After initially beginning this incredible Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we are now in far southern Chile. Our first 4 port stops were described in 2 previous Sunday editions, and today, we conclude our magical journey through the ice fields and fjords of southern Chile. Our vessel continues through Chile's glacier-dotted southern Patagonia region, and, lastly, we disembark our elegant vessel at Valparaiso, Chile, and are transported to Santiago.
However, let's backtrack our cruising story now, our ship taking us through the cold Strait of Magellan in far southern Chile, and docking at the port of Punta Arenas, a city with a population of 127,500. The city is only located 871 miles north of Antarctica. This was our 5th port stop, and my bride, Ms. Debbie and I, decided to take the most physical land excursion of our entire 18-day adventure, an all-day round trip visit to what the National Geographic Society calls the 6th most beautiful place on Planet Earth. That place would be spectacular Torres del Paine National Park;. The getting there part was truly amazing for us. We left our ship at sunrise, taking a bus to a nearby small Chilean airfield. There, our small group of about 16 enthusiastic travelers, boarded a vintage de Havillion Canada Twin Otter aircraft, and flew almost 200 miles northwest, to another small airport, and landed. From there, we again took a coach for about an hour drive on narrow, winding roads to incredible Torres del Paine National Park, a wilderness area 450,000 acres in size. When our coach turned a corner on this overcast day, and our group first caught sight of the 3 towering granite spires in the distance, I vividly remember just how awe struck I was with the awesome natural beauty. The peaks are an eastern spur of the famous Andes Mountains, and the tallest of the 3 peaks is 9,462'. As we drove closer and closer to the 3 jagged, irregular, peaks, the overall beauty of the area simply intensified. In addition, there was incredible wildlife everywhere that day, from eagles, hawks and rheas, to literally hundreds of guanacos (similar to llamas), roaming and grazing all over the lush, green hillsides. Our group vehicle stopped several times for photo opportunities, while an on-board guide skillfully informed us lots of information about this special area. At the south end of the huge park, we pulled into a hotel and its restaurant, and had a traditional Chilean lunch. While dining, we continued to enjoy the moments by gazing out the building's large, mountain-facing windows at all the beautiful works Mother Nature had provided. Following lunch, we reloaded back into our travel coach, and slowly headed out of the memorable park, once again, frequently stopping at a glacier-fed lake, or other scenic vantage point along our return route, We flew back to Punta Arenas in our classic airplane, and reboarded our NCL cruise ship. What a day's experience to file in our mind's eye forever!
The next day, we rested on-board, while our ship headed north, in and out of many beautiful Chilean fjords and glaciers in the Patagonia region of their country. It was so relaxing to merely pull up a balcony deck chair, and view the pleasing scenery hour after hour in the cool temperatures.
Our last port stop before disembarking was Puerto Montt, Chile, located at the northern end of their Patagonia region. It is a city of 245,000, and is a hub for that region of central Chile. We chose a general guided-tour of the city and surrounding area, well-known for the 8,700' glacier-capped Orosono volcanic mountain, and nearby beautiful lake. The volcano's ;last eruption was in 1869. Puerto Montt is also well-know as a commercial salmon-raising (aquaculture) city, #2 in the world in overall salmon production.
For the last couple of days of this memorable cruise, our NCL ship slowly moved north, docking where my bride and I got off at the Chilean port city of Valparaiso. After completing our trip a few day's later in Chile's capital city of Santiago where we were driven from Valparaiso, we flew home. Upon arrival back in Our Town, we had our many trip photographs, a few purchased souvenirs, but most important, our minds' eye images forever of this incredible experience!