Hunderburton Adventures


A record of wanderings through Latin America

The Navimag

December 22nd, 2011 at 0:49

We’ve just arrived in Puerto Natales on the Navimag Ferry, which is essentially a cargo ship which runs between Puerto Mont and here. The Navimag Company apparently discovered that this freight route coincided with a leg of the journey taken by many travelers through Patagonia, and, some years back, began the lucrative business of ferrying tourists for $400 per head.

With this history in mind, we certainly weren’t expecting a luxury cruise, but for $400, which is considerably more than the cost of traveling the route the via most other means, we were still expecting… actually, I have no idea what we were expecting. Unfortunately for travelers such as ourselves, It is difficult to form accurate expectations of most things in Patagonia as it is usually almost impossible to find any information anywhere. When we planned to catch the bus to Bariloche, for instance, it was only by chance that another traveler mentioned to us that it had been so seriously effected by the volcano. Wikitravel didn’t mention any of the effects of the volcanic blast on the town, and the only article we could find online was a government travel warning from June (with a note stating that the information still applied at present) declaring that the the city was in a state of emergency, the town was in the process of being evacuated, and that all travel plans to Bariloche should be canceled. This, we discovered for ourselves, had not been the case for some months, and on days with wind blowing in the right direction, the ignorant traveler wouldn’t realise anything had happened there. Internet research on the Navimag proved similarly fruitless. Interestingly, the only personal account of the Navimag we had heard was from a Dutch traveler we met in Santiago. He had taken the Navimag Ferry about 10 years ago, and had woken in the night to find that the ship tilted dramatically to one side, and discovered, on further inspection, that this was because it was in the process of sinking. While this sounds like the sort of story which nightmares are made of, or possibly the inspiration for a horror film; the evacuation, he told us, had been a civilized affair and no one was hurt.

Navimag Shipwreck

Ghost Ship- a wreckage we passed

The boat turned out to be fine in some ways, and really poor in others. There was a nice bar upstairs, which sold drinks for reasonable prices and a TV which screened movies once a day. They played the same mix tape in the bar, over and over and over again which became pretty unbearable after a while. A brief aside: In Chile there are about 20 songs which you’re allowed to play in public, I’m not sure if its a law or just a social convention, but every venue, including the bar on the ship, plays a mix tape with about 7 of these 20 songs. Some examples are: Friday I’m in Love, by The Cure; Never Want to Give you Up, by Rick Astley; Living on a Prayer, by Bon Jovi, and some other song by Rick Astley which is only subtly different from Never Want to Give you Up; it really takes a trained ear to tell the difference between the two (I developed this skill after hearing each song about 7000 time).

The view from the boat

Below the Bar there was a huge eating hall where all meals were served. They also had lectures there from time to time, covering a wide range of topics, from Chilean flora all the way to Chilean fauna. The guy who took them was this likable and charismatic German guy who unfortunately had such a strong accent it became quite tiring to listen to after a while. Besides the decks, which were always painfully cold (probably to be expected as if the boat were to continue on the same course for another two days it would run aground on Antarctica), that’s pretty much all there was on board. Add to this, a complete communication blackout (no internet, telephones, tv etc) and you have all the ingredients for a really boring four days. Of course if your passions in life are drinking, occasionally watching movies, gazing out a window at Chilean coastline, and chatting with old people, I really recommend you take this boat trip. Otherwise, I’m not so sure its a good idea.

To the trips credit, however, the views from the ship are consistently amazing. The boat goes close to a glacier at one point, and there are heaps whales in the area (even blue whales we were told in broken English at an informative fauna lecture).

Glacier Navimag


On the third day as I sat in the corner of the eating hall, experiencing a level of boredom previously unknown to me, I watched a geriatric women peer around to check that no one was watching (didn’t see me apparently), then pour a decorative bowl of cumquats into her backpack and sneak off looking satisfied that her thievery had gone unnoticed. At about this point it hit me in a depressing kind of way that I really didn’t want to be on this boat anymore, and I regretted getting myself onto it.

Nick and Anna claim to have liked the trip though, so maybe my tolerance for boredom is unusually low,but I have my suspicions that Nick just likes any form of transport with dials, little flashing lights and navigation equipment. Still, I can promise you that if I go through some time vortex and wake up in the past with my current memories and have to plan my trip again, I’m taking the bus to Puerto Natales.

One thing which I’ll admit was really interesting is this town nestled in the mountains which we passed on the way. Its called Puerto Eden and is supposedly the most remote Chilean settlement save a colony on Antarctica. It has no roads and is accessible only by boats which must come from cities hundreds of kilometers away, it also has the highest frequency of rainfall of any place on earth (why anyone would want to live in this place I have no idea). Anyway, there is a race of people called the Kawéshkar of whom there are only 15 pure-blooded remaining, all of which live in this town. Unfortunately they are all men, and pretty old, so if you ever want to meet a Kawéshkari you should probably go to Puerto Eden ASAP.

Puerto Eden

Puerto Eden - The rainiest place in the world and most remote town in chile

Anna and Nick went on a side trip to walk around the town (unfortunately I was still food poisoned at this point) and said it felt a bit ghostly with mist in the air, and lots of rusty abandoned ships; most of the people obviously stayed indoors or at least their boat. The $10 fee the Navimag tourists pay for the lift ashore is probably the biggest (if not only) source of income for the strange little town.

Puerto Eden

The beautiful bay at Puerto Eden

3 Responses to “The Navimag”

  1. Mandy Says:

    More amazing photos. Are you off hiking again?

  2. delaney Says:

    hehe do you ever wonder if there is a little ghost captain and crew on the ghost ship? i woud love to own a pirate ship

  3. Ian (Real) Says:

    Can I request more photos with you guys in them? Also Bon Jovi is amazing

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