A journey from Cape Horn to the Atacama
Boat journey to Isla Navarino … Down the Beagle Channel … Cape Horn … War relics … Flight back to the mainland … The hardy migrants … Cordillera de la Sal … Lagunas … El Tatio again … Puncture in the desert … Clouds over Paranal
My mum and dad and aunt came to visit me in Chile, and we planned an epic journey around the whole country. We'd been planning the trip for a long time, and one of the things we really wanted to do was the four day boat journey from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, so when they booked their flights the first thing I went to do was book tho boat journey. Unbelievably, Navimag had cancelled the route just a few days before, running it for freight only. A vague notice on their website said that they hoped to be open to passengers again "at some point".
But there was an alternative. For a long time I'd been reading about Isla Navarino and Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world. There was a boat that went there, too, from Punta Arenas. So we decided to head south, really south, and see what there was at this frontier of human existence, where the only human beings further south than us would be the 1,000 or so living through the winter on Antarctica.
We set off from Punta Arenas on a beautiful calm evening, and stood on deck as it got dark and the lights of the town disappeared behind us. During the night, the weather got rougher and for a while the boat was rolling and riding some huge waves, but by the morning it was pretty calm again. When I woke up around sunrise, we were in utter wilderness. Sombre snow-capped mountains all around, wild forested islands which probably no-one ever sets foot on, and our little boat chugging through it all.