South America 2019 – Chilean Fjords, Patagonia

Ben and I recently returned from South America, where we did an amazing cruise through the Chilean Fjords. South America is huge, and it takes a long time to get from one place to the next, and usually, transportation options are limited to car, bus or planes. Renting a car was out of the question – so bus and planes it was.

Our plan was:

  1. Arrive in Santiago, stay one night
  2. LATAM flight to Punta Arenas, stay one night
  3. Shuttle bus to Puerto Natales, board cruise

The Skorpios cruise through the Chilean fjords was fantastic! It was a 90 person boat + crew, 4 days and 3 nights. Our cruise was voyage #466, with 54 guests and 32 crew. The boat looked dated from the outside, but inside it was so plush and had clearly been renovated. Our bathroom was really large and well equipped. Each room had an en-suite. We were in room 405, which was on the 4th floor, where the sun deck is, we had great views.

Ben and I were definitely the youngest people on the cruise. I found that the hikes/activities were not too onerous, and the company certainly made every effort to ensure that the activities were not too strenuous. A typical hike was about 900m return on mostly flat ground.

This cruise is really fancy. We had tea (with the best lemon meringue pie I have ever had), and dinner was a fine dining 3 course meal experience. The wine is free flowing on the boat, as well as the pisco sours. They also have a lecture on glaciation, by the very entertaining Luis. Luis is our English speaking guide for the trip, he is hilarious. Luis told us that in the Southern Ice Fields, there are 48 glaciers, and we would be seeing 11 of them. After dinner, Luis handed out headphones. He said these were “translation devices” during the Captains speech. Turn out, Luis was in the back room translating for us through the headphones! Very funny guy.

We met our new friends – Carlos and Brigita (Germany), Peter and Fatima (Wales, Mozambique, USA), and Gerharrd and Micha (Holland).

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Top (L-R): Peter, myself and Ben, Bottom (L-R): Micha, Gerharrd, Carlos, Brigita and Fatima
Day 2 
  • we hiked to Amalia Glacier, beautiful flora along the hike, there were these tiny red berries (very cute) and really attractive bushes along the route. The glacier itself was receding, at last inspection, it measured at 2.5km wide, 80 metres tall, 16km long. It is speculated that this glacier is receding quite quickly due to a volcano located just behind it – the ultimate fire and ice story.
  • Hiked to El Brujo Glacier, this was bigger than Amalia Glacier, and a lot more active. Quite a few chunks of ice separated and crashed into the river. The boom from the cracking was so loud, like a cannon. Was quite exciting to see the ice crashing into the water, but at the same time, it was sad to see so many years worth of compacting and compressing destroyed in a matter of moments.
  • Boarded the Capitan Constantino Icebreaker boat to visit Calvo fjord, where we also saw the Capitan Constantino Glacier. The boat ride was quite exciting, we saw the Austral dolphins (short snout, chubby bodies) – 3 of them were following us and racing against the boat, we saw a herd of South American sea lions – they were so active, and were all perched together on this rocky cliff face. We also saw two types of Cormorants – the Imperial Shag (these have white cheeks and bellies) and the Rock Shag (these have back faces and white bellies), they swim really funny, they look like Speedy Gonzales trying to run on water! During the boat ride, the crew handed us each a Skorpios III whiskey tumbler with 12 year old whiskey and a hunk of 30,000 year old ice – aptly named the “12 and 30”. It was lovely to have a toast with all of our new friends.

Day 3

  • hopped into the small boat to see Alsina Glacier – 90m tall, 200m wide, 7km long.
  • Did a small hike to Bernal Glacier. Two years ago, the Skorpios company built a path so that their guests could comfortably reach and touch the glacier. The glacier is melting at such a rapid rate, that now we cannot touch the glacier, water has flooded the lagoons. The water was so beautiful, it had a beautiful blue tinge to it, and it just looked like a magical place, with artfully arranged bushes, trees, moss and rocks.
  • Last excursion for the day – we went out in our little boats to hunt some fauna – we saw more cormorants, condors, kelp geese, and a different kind of dolphin – the Chilean dolphin. These dolphin are smaller than the Austral dolphin, and have a rounded dorsal fin.
  • the Capitan’s Farewell dinner – oh my, the crew pulled out all the stops for this one! So many different kinds of seafood – abalone, barnacles, mussels, king crab, avocado stuffed king crab, salmon, prawns, ceviche, sushi! There was an assortment of meats as well, delicious vegetables and rice. And there was a table just groaning under the weight of a multitude of desserts – chocolate cake, dulce de leche meillefuille cake, vanilla iced cake, crepe caramel, pavlova with walnuts and sultanas, and a special Lima dessert which was like a vanilla and chocolate custard topped with meringue (AMAZING). After dinner there was dancing, and boy, can these over 60’s dance! There was a lot of swing happening, I was most impressed with their skills.

Overall, we really enjoyed the cruise. This trip was really different to our Europe adventure, we did a lot more tours in South America and, it was less about the sight-seeing, and more about the adventure. I would highly recommend this Skorpios cruise to anyone visiting South America. It was a really lovely experience.

I found Chile to be quite expensive, food-wise. Chilean food is really beautiful, but oddly enough, the locals don’t think their food is that great. Throughout South America, we found that “fast-food” was the cheapest food you can find – oily burgers and fries, that sort of thing. We ended up paying around USD$60 per meal for typical Chilean fare. I really don’t know how the locals afford it.

Some food recommendations:

  1. Aji Limon, Pudahuel, Santiago – expensive, but delicious Peruvian food. A great way to kick start our South American adventure. The staff were so attentive. When they saw that we were struggling with the all-Spanish menu, one of the guys came over and explained some of the dishes. we had 3 varieties of ceviche – with plain cure, yellow pepper cure and red pepper cure, and a rice and 3 meat variety cooked in a soft soy sauce – CLP 29,200

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2. La Marmita, Punta Arenas – So worth the walk! We ordered a berry pisco sour, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, king crab starter, sous vide Hake with mote stew, guanaco (llama) Bourguignon – CLP50,000

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