Hurtigruten Pole to Pole - Week 12
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Patagonia & Antarctica Ultimate Adventure - Southern Chile, Latin America
Week 12 of our 13-week Pole to Pole cruise on the MS Roald Amundsen with Hurtigruten Expeditions, we cruise and explore the Southern coast of Chile and experience the majestic Chilean Fjords.
Day 78 - Castro, Chile
The dramatic change of scenery as we cruise the Chilean coast has been a welcoming gift. Chile has a coastline of 6500kms, the first week was spent cruising the Atacama desert, and now we feel we are in the Sound of Music with rolling lush green meadows sprinkled with wildflowers.
We arrived in Castro this morning, a beautiful picturesque town on Chiloé Island in Chile's Lake District. You have a familiar sense of New England, surrounded by rolling green hills. It is unique, especially with the colourful wooden stilt houses that line the waterfront.
We opted for 'Sal & Wayne' style today, bypassing all the excursions to get lost in a city and escape the crowds. It was a perfect city to explore by foot; the city centre was moments from the pier. We enjoyed exploring and hunting down a local cafe to experiment the coffee. Unfortunately, the first cafe scored no points, but we were impressed with the second find, a local bakery.
Continued exploring the city, catching a glimpse of the Church of San Francisco. Declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2000, it is one of the most important historical buildings in the city.
We stumbled on a viewpoint with a cascading view of the vividly coloured homes on stilts across the low tide, along with another smaller pocket on the other side of Castro.
This set us up to enjoy the waterside walk and beautiful, unique homes; unfortunately, a fire struck six homes the year prior, and they were busy rebuilding the beautiful homes. We popped in for a coffee along the way; a gorgeous new boutique hotel 'Sizigia Hotel' was now occupying the space,
We followed coffee with lunch on the deck with a view at the nearby local restaurant 'Sabores de mi Tierra'.
Settling in to enjoy the local Pisco Sours, you only needed a couple at this fabulous restaurant; let's say they were well balanced with the Pisco, definitely on the sour side, which was our preference.
The food was excellent, the freshest of fish and the atmosphere surrounded by friendly locals dining, and the magical hills and fishermen, oh and seabirds keeping you entertained—a perfect afternoon.
Some of the beautiful and eclectic homes and architecture as we wandered back to the ship, with some dancing on the pier to finish the day.
Castro is a perfect destination to slow life down. A very safe city and you are spoilt with luxury boutique accommodation, high-quality dining, warm and friendly people and scenic views, along with being on the doorstep of the Chilean Fjords.
The late afternoon sail away was sensory overload as we cruised out of the rolling green hills, providing us with a taste of what was to come as we enter the magnificent Chilean Fjords.
Day 79 - At Sea, South Pacific Ocean, Chile
Enjoying the scenery and views as we approached the Chilean Fjords, the misty weather provided a beautiful backdrop.
Today was a great excuse to take the time to have one of those much-needed chill days; who doesn't love one of those? Especially when you have the scenery below as you enjoy a lazy lunch and dinner in Lindstrom.
Part of the day was also spent in the open ocean, so we did experience some rocky waters, which is always best to spend motionless to avoid any sea sickness.
Day 80 - Puerto Eden, Chile
Our first destination in the Magallanes Region after navigating through the channels and fjords was Puerto Edén. It is a Chilean hamlet and minor port located on Wellington Island and considered one of Chile's most isolated inhabited places, together with Easter Island and Villa Las Estrellas.
Puerto Edén is hidden deep in the Chilean fjords, off the beaten path, with a tiny community of 170.
We were on the first excursion, and the change in climate reminded us we were getting closer to Antarctica, and the skies were open, which is very common to Puerto Edén.
A local resident guided us through the perimeter of the small village; they had a neat walkway from end to end with a few lookout spots as we strolled with the skies of Mother Nature, learning about village life.
A bit further south, you will find Brüggen Glacier, the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica, and unlike most glaciers, it has been growing.
The afternoon was spent navigating the channels southbound for Patagonia.
The vast amount of waterfalls as we cruised was a sensory overload. Never have we seen so many waterfalls cascading from the melting snow; they were scattered along the magnificent coastline as we made our way out of this beautiful scenery.
Day 81 - Torres del Paine, Chile
Welcome to Puerto Natales, a port city on the Señoret Channel in Chile's southern Patagonia. It is the gateway to the famous Torres del Paine National Park.
As we opened the blinds this morning, we were surrounded by snow-capped mountains and couldn't wait to be whisked away on our full-day excursion.
The Pole to Polers was first up, and we were eagerly waiting as we headed to Torres del Paine, the UNESCO national park listed in 1978 and the 8th natural wonder in the world to visit the Gray glacier.
It was about a two-hour drive to the entry, and we all enjoyed the magnificent scenery along the way and hearing all about the juicy details of the region from our very knowledgeable guide Gabriela.
Upon arriving in the park, we were transported about half-hour deep in preparation for our boat cruise across the lake to get up close and personal with the Gray Glacier.
We all settled in for a speedy lunch at the Gray Hotel, where the bar and restaurant overlook the glorious mountains and glaciers. Wayne and I even squeezed in a Pisco Sour on a mission to try as many as possible whilst in Chile. They only get better as we go, especially when ordering sugar/syrup free.
After lunch, we were ready to embark on the glacier boat cruise, but Mother Nature had other plans. The winds picked up to 60km, and the snow started to fall, so Plan B was put in play; we were to jump back on the bus for a scenic ride around the park for the afternoon.
Fortunately, the bus was comfortable and warm, and we enjoyed the views and a few lookout points. With the rapidly changing weather, it was difficult to do much more—microclimates on steroids in Torres del Paine.
We captured the scenery as best we found from the bus, and Wayne would brave the strong winds, snow and rain for the lookout spots; he is a gem!
As dark was settling in, it was time to head back to the ship as it was a few hour's drive. We sighted a few Guanacos on the way back, the native llamas, but unfortunately, no pumas.
After a long day, we were all back on the ship at about 8.30 pm to quickly dine and rest. The ship was port side overnight in Puerto Natales, so we were looking forward to having the following day to explore the lovely town 'Wayne and Sal' style and to continue our Pisco Sour tour.
30000 islands amongst the channels and fjords in the south of Chile, 11000 have no names
The Andes go for 8000km from Venezuela all the way to Cape Horn, under the water and resurfaces in Antarctica
Chile is known as the Pacific ring of fire. It is one of the countries with the most volcanoes on Earth. It is estimated that there are almost 2000 volcanoes. About 500 volcanoes are considered active, 60 of which have recorded eruptions in the last 450 years.
The largest earthquake of magnitude 9.5 was in Southern Chile. In 1960, the most powerful earthquake recorded in history struck southern Chile. The rupture zone stretched from estimates ranging from 500 kilometres (311 miles) to almost 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) along the country's coast.
Day 82 - Puerto Natales, Chile
Today was one of those unplanned days that filled us with so much joy. First up, Wayne and I just walked off the ship with a coffee shop in mind, as it is named Nomad, which we just had to support because our dear friends from Belgrade also have a restaurant called Nomad.
The coffee didn't disappoint; it was a lovely little cafe with warm energy and a local vibe.
Now we had coffee to kickstart the day; we strolled around the beautiful city centre of Puerto Natales. It is very neat and well designed, the town has a soul and is very inviting.
Just before lunch, we found a cosy restaurant bar called Wild Hostel, with a very inviting wood-fired stove, a friendly resident dog and a sofa for us to chill and watch the world go by.
The team were an absolute delight; we were friends in minutes, and the owner was Finnish. (My mother is also Finnish).
We were joined by Pat & Bob, who wanted to join in the fun and soon after, Mary and Stephen. We all enjoyed a few Pisco Sours and snacks while chatting about our lives. After three months of cruising together, we feel like family.
Stephen took hold of the guitar nearby and entertained us with his hidden talents. He has been hiding them very well over the past few months on the ship.
It was a beautiful afternoon; we also enjoyed listening to the owner's life story. It was an inspiring adventure to bring him to where he is today, owning a beautiful hostel with his lovely wife and now based amongst the snow-capped mountains in Patagonia.
After we finished up at Wild, we dropped into another beautiful restaurant called Vinnhaus to sample their cocktails. Another Finnish owner greeted us with a warm welcome from the team. You were transported back to the 1920s, the decor was just fabulous, and we found a hidden little nook to start our way through the cocktails. I have never seen a cocktail list that I loved so much. Luckily we had a curfew!
The cocktails were impressive, and we enjoyed a few more hours onshore. We met the loveliest family from Chile, who were visiting from Santiago and chose this beautiful restaurant for their family dinner; meeting them all was a delight.
We loved the atmosphere, ambience, cocktails and staff so much we are trying our best to come back and stay for an extended period early next year; they also have a super cute hotel attached. Wayne & I will feel at home, and Puerto Natales is a perfect destination to enjoy on the tail end of Summer.
Surprisingly we made it back to the ship via a tender boat as the Nansen (our sister ship, which is identical to us, apart from a 1cm difference in length) had snuck in while we were ashore and took our place in port, so we all had the night just off the dock and enjoyed a peaceful night's sleep before we embarked on the journey to Antarctica.
Day 83 & 84 - At Sea, Chilean Fjords & Beagle Channel, Chile
Spent both days at sea, but with some magical highlights. We cruised through the White Narrows, an extremely narrow channel from Puerto Natales, to find our way through the Chilean Fjords. We all rushed to the Bow of the ship to witness the narrow passage; with a deep breath, we easily squeezed through the tight path.
The scenery throughout the day was majestic, from waterfalls to glaciers to mountainscapes. The Chilean Fjords and channels are breathtaking.
We filled one afternoon with a birthday celebration, a fellow pole to poler Stephen was signing in to his 73rd year, so we all spent the afternoon enjoying champagne, wine and even tequila shots! It was a blast!
The ship was also decorated for Halloween with a pumpkin smoothie treat for those brave enough. We also enjoyed our favourite pancake treat from Fredheim. Thank you, Chef!
The last day of week 12 was spent navigating more majestic scenery as we departed the South of Chile and made our way through the Beagle Channel for clearance to Antarctica.
Puerto Williams was where the ship made a quick stop for clearance and entered the Drake passage, also known as the 'Drake Shake'. We were all warned it would be rough, so pop your pills and tuck everything away. We were cautious, followed the advice, and were surprised at how uneventful it was and that we slept through the night! Thank you, Mother Nature.
Join us for the grand finale, 'week 13' next week; after three months, we finally experience the big white continent of Antarctica.