The ship’s late.
We’re going up the Chilean coast, through the archipelago then on to Puerto Montt. The trip is 800 nautical miles and takes 4 days.
We’re getting the Amadeo, a 190 meter cargo ferry. It’s off-season so no fancy ships going north. What’s a cargo ferry? Well it’s three levels of raw materials, trucks, containers and live cattle, with token accommodation for about 40 people in cabins of 4 or 6 people. There’s a primitive cafeteria with strict serving times, no lounge or anything. It’s spartan and just barely clean enough. Or if you haven’t been on the road for 18 months, not clean enough. The toilets were totally rough as you’d expect. We’re going to come off this looking like hell. But Claudia’s ok with the idea and Lucinda’s almost bouncing on her suspension with anticipation, so we’re a team.
We show up at 9:00 pm to board. This isn’t a car ferry and no other motorcycles. Perfect
The other passengers wait outside the shipping company office. They’re split between Chilean truck drivers (travelling with their rigs) and sorry-looking backpackers looking for a cheap way home
I’ve made this excellent map of the journey for you with some of the event points. You’ll have to click on it to see anything. We’re moving north, up the page.
With the shitty photos and rough map, we’re off to a messy blog post start, but it sets the tone nicely.
At about 10 it’s time to board. This is fun, riding up into the belly of a ship. We haven’t done this since crossing from Baja to the mainland in Mexico
So the rag-tag group walks along the dock and up the ramp into the ship following a sailor guide and Lucinda and me riding off to the side.
The belly, empty. The backpackers and truckers are to the left, just out of shot
We’re told to wait separately. A couple of sailors walk the group over to what looks like a truck elevator
And yup, up they go. Somewhere. This could be a bad situation and they’re off to be slaughtered and turned into sausages I’m thinking. If this was Guatemala that would be inevitable. No point in first robbing the backpackers unless there’s a market for Peruvian touques or porn magazines. But omg they’ve got Claudia
Then it’s our turn. We ride on and wait. Up we go, the movie to the left (click, click enlarge, click HD)
When we arrive at the next level a guy shows us to a corner on the middle level. I ask him where to tie down Lucinda and he shakes his head, saying he’ll do it. This concerns me but I resolve to come down every hour to check on her until she’s secure.
No-ones around. I grab my duffel and tank bag and head off to the only person I can see. He shows me up a couple of flights of stairs, along the outside companionway
Into the ship and then the hunt’s on for Claudia. Who I find quickly as there are only about 8 cabins. This is ours, 4 bunks, shared with a young Spain-type Spanish couple, Alex and Marta. They’re on a 10 month trip of South America and Asia. The cabin is actually really cheery with nice bed curtains and stuff but tiny
I dump my stuff and we go to explore. First the cafeteria. The comfy chairs are hogged for the whole trip by the Chilean truckers. Gringos aren’t welcome in the comfy zone. Fair enough. Mi casa, no en su casa
Despite the lousy little cafeteria the kitchen was excellent and the Chef a terrific guy who didn’t want me to take his pic until he ran off and found his hat, but I had my camera up so anyway it went off somehow
Then he was back with his hat
Back to check on Lucinda. The empty deck
Same view from above. I wonder if we’re travelling empty since we’re sailing in less than 6 hours
We wait around for something to happen for a while, nothing does so we all go off to sleep. The next morning we wake and we’re chugging along. I go down to check Lucinda and somehow the boat is full of trucks, containers and cows. They’ve stuffed the whole boat, with everything perfectly aligned and secured in about 4 hours as we’re long gone.
Lucinda is tied down with respect in exactly the same chain pattern, but with webbing, as the trucks. She’s in the back corner here
How they got them from the elevator to their positions without moving them sideways I have no idea
Up top, cows. They’re in for a long journey. Four days on their feet
Off through the archipelago
The boat’s cruising speed is 11 knots btw
A great start
We’re all on deck in silent appreciation. The passes are tight at times
Passing little islets
We’re welcome up on the deck during daylight
The navigator has two big screens. GPS
It gets rockier
We’re all enjoying the close bits
Then an incredible view up to the Torres de Paine area. Pic is worth a click
Later, there are two Orcas. Claudia can’t believe it and is in excellent spirits as usual. I missed them. There are small sleek seals in small groups throughout the trip
The next day the weather and the mountains change
Looks a bit like BC at times
Passing a shipwreck parked on a reef
We’re looking forward to seeing the only town on route, Puerto Eden. We’re told it’s specially beautiful because it’s in a dramatic and very narrow pass. Furthermore we’re told that we’ll be arriving at night and will wake to it because it’s against some kind of local maritime navigation law to pass through at night. But when we wake in the morning we’re miles beyond. Nervous questions to the crew about this yield nothing.
The weather on the third day is getting even worse. The sea is building. People are a bit jumpy because we all know that day 3 on this route is notoriously rough. The problem isn’t so much the wind, it’s only blowing 20ish but the big ocean swell coming at us broadside.
By mid-afternoon the ship is moving in a bad way. Not only are we rolling but the ship is pitching
At the time I thought this was a dramatic shot but like all sea shots it shows nothing
Claudia, Marta, Alex and I are on the ship’s bridge enjoying the show. I’m fairly sure people are going to get sick soon when Marta starts tending to Alex. He’s feeling ill. Claudia’s looking a bit green too. Uh oh. A lady officer says she has pills and Alex gets two and drops one on the floor. Reaching down to pick it up he freezes, then runs off to barf. OK, we’ve started I think, this should spread like wildfire, and it does.
Claudia immediately wants to go to the cabin, so off we go before she finishes the sentence. She says she wants to sleep. She does, which is a huge relief. Claudia has never been on a ship before in her life. I want this to be a good experience for her, not one where she ends up on an I.V.
The barfers, most of the gringos and none of the Chileans, are scattered around the boat looking lonely and defeated.
After checking on Claudia, who doesn’t want to be left alone but won’t eat, we head off to dinner about 3 or 4 hours after it all started. Because of the strict serving time, 7 pm precisely, we could do a body count. 4 gringos out of about 20 alive and well. Marta tells me it took forever to get Alex to the room. He was barfing off the side of the ship so violently and had so little strength he couldn’t make it down the companionway.
Unfortunately it got dark and the whole thing fizzled out.
In the morning there were a few backpackers in sleeping bags on the deck recovering. I guess they’d spent the night on deck
We see our first ship of the whole trip
The weather improves.
After 800 miles (and after missing Puerto Eden) we’d seen zero settlement of any kind, not even a token fishing village, and only one ship. There’s just nothing here on the huge southern coast, absolutely nothing. That was the big realization
An uneventful day. The backpackers got out to watch the sunset
It was the last night. Somehow being seasick had bonded the backpackers. Some of them produced bottles of random booze and got drunk in the cafeteria. No problem with that obviously, but they got loaded super-fast, like in about 20 minutes they were falling over chairs and hugging each other. One guy was attacking people with a Sharpee.
Later that night we arrived. I woke up to the lack of sound and went out for a look. At some point after this they started unloading the ship.
After disembarking we could see the whole ship for the first time
Everyone was driven by bus to the shipping company office about 5 miles away and Lucinda and I tagged along, changed Claudia over to a taxi, and headed into central Puerto Montt, which although an essential waypoint is a town to not hang around in.
It had been a worthwhile trip. It felt very authentic being on the Amadeo. It was interesting not being prioritized as passengers on a boat or ferry normally are, and the ship somehow fit in well with the overall Patagonian ride.
The road distances south of Puerto Montt are huge. It takes weeks to get to Ushuaia and back if you take the western route. With so little on the map, you don’t realize it until your into it. With a little bit of diligence riding around Central and South America is no huge hardship. But the combination of the Carretera Austral and Ruta 40 south of that is a true adventure ride.