It's been nearly 4 months since I crossed the border into Chile. I had no intention of staying here so long. But I fell in love with this place; the mountains, the people, the potential adventure and undiscovered corners. My 2.5 months in Patagonia have been a great pleasure and the idea of leaving tugged at my tear-ducts. I don't know if and when i'll be back, which right now seems difficult to understand. It feels like home. It feels like family. It just feels...right. But I have to go. I am only giving myself a year in south america to explore, and there is still so much I want to see.
Where am I going? I am still not sure. Plans have now been abandoned in the spirit of discovery. Why? To keep learning, growing, moving, experiencing. How am I getting to the next adventure? Well, that IS the next adventure. Fly? Nah. Bus? Nah. Hitchhike? Nah. But, on a boat of course! There is a cargo/passenger ferry called the Navimag that runs the route to and from Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales. It cruises past fjords, archipelagoes, glaciers, ice fields, and sunken ships by snaking its way through calm natural canals. This seemed to me, the only logical way to head north. Chile is a land with strong ties to the sea and that was one relationship I still had to discover. I can't leave Chile without first cruising her seas.
Once a week the boat arrives from the north and on the same night it leaves to return up by the reverse route. My boat left on January 9, 2012.
I shared a last delicious meal with my Puerto Natales family, hugged them all, and told myself I was just going to the store as I made my way down to the port. This isn't goodbye. It's an "I'll see you later." At 9pm that night I boarded the ship, stood on the deck and took in my last look at La Ultima Esperanza. I watched while the lights of the town grew brighter and the sun sank below the distant mountains that over this last 1.5 months had become so familiar. They had come to signal home. Home must again become a fluid concept.
For the next 4 days home is going to be a berth in a boat. It's pretty nice. There's lots of food. The beds are comfy. It's warm and sheltered from the rain. The views can't be beat. There are lots of interesting people to talk to. It's a nice place to relax, research, and reflect. Did I mention, there's lots of food? :)
On the first day we saw dolphins and whales. We passed by a massive glacier that looked like an ice tongue licking at the sea. 3 separate rainbows that looked like holograms they were so vivid danced in the afternoon showers. That night on board, there were horrific renditions of famous songs as Chileans, Germans, Frenchmen and Americans took turns at karaoke. I wandered out on the deck to see the clouds illuminated by the bright moon. Aside from the light on the boat and the occasional lone blinking lighthouse, the moon was the only other source of light. We really are alone out here...and in a good way, it felt like the end of the earth.
My second day on the boat was the one I was a bit nervous about. We would be leaving the calm of the fjords and canals to venture into the gulfo de Pena and then into the open sea. I had been forewarned that sea-sickness on this portion was common if not expected. It was easy to tell the moment we left the shelter of the fjords. It felt like I was actually on a boat, rising and falling with the waves. It was a strange sensation. Walking became a new and interesting challenge. I found myself more than once overcompensating for the movement of the boat and crashing into walls or swinging from handrails...taking a shower was fun too. I didn't get sick, but noticed that a significant portion of the passengers didn't come to dinner that night. In my awkwardness I managed to get back to my room to curl up with my book before falling asleep. I don't know the last time I slept so heavy. The swaying of the boat must have subconsciously taken me back to being a baby rocked in my mothers loving arms. I don't know when I fell asleep, but I barely woke up in time to make it to breakfast.
I decided to walk around the boat the third day and spend some time in the bridge, the area where the captain mans the ship. We got to talking. He told me about the different tools on board, showed me how to read the map and compare it to the radar mapping system they used, he pointed out different land masses and then invited me to lunch with the staff! How fun is that?! Of course I accepted, I'm not going to turn down an invitation from the captain. I got to meet several other crew members during lunch and they were all very friendly and took to joking around with me quickly. I think I missed a lot of what was being said, but got the gist of it. It was all in good fun, but it wasn't hard to see that they were roasting the captain a bit for inviting a girl down into the boys club.
I thanked them all for the company and invite and made my way back on deck. The sun had finally broken through the clouds and I heard that it was possible to see whales on this stretch. Besides, after being cooped up inside all day the day before with the rain it was nice to get outside with the fresh air. I wasn't the only one feeling that way. All the seats outside were filled by the afternoon with people only getting up to watch the whales, sea lions, dolphins and the one humpback that waved hello with it's white bottomed tail. The water was so still and the playful sea critters were easy to spot sending ripples through the glasslike ocean surface. I spent the whole afternoon outside, admiring the impressive peak of Corcovado mountain.
Several hours passed with me doing nothing more than admiring the ocean, noticing it's rhythm, recognizing it's life, connected to it's movement. For the first time in many, many years, I felt inspired to remember the feeling in a poem. It's no mastepiece, but it pretty well summed up my aftenoon:
I felt the world breathe
The rhythm of the ocean
It moves with life
And sways with the moon
Taking the Navimag was a perfect choice and I'm glad I made it. I was preparing myself for the next weeks ahead and the sight of "massive" Puerto Montt was a reminder that I had left the quaint pueblos of southern Patagonia behind. I disembarked from the boat just to load onto a bus. The next stop on my agenda was Pucon before venturing on to Argentina. The smooth and steady progress of the boat on the water was a nice way for me to close a chapter. One story was ending, another was about to begin...but right now it's soft and slow. It's nice. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I don't...and that, I'm learning, is the best part.