The Navimag ferry to the Patagonia

It was Monday, May 23, 2011. Kayla, Javiera, Marnoch and I were all up early to catch buses and part ways after traveling together for the last 4 days. Javiera left the Nuevo Mundo hostel the earliest to catch her bus at 8:35 am to Puerto Montt to be in time for her afternoon flight back to Santiago. Kayla, Marnoch and I left for the bus station at 9 am. Marnoch and I boarded the 9:40 am bus to Puerto Montt, saying our last goodbyes to Kayla who would later leave by bus to Castro where she would spend more time exploring Isla Grande de Chiloe.
Having danced the night away, I slept the entire way back to Puerto Montt. Once Marnoch and I got there, we picked up the backpacking equipment that we left a few days earlier at the Casa Perla hostal, shook hands and then said our goodbyes. Marnoch would proceed north to Bariloche, while I would go south via the Navimag ferry to Puerto Natales in the Patagonia.

The Navimag goes through the Patagonian fjords and channels.

I boarded the Navimag at 4:30 am. Since it was low season, there was barely anyone on board. It was four Argentinian men, two British men, one British woman, and roughly 8 Chilenos. I was beginning to get worried that I would be bored out of my mind with hardly anyone to talk to for the 4-day/3-night voyage to the Patagonia. I wrote a few e-mails and downloaded a book on my Kindle just before the ferry set sail from Puerto Montt.

Behold, the Navimag ferry!

My highlights from the trip are as follows:

  • Making friends with the Argentinian film crew.  I definitely enjoyed their conversation.  Thank you, Gustavo M. L., Guillermo K., Gustavo J., and Vicente P.  Since I was alone, they were the first to invite me to sit with them during dinner and I ended up spending more time with them than with any of the other passengers.  They shared one of their Argentinian customs with me, the drinking of mate. It was also very interesting to see them at work on their documentary about Domingo Sarmiento, an historical Argentinian educator.

From left to right: Joey and the Argentinian film crew, Guillermo, Gustavo, Gustavo, and Vicente

Gustavo filming Guillermo, a.k.a. "Domingo Sarmiento"

Gustavo, the director

  • Making friends with the Brits, Darren, Deb, and Mark.  It always nice to be able to speak English at a normal pace.

From left to right: Joey and the Brits, Darren, Deb, and Mark

  • The food.  The Navimag served delicious steak, chicken, and fish.  I usually went up for seconds.  Gustavo joked that he could invite me to his house in Buenos Aires, but I wouldn’t be invited to dinner because I’d eat all his food.
  • The scenery.  As we ventured through the channels between the uninhabited islands, it felt like we were moving further and further from civilization – like in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Stanley Kubrick’s Apocalypse Now. The gray, winter sky added further to the eerie feeling.  The islands were truly beautiful though.  Some had waterfalls.  Others had snow on their mountain tops.

  • The wildlife.  We could see penguins and seals.
  • The rainbow near the shipwreck.  Very pretty.

The shipwreck

The not-so-great parts of the voyage were:

  • The showers had neither hot, nor cold water.  It was good enough for me, but I don’t think most passengers were pleased with it.
  • Motion sickness.  As the ferry moved out into the ocean, we could really feel the waves.  I thought it was fun at first, like a roller coaster, but then it later felt like the world was spinning in my head the way it does after drinking too much.  I felt better as soon as they crew played the evening movie, Apocalypto. I suppose it’s because I was visually fixated on something stationary, just as staring at the horizon is supposed to help alleviate seasickness.

Overall, I thought the ferry was very relaxing and my accommodations were comfortable.  I finished my book, was entertained by movies that the crew played, I loved the food, and I enjoyed the company of the Argentinians and the Brits.