On my way down to the vessel taking me to Antarctica, I wanted to explore a little bit and see Chile. I had a teacher from Chile in 3rd grade. I’d heard about the Andes mountains and how beautiful the country is. Other than knowing I like Chilean wines, I didn’t know anything else! I decided to break up the 5 plane extravaganza by taking a ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. This is basically a 300 passenger ferry that weaves through Patagonia for three blissful days.
By the time I got to Puerto Montt, I got a sense that Chile wasn’t like other Latin American countries I’d been to. It was my first time in South America, but not at all what I had imagined. It was SO CLEAN. There were recycling bins everywhere, and no trash thrown about. There were also big fluffy dogs everywhere that looked well cared for and happy.
The climate was a little chilly, even though it was their summer. I then understood how the country got it’s name 😉 I was hoping I had enough layers to stay warm, which I did thankfully. In comparison to Mexico, it was more “conservative” in a sense that there wasn’t loud music blasting out of every store, and the food was pretty direct. You order sausage and fries? Ok, you get sausage cut up over fries. Shrimp salad? Ok, you get seasoned shrimp over bare lettuce. In Mexico there would be a million seasonings all over everything, so it was just quite a contrast to what I had grown accustomed to. It wasn’t bad, it was just different. I appreciate both sides of the spectrum! The peace and quiet was definitely nice for a chance, although I do like the chaos of hearing three different bands playing at once. Don’t ask me why!
I learned Chile has free healthcare! I had to go to the Doctor for some long standing stomach issues, and all they need is a passport/ID. I kept asking “yes, but who do I pay?” And they said “no, there is no payment!” I was seen quickly and given medicine all for free! Wow. This prompted me to do some googling, and I learned that Chile is Latin America’s most stable economy and political climate. It made sense with what I was seeing.
While on the Navimag ferry we got to learn more about Chilean history, which was really interesting as I haven’t heard so much about their native people and the political turmoil. There was also yoga, tai chi, flora and fauna lectures, etc. Plenty of learning opportunities, as well as relaxing and photo taking opportunities!
The ferry through Patagonia was lovely, I met a lot of really nice people and had a great time relaxing, sitting outside my room and taking photos, chatting, reading, etc. By the time I got down to Puerto Williams, where the boat was leaving out of, I only had a day to prep for the trip. The town was tiny, but I thought it was really charming. People kept griping about how sad and depressing it was, but I didn’t get that gist at all.
There is a big military presence, but again it doesn’t really seem overly structured or anything. The stores weren’t open very often, and there are few restaurants, but I don’t know, I thought it was cute. You’d often see 5-10 horses just pass on by, too. I stayed at Errante Ecolodge and it was reallllly beautiful there! It is all sustainable and off the grid. There are chefs who will make you delicious meals daily, as you eat and lookout at the beautiful view of the Beagle Channel. While I am not a fan of being cold, I may just want to retire in Chile one day!
Through out this I’d figured out early on how to make Chileans giggle. I was curious to see if I could hear the difference between Mexican and Chilean Spanish, which I was somewhat. I have apparently picked up several “Mexican” words, which when speaking and coming from a gringa like me, makes them giggle! It was cute. I did see plenty of evidence of there being gingers down south, which probably has some sort of European influence. The main square in Puerto Williams was called “O’Higgins”, so I am curious about how and when the Irish got down to these parts.
There was a local museum which had some great nautical history and artifacts. There were charts and maps from the 1700s labelling the Straight of Magellan, which is just wild! I’d learned about this in school, and to be in the area where these curious explorers wanted to see if they could cut through the land to get to the other side of the mountains. Cape Horn was already notorious for shipwrecks, and to think what those men set out for and achieved is pretty awesome to think about!