Puerto Williams is easy to get to but hard to leave…So we were stuck on Isla Navarino. The bottom of the world. Apparently this is quite normal for tourists as there is only one ferry service per week to Punta Arenas and the small aircraft that also flies to Punta Arenas fills up fast. We had to get to Ushuaia in Argentina, which is even more of a problem, as we had a flight leaving for Buenos Aires and accommodation booked through Airbnb.
What to do…not a lot. There is a nice museum with lots of information and displays about the indigenous Yangan culture. This museum is free (donations welcome) and has free wifi. Otherwise we spent our time at a lovely cafe near the ferry port – Cafe Luisa, and drank beer and gluwine in our hostel. The problem is you see that the channel between Ushuaia and Isla Navarino is very windy and the navy closes the port so no boats can leave when it is like this. Also Chile and Argentina aren’t playing nice so there’s no ‘commercial’ re. legal/organized ferry services between the two places.
Thankfully our hostel proprietor, Cecelia, was onto it and knew about a Dutch/Spanish couple – Johan and Silvia and their sailboat, Alea (www.sailingalea.com). They were in the area and were ferrying tourists back and forth for 105,000 CLP. We needed to leave by the 10th December but it had been snowing and blowing a gail since we returned from our trek and we were told it was not possible to leave until “manyana”. This is the spanish word for tomorrow, but it also means maybe not tomorrow either.
We had to meet the ships captain at the naval immigration at 5.30pm that evening to get our passports stamped for the next day. However, when we met they told us we would leave that night at midnight, when the weather is calmest, and we needed to meet at the dock at 10pm to get the tender across to the sailboat. Okay. It was finally all happening. The five of us – including our three Germans – quickly had our last supper with our new friends from the hostel. Dinner that evening was pasta with a local ingredient – not entirely certain what it was called but it was referred to as a mushroom as it is a kind of fungus that grows on trees. It resembles a small orange, however the taste is somewhat flavorless and gooey. Needless to say I ate most of the pasta, leaving the pieces of Orange mushroom aside.
We met Johan at the dock and were ferried across to the little orange sailboat by the rubber tender. Once on board we sat and had some hot drinks and biscuits and were shown the two cabins – a double bed in one and a bunk bed in the other. The bathroom had a pump operated toilet that needed to be pumped at least 10 times after use and maybe twice that if you had done a number two.
Just before midnight Silvia radioed the naval office and we were given the ok. After such a quiet and relaxing time at the bottom of the world, it was all happening again. As our co-captains put on their big waterproof coats and pants and went up on deck, the slow combustion fireplace in the dining room started to smoke out the cabin. When Silvia came down and said that this was not normal and a big problem, the otherwise self assured Germans began to panic as we headed out of the bay and the small boat was significantly rocking back and forth. Tom went as pale as a ghost due to the combination of smoke, the sudden rocking of the boat, and the manic Germans. We all gladly took some sea sickness drops and went to lie down. It was a rough 7 hours in the ships hull. The wind speed got up to 40 knots and we weren’t technically allowed to leave the port if it was higher then 15 knots… The reason the short distance took 7hrs was we were zig-zagging up the channel into the oncoming wind and swell. This also made getting up in the night to visit the bathroom a real mission. The extreme movement of the boat made it difficult to even get out of bed. The rest of the procedure was equally as challenging and it was a massive relief to lie back down.
We woke up the next morning in the calm waters of Ushuaia with the realization that we had been smuggled out of Chile. Well not illegally, but not technically legit either.