Sunday, January 28, 2007

Logbook: Puerto Montt - Chilean Fjords

Puertomonttfjords1Thursday was a particularly good day because our port of call, Puerto Montt, is one of my favorite little cities. Set deep in Chile’s inland waterway, at the base of the Andes and at 41 degrees of latitude, Puerto Montt has the same kind of environment as all my favorite places -- Southeast Alaska, Newfoundland, the Shetland Islands and the South Island of New Zealand to name just a few. As a center for fishing, agriculture, hiking, tourism and other commercial activity, it has a lot going on and a fairly robust economy. It offers a pretty wide variety of activities, restaurants, shops, etc. without being pretentious, and it is clean, safe and friendly. To top this all off, it has many, many dogs and very, very hi-speed internet. In short, Puerto Montt is a perfect place for me -- assuming, of course, that it has a laundromat!

As soon as we docked on Thursday, I hit the streets and walked about a kilometer along the shore to the center of town. I found a tidy internet center and made full use of its completely stable, screaming fast, 4 megabit hi-speed pipe to do all the usual plus download about 10 gigs of media to enjoy during the long voyage between ports ahead. With my online stuff completed in an amazingly short period of time, I wandered around the streets and enjoyed the sights of street vendors, the sounds of street corner bands and the smells of fresh bread and fresh fish -- though thankfully not all in the same place at the same time! The day was mostly overcast with occasional mist but it started to pour down rain at one point and I ducked into a cheery little restaurant for a bite to eat. Thirty minutes later I was back on the prowl, checking out the hand crafts, comparing the many trekking and outdoor offerings and generally thinking what a nice place Puerto Montt could be to spend a season or two. The ship’s departure time came too soon and I felt my first twinge of reluctance to get back on board.

Puertomonttfjords2With a wave as we headed out of the harbor, I promised myself I would be back. That night we continued south and have spent the past two days cruising the Chilean Fjords. It is impossible to describe the Fjords, and almost so to capture them in pictures. Steep hills, rounded by glacial activity, come right down to the water with a backdrop of rough, ragged mountains behind them. From time to time we have passed other ships, but mostly have had the peaceful majesty to ourselves. Stopping at one of the several glaciers along our route, the captain dispatched a Zodiac to fetch some floating ice. To the amusement of everyone on board, the small craft with an intrepid crew of six braved the elements and succeeded in their assignment. In the evening, those of us who are drinkers -- which I believe is all of us -- had a small piece of thousand year old glacial ice in our cocktail. It has been a lovely and relaxing couple of days, and this evening we will enter the Straits of Macgellan -- now officially renamed. In the morning we will be making a port call at Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile and our last landing before crossing the southern seas to Antarctica. As my good friend Rob says, “The next starts now, or maybe sooner” on The Voyage of Macgellan!

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