Our short stay in the Lake District was over and it was time to move on to the ferry that would take us south. During our arrival in the Puerto Montt airport, amongst the Tony Bourdain distraction and all, we
arranged to drop the rental car in downtown Puerto Montt rather than at the airport. This would save us the taxi ride from the airport to the dock for the Navimag ferry that we would use for our next leg of the trip. From our hotel in Puerto Varas, the BeckBeck navigational system smoothly took us out of Puerto Varas and over to Puerto Montt but struggled to find the route through Puerto Montt to the car rental office. Fortunately, though, the system did not crash and freeze up like it has many times in the past and we found the Budget rental car office after a short grid search. Once at Budget, one of the agents drove us to the dock for our ferry.
Soon after we reached the Navimag dock we learned that the ferry had been delayed from a planned 2 pm departure to an 8 pm boarding time. We learned later that this was not uncommon; the ferry transits a difficult passage with unpredictable weather and is often delayed. The tides could also have been a factor, particularly near the full moon. It looked to us like sea level varied as much as 10 to 15 feet in the narrow channel where the ferry docks.
The delay gave us plenty of time to check out the nearby vendors, many selling items that they handmade in the store while you watched, and have a Chilean style lunch at Al Paton, a restaurant in the complex at the end of the road running along the harbor. The dock front itself was full of tourists from a nearby cruise ship. I watched as a merchant chased down a petty thief who stole an item from his shop. The local police presence was high; perhaps because there were so many cruise ship passengers with the expensive cameras and jewelry flopping unattended around their necks. A policeman and his dog were immediately on the scene with the merchant and the thief. The policeman watched briefly, letting the merchant take a couple of whacks at the thief before he took the robber into custody.
Most of our time was spent resting in the Navimag waiting room. While I was waiting, a cruise ship passenger wandered in to the Navimag waiting hall to use the bathroom. I had assumed he was another ferry passenger, but then he asked, “Are you waiting for some sort of transportation?”
I was confused from the context, and answered, “Yes?” thinking he knew this was the Navimag waiting area.
“What type of transportation?” he continued.
“It’s a ferry, the Navimag ferry. It goes to Puerto Natales, taking three days.” I completed.
There was some confusion over the destination but it was clarified when I said we were going to Torres del Paine.
“Oh,” he said and then added, a little nervously, “You must be a traveler.”
Not quite knowing what to make of the comment, I said, “Err, I guess so.” Thinking to myself that “tourist” would be a better description. Maybe I would like to be a traveler some day.
In the glowing twilight around 8 pm, we joined the gaggle of semi truck drivers, travelers, and a few tourists moving up the loading ramps to the steep steps and into the passenger areas of the ferry. Dinner was almost immediately served. A couple of hours later, after the remainder of the heavy trucks had been loaded, the ferry moved gently away from the dock, passed through the narrow channel and eased into the quiet waters around Puerto Montt. We were headed south.
More pictures can be found in this set: http://picasaweb.google.com/AnotherHeader/Navimag#