol: There is a bar aboard but many people just bring their own, which is “prohibited” but no one says a word about it
Duration: 4 days, 3 nights. Leaves in the afternoon on Day 1 and arrives mid-morning on Day 4
Review: Would do it again. It was quite different than what we would consider a typical cruise. That made it very interesting and worth the money.