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Saturday, 01 July 2006

Land of Ice and Fire: Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego - Page 4

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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We began our journey deep into Patagonia from Carretera Austral with a three-and-a-half-day journey past fjords and glaciers on NavimagNavimag is a large barge that carries all the supplies down to the southern part of Chile.  The trip used to be solely for transport, but occasionally backpackers would hitch a ride until it became so popular that the company built many cabins where there used to be cargo; now their business is largely a tourist enterprise.  It is the cruise for those who can’t afford to cruise.

At the docks, we reserved spaces on a sailboat tour for the next morning on Les Tres Marias to see sea lions and bird colonies.  These docks are where all the cruises to Antartica leave from, so the big question in town was “Are you going to Antartica?”  At our inn we met a professor who does many of the naturalist presentations on one of the cruise lines.

Before we knew it, our couple of hours of sun was spent and the rain began to fall.  It poured all night, and when we woke we were sure they would cancel our trip because of the weather. When we still hadn’t received a call, we went to the docks and realized that they were, in fact, going to sail.  I didn’t want to go because I though it would be miserable on a sailboat in the rain, but they wouldn’t give back our deposit, and there wouldn’t be much else to do if we stayed ashore.  So we put on the bright yellow slickers they provided and boarded the sailboat.

Despite the weather, the water was calm, and the rain lightened as we set out. At one point, the rain stopped for about an hour as we walked around ushuaiaIsland H.  That was the best part of the day trip; we saw unique birds and fauna on our short hike around the small island which only Les Tres Marias has permission to land on.  We also saw sea lions and a very large bird colony from the boat.

The tour was good but not outstanding and not really worth the price considering one of the main reasons we chose the sailboat rather than the catamaran (which travels further to a small penguin colony) is that we hoped to enjoy a motorless trip. For reasons they never explained, however, the crew only put the sail up for a few minutes and used the motor the rest of the time. On the other hand, the captain was an interesting guy and it was a very small group on board so we got to know the others fairly well and we liked the small island where we landed.

We ate dinner at a great restaurant, La Estancia, one of the traditional Parrilla’s where entire lambs are barbequed over an open fire. The lamb was excellent!   You can go up to the counter as many times as you like and order whatever type of meat you like, and there is also an entire salad bar with hot and cold foods to choose from. (Try the cannelloni’s!)

We also enjoyed the place we stayed: the breakfast was good, the conversation with other guests around the breakfast table was interesting, and our host -- both gracious and exacting -- made sure everything was done correctly.  There were some quirks here like having to learn how to mix the ice cold water from the glacier with boiling hot water to take a shower. Despite very exact instructions on how to mix the water when we checked in, we managed only about 30 seconds of warm water before the freezing water turned boiling.

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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