Notes of a traveller

Alan Dodds – photographer (among other things)

Notes of a traveller

The Chilean Fiords and Puerto Arenus

Posted on Saturday, October 28th, 2017 at 8:59 pm

To travel between Puerto Montt in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina (pronounced Ooshwaya), through the channels and fiords of Patagonia in southern Chile, takes four days and nights of steady sailing with a stop in the middle at Puerto Arenus the most southern city in Chile.

Puerto Arenus

It is very difficult to relate the experience of sailing through the Chilean Fiords in pictures, let alone words, so I’ll start with the easier part … our stop in Puerto Arenus.

Puerto Arenus is cold and windy as we step off the compulsory shuttle bus through the port area. We decide to walk into town and quickly find the main road signposted “Centro”, with its wide central reservation for pedestrians. We are wearing all our cold gear … several layers topped with a down jackets and woollen beanies. As we walk the three or so kilometers into the centre, the reservation becomes more and more ornate; the dirt path replaced with paving; ancient yew trees carefully manicured and finally an avenue of newly sprouting deciduous trees responding to the call of spring.

Bus shelter in Puento Arenus Chile

It must be cold here … they provide proper bus shelters.
Street scene in Puento Arenus Chile

The first houses we come across look well built and show some prosperity.
Street scene in Puento Arenus Chile

These houses remind us a bit of Canada or New Zealand.
Park in Puento Arenus Chile

Old and well manicured yew trees surround this park. Does make you think it might be windy here.
Satellite dishes in Puento Arenus Chile

Not much sign of sharing here.

At intervals along the pedestrian reserve commemorative statues celebrate one event or another.

Statue in Puento Arenus Chile

This family look joyful in spite of the cold wind – or maybe they are saying “Can we come in now, please?”.
Street scene in Puento Arenus Chile

Nearly in town now, although it’s further than we thought … coffee springs to mind!
Mister Snack in Puento Arenus Chile

Should we go here? Maybe not …
Statue in Puento Arenus Chile

A reminder that Patagonia was built on the sheeps back.
building in Puento Arenus Chile

Well … this is a novel way of double glazing!
Street scene in Puento Arenus Chile

Spring is in the air … although you wouldn’t know it from the temperature.

One of the interesting features of Peurto Arenus turns out to be this cemetery, which we have come across quite by chance. No headstones next to the grave here. Lines and lines of small commemorative alters and huge mausoleums silently celebrate the dead.

Cemetery in Puento Arenus Chile

Lines of graves
Cemetery in Puento Arenus Chile

This one has rings in case they want to open it again.
Cemetery in Puento Arenus Chile

This ancient tree guards the graves.
Cemetery in Puento Arenus Chile

Huge manicured yew hedges line the paths

We have made it to town! It is time to find that coffee shop and get inside out of the cold and wind.

Burnt out shop in Puento Arenus Chile

Another Chinese restaurant goes up in flames. Horrible to have to start again.
Street stall in Puento Arenus Chile

Motorbike mister? Engine is extra.
Chocolata in Puento Arenus Chile

At last the coffee shop … even better the chocolate shop!
Chocolate shop in Puento Arenus Chile

We forego these amazing chocolates for churos and hot melted chocolate to dip them in … Yum!
Penguins in Puento Arenus Chile

Oh … and did I mention that we are in the land of Penguins.
Port in Puento Arenus Chile

Back at the port and ships waiting to be scrubbed.
Port in Puento Arenus Chile

The port is rather a bleak and windswept place.

The Chilean Fiords

In one way, the names say it all. The Darwin Channel, the Magellan Channel, the Beagle Channel, Glacier Ally and Cape Horn among others. To thoroughly document the four day and night journey through the fiords of Patagonia would take more time and space than I have here. I trust the following will give some small idea of what is an altogether amazing experience.

The Darwin Channel

We are awoken early the morning after leaving Puerto Montt. We are cruising through the Darwin Channel before a short run back in the Pacific. First light is breaking as we enter the channel.

Darwin Channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

At first light we enter the Darwin Channel. Not too many people about this early.
Darwin Channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

The water of the fiord is flat calm
Darwin Channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

A reluctant sun tries to break through the clouds.
Darwin Channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

The end of the Darwin Channel and a splash of sunshine mark our passage back out into the Pacific Ocean.

The Sarmiento Channel

The Darwin Channel was just a taster. We are reminded of our day spent in Fiordland on the south west coast of New Zealand. But then, after a day and night in the Pacific, we are woken early for the entrance into the Sarmiento Channel. The snow on the mountains and ice on the water gave us a small clue of what was to come.

The Sarmiento channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

The ice of the water gives a clue
Brujo glacier in Patagonia, southern Chile.

Around the corner we come and jostle for position to take a picture. The Brujo Glacier shows its blue tongue while the mountain behind is shrouded in cloud.
The Brujo Glacier in Patagonia, southern Chile.

This is a big glacier!
Shearwaters in Patagonia, southern Chile.

A flock of Shearwaters hitch a ride on the boat and revel in the warm deck.
Birds in Patagonia, southern Chile.

These little guys prefer the warm pool.
The Sarmiento channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

After a couple of hours out in the cold we leave the The Sarmiento channel …
The Sarmiento channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

… and go to lunch 🙂
Fiord in Patagonia, southern Chile.

Later in the afternoon we cross the reef which marks the shallowest part of the channel where extreme caution is required.
Shipwreck in the fiords of Patagonia, southern Chile.

Not cautious enough it seems!
The Sarmiento channel in Patagonia, southern Chile.

And so we leave the Sarmiento Channel

Glacier Ally

Another early morning call alerts us to the start of Glacier Ally. Along this stretch of fiord six major glaciers slide down from the Patagonian ice shield. It is spectacular!

Here is a glimpse of just one of these glaciers … the Italia glacier.

The Italia glacier in Patagonia, southern Chile.

The first glimpse of the Italia glacier.
The Italia glacier in Patagonia, southern Chile.

In spite of the early morning call, this one has drawn a hushed crowd.
The Italia glacier in Patagonia, southern Chile.

So blue!
The Italia glacier in Patagonia, southern Chile.

And so we leave glacier ally and sail on towards Ushuaia
Ushuaia Tierra Del Fuego Argentina

The island of Tierra Del Fuego, that magical name! Ushuaia appears at the bottom of the mountains in the early morning light.

We reach Tierra Del Fuego early the next day. The most southerly town in South America appears below the mountains as we leave Chile behind. This is our last call before Cape Horn and the southern end of this great continent.

From the Cape, we travel to the Falkland Islands before turning north once more.


12 responses to “The Chilean Fiords and Puerto Arenus”

  1. Lynn Ayiotis says:

    Amazing scenery! Thank you for sharing. x

  2. Annie Howard says:

    HI Alan,
    Have belatedly enjoyed your photos of the Chilean Fiords and Sarmiento Channel. Particularly interesting to me as I recently enjoyed reading a wonderful book called “Evolutions Captain” about Captain Fitzroy of Beagle/Darwin fame, but also some of the prelude to that famous voyage . I highly recommend it, a truly fascinating action packed history with many twists and turns and insights into the characters involved and the impact that voyage subsequently had on them.
    Greetings to you both.

  3. Sue says:

    Wow Alan how breathtaking interesting and beautiful. Have just got back from a long weekend in Brisbane you are missing some awfully humid weather there.

  4. Jonathan and Pam says:

    Tierra del Fuego – yes, a magical place. Full of images of explorers, amazing heroism and huge seas. Glad to see it was much nicer in the channels!
    Lovely pictures that capture the humanity and give us a real flavour of Chile and the Andes.
    Thank you both
    J n P

  5. Zoe says:

    Incredibly beautiful glaciers!

  6. Christina McGuinness says:

    Well, what to say…utterly magical and fantastic to see the fjords and for those glaciers. Great to share…thanks. Tierra Del Fuego, now there’s a name!
    Cheers to you both, Christina XX!

  7. Jac-Aileen says:

    Really is a gift Alan, thank you dear heart ❤️. The colours and textures of that glacier, the view while u enjoy lunch! Delivering our amazing world, first hand 🙏👏😘

  8. Tara Jade Samaya says:


  9. Elizabeth says:

    An experience of beholding! Wonderful, glorious, powerful.

  10. Michael Bobrowicz says:

    Im thinking you might be thinking of winter in Didsbury /

  11. Richard C says:

    What a stunning unforgetable experience!
    Best R

  12. Domi Cohen says:

    Oh! How beautiful. My jaw dropped….

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