By now, my family and friends know that I am quite the intrepid traveler. But back in 2002, when I told them I had booked myself a plane ticket to Argentina, they declared me insane. Nonetheless, I took off with nothing more than a travel guide and a vague plan. Little did I know that plan would take me on what was, still is and always will be the most beautiful trip of my life. Right to the end of the world!
When I left by plane from Brussels, all I knew was that I would touch down in Buenos Aires. In my back pack, I carried a guide book and some cash, and in my head, I had a faint idea of what I wanted to see. I used the many hours in flight to set out a route that would take me to what I believed to be the most beautiful places of the country. Had I done my research beforehand, I would have known how huge Argentina really is, and how many hours I would be wasting on endless bus rides. But maybe there was a way around that!
Since there was no way for me to go to all the places I wanted to go with just traveling by road, I needed to find alternative forms of transportation. Luckily, back in those days, Aerolineas Argentinas still sold a very affordable Air Pass to foreigners. So most of the time I ended up taking the easy way and hop on a plane to cover the largest distances. But for one part of the way, I decided I would go the slow way: by boat. It would end up being the most amazing trip I have ever made!
Though my initial plan was to visit Argentina, this boat adventure took me to Chile. A ferry company called Navimag runs a service from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. As soon as we started boarding, it became obvious I was not the only solo traveler. According to our captain, about 200 of the 300 passengers had booked single tickets. Most of us were European backpackers with the same sense for adventure and fun. It was a wild bunch, but luckily the bar on board the ship ran a 24h service.
To some of you, being stuck on board a ship may sound like heaven. But mind you, this wasn’t a cruise ship with all kinds of entertainment. This was a simple vessel with several cargo decks and 2 passenger decks: the mostly unoccupied first class cabins and the over-crowded, third class, bunk bed dorms. All we had to keep ourselves busy was sit on the top deck and stare at the passing scenery. And boy, what a scene that was! I will never forget these four days I spent aboard a ship, sailing the Pacific along the Andes, squeezing through small channels, almost touching the fjords and ending up near the end of the world!
I will tell you more on what to do around Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales on another occasion. But if you’re curious about how beautiful both Argentina and Chile are, have a look at the gallery below for now. Enjoy!