I’ve never been on a cargo ship. Until now my experience with boats were on ones with sails or on smaller ferries. There was no real reason to try a cargo ship, until now. Navimag is a a shipping company with two cargo ships that runs through the fjords along the western coastline of Chile between Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. These channel systems are widely used by ships to ferry items of value from the north to south because overland transport along the Patagonian region is near impossible for transport vehicles. These fjords also provide protection from the unfriendly climates that batter the coastline from the Pacific around the Patagonian region.
I first heard about about the route from an ex colleague from work who previously spent 7 months doing the same Mexico-> Chile route and every since I was keen as mustard on catching the ferry as well. Up until a month before I was planning on catching it from Puerto Natales of the W-Trek and when I went to book it, the website had advised that all departures had been cancelled. DEVASTATED. I was then forced to rethink my plan and consider just flying now. Then a couple of weeks later, my Dutch friend Sebastian said the service had re-opened and that they were now accepting bookings. I couldn’t have been any happier.
Now there isn’t much to do on the boat. It’s not a commercial passenger ship but they are licensed to carry up to 30 or so paying customers. All the food is provided and everything is quite bare and you also share the facilities with other crew and truck divers whose cargo is being transported. Overall, the journey takes four days and three nights int total and it’s a trip like no other. The weather can be quite unpredictable and what you see is up to you. If you have great conditions then you can spend all day on the deck looking out at the many snowcapped mountains, glaciers, a few sea lions, schools of dolphins or salmon fisheries. You don’t see many other boats or other people around until a scheduled stop half way at Puerto Eden.
That was pretty much the extent of the wildlife that we saw. I had read previous blogs on how other passengers saw many more dolphins and birds but I would assume it would come down to the route they took from north to south and also the time of the year perhaps. There were a couple of glaciers and a shipwreck that we missed out on due to the direction and also time of day where we went past in the evening so weren’t able to see anything.
I met a great crew of fellow passengers on the boat. As the South to North direction isn’t the most popular route, there were only seven of us paying passengers. We’d spend most of the time just chatting on the deck whilst trying to spot some whales (didn’t see any) and one of the passengers, Juan would give us a bit of history about the place which made the trip a lot more interesting. In the evenings we’d watch a few movies as well as card games (have you seen dutch cards?) on the limited cabin floor space and enjoy a few wines, vodka and rum.
Usually, I’d write a few pages of content for a multi-day activity such as this. However, to be honest there isn’t much to write about as we’d spend most of the day be on the viewing deck or watching television in the common room and peeking out of the port hole every now and then in case we may miss some awesome site. By now, after seven months of solo travel, I’ve become quite comfortable in my own presence and didn’t really feel the need to do something everyday.
The weather here is quite unpredictable so most of the time we’re just hoping for the best . An example of the unpredictability, on the first day, it was windy and rainy which stopped in time for an amazing sunset. The second day it was clear blue skies where we spent a lot of the time on deck soaking in the sun. The third day was windy and overcast and then the final morning it was clear and warm again.
Reflecting on all of the things that I’ve seen for most of this year and on this trip, as cliched as it sounds, I really have been spoilt with the incredible scenery and being on on Ferry Amadeo has been a unique experience. It’s not for everybody though as it has been known to get rough and despite it being bare bones in facilities, it’s still quite expensive versus flying and those want a luxury cruise ship option should look elsewhere. However if you want an up and close view of the fjords, have a few days up your sleeve and don’t mind roughing it at times then this is the trip for you.
Other useful information:
- Cost: US$500 which isn’t cheap considering a flight is approx US$200. However the experiences are completely different.
- Booking: At navimag.com which isn’t the most user friendly site. At the time of booking I couldn’t book online and it took me multiple emails to secure finalise the booking.
- Length of journey: Three nights and four days, boarding at 2pm at Puerto Natales and arriving at 9am in Puerto Montt.
- What to bring: All food, water, cordial and coffee and snacks in the afternoon included. I would bring any alcohol and snacks you may want to consume. It gets cold and windy at times so a windproof jacket, beanie, and gloves are handy o have close by. There are plenty of photo opportunities so bring a camera and charger as well.
- Medical: If you get seasick then best to take some for the final evening (if going south to north) when the seas can become rougher as ship leaves protection of the fjords and navigates in the open water.
Have you been on a cargo ship like the Navimag and would you try just for the experience or views?