February 5th: Puerto Montt
I’d never heard of this city, but this is north Patagonia. In the 1800’s the government offered Europeans grants of free land if they would settle the area. Consequently, a few miles beyond the port itself, we came upon a Bavarian village set smack in the countryside of South America. It was very neat, tidy and picturesque. I felt like launching into a rollicking chorus of ‘val deree, val derah’. Actually, looking out across Lake Llanquihue to its furthest shore was eerily reminiscent of the view from Lake Taupo towards the volcanoes.
This is a pretty area. The land is fertile and well-watered by rain showers from the Pacific which, when they reach shore, have to rise against the might of the Andes, and so shed their water on this western side of the mountains.
There are also several volcanos, many of which are still active. Our guide was delighted to tell us that, when these are erupt, Chileans get to enjoy the drama of all the billowing smoke and flames. What they don’t receive is the fall out of ash and other debris from the eruption. The prevailing wind lifts the ash cloud, carries it over the mountain range, and dumps it in south Argentina. Lucky Chile.
The ship is running Spanish lessons on the sea-days, and I’ve signed up. It seems too good an opportunity to miss. What with sight-seeing, language lessons, eating, drinking and sleeping, there isn’t a lot of spare time. My creative spirit has been dampened down, and there’s not a lot of novel-writing going on – a situation I don’t imagine will change much until we start the long sea-journey back to New Zealand.
One of the hardest adaptations on-board has been coping with the time adjustment It’s settled down now, but for a period of ten days, the clock moved forward an hour each night. We all looked a little haggard in the morning, and it must have been grindingly hard on the staff who are extremely hard working.
The temperature is dropping, and we've unpacked our winter woollies. It's disjointing to be in summer gear one day, and wrapped up the next.
Tomorrow we are in Chacabuco, which sounds like a recipe for veal. The view outside the cabin is wonderful. We’ve reached the bit of Chile where the coastline fragments, and we’re sailing on an inland passage, with islands either side of us. It’s very like the southern sounds, and stunningly beautiful.