5 hour journey from Pucon to Puerto Montt a comfortable drive through a pastel version of England with open fields and gentle hills. Arrival at Puerto Montt not famed as an attractive place but at 1st glance looked quite nice. However no time to look around and promptly got ourselves to the Navimag office to confirm our places on the 4 day cruise through the Chile fjords to Puerto Natales as the starting point for trekking in Torres del Paine. The boat being more expensive than the coaches but providing better scenery and providing a nice alternative to the usual coach.
With only 2 beds left in the bottom rung C class, happy for Chris and Joel to take them whilst I paid a little extra for an A class cabin. As part of cruise, all food was non alcoholic drinks included. However free to take our own supplies on board so did a quick shopping trip for biscuits and 12 litres of red wine between the 3 of us for 3 nights and 4 days, before boarding our cruise liner and home for the next days.
Never having been on a cruise before, stunned at how small the A class cabin was as just big enough for the 4 beds and lockers contained. Thankfully only 3 of us in our cabin and sharing with a married couple (50ish Irish guy and his 30ish Moroccan wife). Hit the top deck to watch the common C classers board. Glacier capped mountains behind Puerto Montt impressive enough before even moving from dock.
On leaving dock, cruised down a channel of craggy green hills that stretched as far as the eye can see that a photo would not do justice. Relaxed on deck being far warmer in the sun than expected being this far south. British and Germans appearing to be the most represented nationalities. Able to tease Chris and Joel when 1st meal got called and Class A got called 1st for food leaving them salivating a little longer. Food suprisingly good considering catering for around 300 people. After meal sat in bar and started on 1st 2 litre box of wine. The ships entertertainer (Chris de Ball), the stereotypical cabaret act with organ churned out a collection of 80s and 90s classics. Lasted half an hour before a Spanish rendition of Imagine drove me away to watch the slightly preferable The Devil Wears Prada in lounge.
Joel and I tried Anglo-German relations by getting chatting to a couple of girls before by roomie (Aiden) came for a chat majoring on theology and why the Muslim religion doesn't work. Quite an interesting guy and very intelligent now living in Morocco with his wife, able to speak Gaelic, English, French, German, Spanish and Hebrew. However, quickly drove off all prior company and I was left in a lecture from the very opinionated Irishman. Kicking out time at the bar was the 1st opportunity I had to get away and escape to my room.
2nd day very chilled out. Continued to cruise down the channel with rugged, pretty hills on both sides with the occasional glacier capped mountain behind. The sea water a fantastic clean blue.
Another fantastic sunny day but wind starting to get chilly so stayed indoors admiring the view with the odd jaunt out on deck. Already falling behind on the wine quota so finished off last nights at 2.30. Got talking to 7 GAP year students from England/Scotland who were all on a programme teaching English in Chile schools around Santiago. Hayley and I took on Chris and Clare at chess on the outdoor deck board. Hayley and I dominated the game and figuring out how to finish off Chris and Clare when roomie Aiden decided we needed advice to finish and talked everyone through how he would finish the game. At 5.30 hit the open sea and were warned that it normally gets very rocky for 12 hours until back into the fjords. However weather really good and therefore ship reasonably smooth.
Just finished dinner when there was a rush to port side. Got there in time to see the fin of a passing whale disapparing into the distance. A few seconds watching it spout air threw its blow hole before it dived out of view. Another 1st to see a whale. Most people disappeared off to watch the film The Sentinel but having seen it before played poker with Joel for a bottle of beer. Won the 1st game but lost 2nd and 3rd. By midnight the ship was starting to rock and roll a bit and joined the GAP girls (actually 6 girls and a lad but acted like one of the girls) at the front of the ship to watch it crash through the rising waves. Really clear night and the sky full of stars - never seen so many. Lay on deck watching he sky before it got too cold and disappeared to bed.
Had a shocking nights sleep - a little through the rocking of the boat, but mainly through Aidens drunken snoring.
By next breakfast, back into the fjords and see back down to calm waters. Another beautiful day with scenery starting to look more rocky and mountainous. However starting to get a little stir crazy with inactivity. Passed a shipweck classed as a highlight - still worth a photo. Took a hit when taking a photo of Chris and Joel, climbed up some ladders and my camera fell out of my pocket (4 foot drop onto metal) - camera wouldnt turn back on. Tried to tinker with it to fix it but to no avail. Dropped anchor for 1st time in Puerto Eden to drop supplied off to remote village. Lovely setting for village but not allowed off boat on grounds that needed to make time and get to the Po Xi glacier in daylight.
As we resumed and headed towards glacier, school of dolphins played off the front of the boat - always an impressive sight. Last view of day was to the Po Xi glacier field. Cruised directly towards the glacier field with the glacier cutting valley out of the mountain and into the lake. Wondering when the ship was going to stop as moved to within 200 feet of the face of the glacier and thinking Titanic when it finally came to a halt. Saw for the 1st time, the amazing ice blue colour caused by compacted ice. Face of glacier standing as tall as the ship. Another spectacular view and ship steered both ways along front of glacier for great views as sun set behind.
As the last night, it was the much hyped Patagonia bingo. We all got our boards for a laugh.
Bar was packed and Cris de Ball back on entertainment with a half hour set as warm up with a little interlude when he put the keyboard on autoplay and did a solo tango - the guy is a legend. Bingo prizes came out as tacky as expected with maps and caps to be won. Game started and 1s winner for 1 line was an American guy. What he didnt know until he went up to collect his prize was that to claim it, he had to either dance or sing. The poor guy was caught betwen the headlights as the blood drained fom his face. When ask to choose a partner, too embarassed to pick someone so just awklwardly danced by himself. Very awkward but very funny and only got a map for his troubles. Game continued and when a yank incorrectly called for 3 lines, she was forfeited to choose to sing or dance.
She chose to sing and when finding out she was from New York, Chris de Ball started playing New York, New York. She didnt recognise it and started singing "Im singing in the rain"!! Everyone getting tipsy and having a great laugh at her expense. Hayley was 1st to get full house and we all bailed her out by all getting up and having a dance. At least we got a bottle of whiskey for our troubles. Disco ensued and pulled Christine (German from 1st night) up to join our group and dance the night away to a mix of 80s cheese, meringue and salsa. Finished off our 12 litres of wine with a little help from our friends.
Up for breakfast (unlike rest of crowd) and stayed for itinerary of day before going back to bed. No entertainment planned for day so sat on deck and watched the impressive glaciers pass by.
Seals jumping past the front of the boat. Got through a good chunk of my book before Chris turned up to demonstrate his newly learned card tricks from Alice. A usually confident guy shaking like a leaf as he tried it for the 1st time on me and Christine. It worked and was quite impressive and Chris genuinely chuffed to bits with himself. Joel and Chris wanting group photos of our lookalikes from the trip which were Ben Kingsley, Timmy Mallett, John Lennon and Bruce Forsythe but couldnt get them together.
On arrival in Puerto Natales, checked into hostal where we could hire all our camping equipment (consisting of tents, mattresses, stove and gas bottles, plates and cutlery) in addition to our sleeping bags for the 5 day Torres del Paine trek.
Went out for a steak as a treat before our 5 days of camping food. The following morning, we went out shopping for food to last 5 days and by the time we were packed, all of us feeling a little worried how we were going to manage to carry the weight for 5 days. Regardless, we just made the bus to head towards to national park of Torres del Paine.