The boat from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales is a 4-day trip on a (semi-)converted cargo ferry. The ferry is run by a company called Navimag (whose logo is, quite brilliantly, a deformed dolphin breathing fire) and the beds are split between 4-person cabins with bathrooms and 22-person dorms without. One of the nice advantages of doing this sort of travel in your late twenties when you have some money, rather than as a gap-year student when you have none, is you can have these small luxuries. The two basic benefits are sharing a shower between only 4 people and not being woken up all the livelong night.

The route itself passes east of Chiloe and through the Northern Patagonian channels which are, well, very pretty. A trip out toward the pacific and then a crossing of the Golfo de Penas (less scary than it sounds) then brings you to Southern Patagonia, which is stunning. Mountains and glaciers pour themselves into lakes and channels that are perfectly still, but for our presence. A particular highlight was the Pio XII glacier, the only glacier in the world that is still growing. It seems to almost fluoresce with a light but intense blue. I’ve not seen many glaciers before, but I doubt that there are many that can match the setting of this one, the mix of ice, sea and craggy mountains is impressive.

The trip itself was an interesting blend of sleep, scenary, tedium and alcohol. The demographics were amusingly matched to the cabin quality (being about 50 in our AA-class cabins and barely 25 in the C-class dorms) but it meant there were more than enough interesting people to distract you from the occasional bloke who wanted to discuss the internal workings of the latest Jaguar engine. For pretty much the first time in Chile we actually met a bunch of English people too, previously our gringo exposure split between Yanquis and Continentals (and one slightly mad Irishwoman). Despite my general concerns about meeting English people overseas (I’ve gone half the world away to avoid them afterall) this lot were perfectly nice, in a pleasingly inebriated way. Needless to say, many rounds of cards were played. My parents will be pleased to hear, I’m sure, that not all of them were drinking games.

All-in-all, the Navimag is a great experience, you meet new friends and see some stunning scenary. We were pretty lucky with weather and seas and there was little seasickness aboard. As we pulled up in Puerto Natales (a cute little village on Last Hope Sound) we all exchanged hungover nods and diverged to our hostels.