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.
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.
At intervals along the pedestrian reserve commemorative statues celebrate one event or another.
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.
We have made it to town! It is time to find that coffee shop and get inside out of the cold and wind.
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.
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.
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.
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.