One of the things I liked about this trip was the scheduling of days at sea vs. days touring. After I bungled my flight schedules -- which resulted in my being completely wiped out during a brief stay in Santiago -- it was great to start the cruise with a relaxing day at sea. The next few days exploring the pristine beauty of Patagonia -- the sparsely populated part of southern Chile -- were also peaceful.
Our first tour began with a cruise feature I like least. Usually the ship must anchor offshore and take passengers to the dock in small tenders. I'm impatient in queues -- and I was always eager to get on the little boats -- so that Patagonian saying above was meant for me.
We were told to report to the main lounge at 9:45am, and we didn't board our bus at the pier until after 11 o'clock.
The next stop was Puerto Varas, the “City of Roses.” It’s a nice town on a lake by the snow-capped Osorno Volcano:
We stopped here to shop and snack. These "shop-overs" have driven me nuts on other tours, particularly in Asia. I was pleased that Holland America kept them brief.
The houses in Puerto Varas and environs are evidence of Chile’s German heritage. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, they're built in a style reminiscent of Germany’s Black Forest region.
I’d known little about this German connection . . . just a vague recollection of Chile's being a haven for high-ranking Nazis after World War II. This region was settled by German immigrants beginning in the mid-19th century -- the project of an advisor to the Chilean president, a tireless promoter of European immigration to the unpopulated regions of southern Chile.
Puerto Montt is also known as an important fishing center. I was surprised to learn that Chile in the past two decades has risen to second in the world -- behind Norway -- in salmon production. I was delighted to find the tasty fish regularly available on menus on and off the ship.
We spent most of the day viewing lakes, volcanoes, and waterfalls -- my kind of countryside. But I didn’t see anything dramatically better than Cayuga Lake -- in upstate NewYork, where I grew up -- or Fewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal, where I lived for months during this past decade.
The landscape reminded me of the mountains of Colorado at times, then the buttes of Arizona. In a land unharmed by modernization, the flora and fauna abound around Puerto Chacabuco. A hike along the river added to the enjoyment of this untouched region's splendor.
A guidebook I read described the Chilean fjords as second only to Norway’s. I hope it’s a distant second, since I wasn’t blown away by what I saw . . . and since I’m making plans to cruise along Norway’s fjords this summer with my son and his gal.