Saturday, December 25, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

In Puerto Natales catching the Navimag Ferry to Puerto Montt. We headed down to the port at 8 pm as Grif had to sort out some customs and Navimag paperwork for the ferry trip. We met two older Finnish guys who were both riding Chilean Yamaha XT660’s with gas cans mounted on the pannier frames. One of them had an accident on the ripio (gravel)  piste in Tierra Del Fuego and had dislocated his shoulder and cracked a few ribs. The cowl and headlight was held together with duck tape and one of his plastic panniers was cracked and held together with straps. He was finishing his trip in Santiago and the other guy was continuing on for a month more.
We unloaded the gear off the bike and carried it up to the cabin, then Grif went back to ride the bike up the ramp. We met Niels, a Tour Guide and Driver for Kumuka (another overland company similar to Dragoman. As it turned out, we both knew a few of the Dragoman guides. He only had 9 pax on board for the trip North. We are glad that we managed to score a cabin all to ourselves as they are quite tight for two people – let alone four, several glasses of wine later and it was time for bed!
The ship left the docks at 530 am, and it was raining. Grif heard the engines start up, but he wasn’t going to get up for photos quite that early. It is nice to be onboard the ship for a few days and get to see a different angle with some spectacular scenery. When you are riding the bike on the ripio with two people on board it takes a lot of concentration choosing the best line and looking out for rocks, pot holes , Sheep and Guanacos, with just quick glances of the scenery, the only time you  get to look around and appreciate it is when you stop to take some photos.
We have passed through several narrows in the channels and Fjords this morning, one only 80 metres wide. The ship sides were close to the rock walls and we caught glimpses through the rain clouds of spectacular hanging Glaciers – imagine being on the Icefields parkway in Canada, but on a ship…

So far the meals on board have been substantial, if not a little bland, but they have to cater for all tastes.
Wednesday morning we held position for a couple of hours just offshore from Puerto Eden, a small fishing community in the middle of nowhere, no roads or airfields, just the sea, so they rely on the Navimag ferries route running close by to help deliver supplies and pick up and drop off people who need to get back and forth to the major ports and beyond. The weather was pretty bad today, with a few short breaks in the rain earlier, though as we sit in the bar onboard ship  there are some patches of blue sky appearing in the grey sky.
We are currently leaving the shelter of the lower archipelagos and heading out to skirt the edge of the pacific for about 12 hours before heading back into the lee of the Northern group of islands and inlets tomorrow morning, so the swells have started and are at about 3 metres, just enough to make the Evangelista slam into the odd swell here and there and they will increase during the night.

After a long night with the ship pitching and yawing quite well in the Pacific Ocean, the Galley was remarkably empty of passengers for breakfast!!! We had a nice break in the weather for the morning on the Evangelista and were able to see the surrounding islands and inlets clearly, it is truly a spectacular area, reminiscent of the Fjords of Norway, the large amount of rain over the last few days produced lots of waterfalls off the mountains adding to the beauty of this area. By lunch time we had swung back East into the archaepelegos and back into the low cloud  rain and wind, so it was back inside for a while with not much chance of seeing more dolphins.

The final run into Puerto Montt passed quickly and after the ship had docked we had to wait a while to get the bike out as the freight needed to be moved first. The crew moved a couple of rows and waved us out after 30 minutes. We said goodbye to the 2 Finnish guys who were heading to Valdivia. After weaving through some traffic we finaly hit the short stretch of highway 5 north and peeled off  into Puerto Varas. Grif needed to do an oil change, so we hunted around for some oil for a while and eventually found some - at a price though, then looked for a Hostel. We could only find ones closer to the centro which were expensive for a room, so as we have wheels we looked on the outskirts of town and got lucky with a private Cabana with kitchenette and bathroom for the same money. We headed back into town and got the bike handwashed, picked up groceries and came back where Grif spent Christmas Eve working on the bike and Lisa cooked a scrummy supper washed down with some Escudo cerveza with the local owner and family.

Merry Christmas to all Friends, Family and anyone reading....

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