Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cruising through the Patagonia District of South America

Dear Family & Friends,

A few more relaxing days on our trip.. First we sailed three days around Cape Horn and up the western side of South America in what is called the Patagonia district.. This area is made up of THOUSANDS of islands and passage ways. It reminds me of the Inland Passage in Alaska. Very rugged islands and still water passages. Some islands are no more than a rock protruding from the water, others towering snow covered mountains with rugged cliffs falling off directly into the water.. Very inhospitable with almost no place to land even a small boat. The captain made daily reports about our progress. It is spring time down here and the captain assured us the even though the Cape Horn normally is the roughest ocean in the world, today the waves would “only” be 20+ feet. Enough to give us a day of rock and roll! Sometimes the captain gave us too much information.. In one very narrow passage there were two buoys in the water marking a passage barely wider than the ship. The Captain explained how difficult it was to get the ship through there with the winds and waves blowing. Also the water is so shallow that the ship had to slow way down to clear the ocean floor.. The distance between the keel and the floor was only 5 feet! Then the captain explained the faster a ship goes it gets drawn down into the water so if we went normal speed we would not clear the floor, but going so slow made the ship more difficult to maneuver. All very dramatic but I think the captain may have been building some dramatic tension so when we sailed through the passage with no problems we would be more impressed with his navigational skills. Either way we made it..
After three days of sailing through waves, wind, and rain we came to Puerto Montt, Chile. Lots of surprises there. First southern Chile is virtually a rain forest.. 250+ days of rain a year. (Including the day we arrived) so it is lush green and forested. Much like our Pacific Northwest.. Second it is far more prosperous than I expected. Modern cities, beautiful roads, and large spacious homes. Finally I did not realize that Chile was mainly settled by Europeans and mostly Germans so you don’t see traditional South American native looking people. Most everyone looks northern European except they speak Spanish…. Very confusing.
We booked a tour to a local national park to take a boat ride across a beautiful Andes lake to view the largest volcano in Chile (There are 3000+ volcanoes in Chile). Unfortunately it was a very rainy day socked in with clouds so what we could see was a  faint snowy peak in the distance so my photos are less than impressive… From there we went to a viewing area by one of the most beautiful mountain streams I have ever seen. Dramatic boulders and water passages everywhere formed by lava flows and water either crystal clear or the most beautiful shade of turquoise. Another unusual feature of the area was the ground… Rather than dirt everywhere is a dark almost black sand… Many of the local volcanoes are still very active and volcanic ash is everywhere!
After our ride into the country side we went to a small city called Puerta Varas. A totally charming place.. It reminded me of my home town SLO but with a Chilean flare.. We all agreed it would be a great place to live and it seemed very safe.. I talked to our guide who spoke great English and seemed very educated and he explained that a lot of misconceptions about South America are generated by the media and politics and that living here was great… I had my Harley Davidson Jacket on that day and he started calling me Mr. Davidson and we became friends.. We talked about the local culture and food (which is an excellent combination of South American and German) and what it is like to travel here, which of course led me to ask if there was a highway from the USA to here. When he answered yes, an excellent road, it got me planning a future motorcycle adventure!
After a day on shore it was back to the boat for another day of cruising, relaxing, and over eating… Then tomorrow the cruise is done… Off the boat and on to a few days in Valparaiso (one of the notable towns Che Guevera visited on his epic motorcycle trip) and then to Santiago for a couple of days, and then home next Friday. 
It has been  good trip but I am missing my daily routine. I hope they still remember me at the Blackhorse (my daily routine of coffee and banter with a  great group of friends). I look forward to tinkering in my garage full of projects, riding my motorcycles and driving my cars, and I even miss work too!
One more report from Santiago and then home. See you at the Blackhorse next Saturday!

PS: This cruise tends to appeal to an elderly crowd. It makes Bonnie and I feel like the kids of the ship… So far only two passengers have died during the cruise and they say that below average!

Entering the Glacier district of Patagonia.

Next we are off to Porta Montt to visit the Volcanoes. The first photo is what we were SUPPOSED to see, the rest are what we did see. Dramatic clouds and rain. Also an incredibly beautiful river!

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