Patagonia’s ice-carved waterways
The mid-point of the cruise was Puerto Eden. With just 180 inhabitants, this is the only settlement on the 650km stretch of coastline between Puerto Natales and the village of Caleta Tortel which is just off the ferry’s route further north. The indigenous Kawéska people have inhabited this part of Patagonia for 6,000 years, and little of the surrounding nature (all now encompassed in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park) has changed in this time. The MV Evangelistas is the tiny settlement’s main link to the outside world, bringing a twice-weekly delivery of food and supplies. Weather conditions permitting, passengers can disembark here for an hour or two and watch locals shyly showing off their canoe carving expertise while supplies are unloaded by the ship’s crew.
After leaving Puerto Eden, there was just one open-ocean stretch to test passengers’ mettle. Just south of the Taitao Peninsula, the large Golfo de Penas (Gulf of Sorrows) is open to storms from the western Pacific and swells can reach 5m high. This leads to plenty of rocking-and-rolling during the 10-hour passage, with many passengers confined to their bunks.
On the morning of the third day, the ship entered the Moreleda Channel. Forested slopes plunged steeply to the sea from their cloud-shrouded peaks. On the mainland, the glacier-covered cone of the Cerro Macau volcano peeked above the cloud and the straggly fishing port of Puerto Montt came into view. MV Evangelistas now suddenly seemed more cargo ship than cruise vessel. The crew sprang into action. Ramps were lowered, sheep bleated and horses kicked. Truck engines spluttered to life, men shouted, grease-blackened hands waved instructions to drivers. Passengers made their way down to the lower deck and strolled off into the busy docks – their Patagonian fjordland journey complete.
MV Evangelistas plies Chile’s far southwestern coast year-round, although the summer season (November to March) is when most visitors cruise. Bookings can be made online through Navimag Ferries.