Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Enter the Navimag

Well, the second day in Puerto Montt was really just preparation for boarding the Navimag, the famous boat "cruise" through the Chilean Fjords. This is clearly no luxory cruise trip, but rather a commercial ferry that transports goods and people in rather bare bones style down the southern coast of Chile.
Navimag from shore

No mind, this trip was certainly not about luxury accommodations. However, the hearty group of travelers with whom I found myself brought their own style, toasting our departure with Champagne from plastic cups on the top deck.
Toasting our departure

Given that our pre-boarding shopping trip consisted mostly of bottles upon bottles of wine, this would be an interesting trip even if the sites weren't fantastic. And, in fact, it was mostly overcast for much of the boat trip and we even received a fair bit of rain while on board. However, this was just fine as there wasn't much to do outside on this small ship and expending our bad weather mojo on board assured that we had near perfect weather for the remainder of the tour.
Cloudy day at sea

Inside there was a decent sized cafeteria where they also showed movies and documentaries. There was also a small bar where seats were always at a premium. We ended up playing lots of cards in the bar area and tried to always keep someone on site to reserve our precious spots. I think I learned about a half dozen new card games some of which can be played with up to 8 people.
Cards about the Navimag

Aboard ship I really started to get to know my fellow travelers. Here are my impressions:

Alan and Sarah (British couple, Alan has headphones on in the rear left, Sarah is facing away wearing a hat) - Alan is soft-spoken, gentle and tends to understate things. OK, so you can't hear the tone of dripping sarcasm over the Internet, but you get the idea. Really a great guy underneath it all, but is still searching for his "feminine side". Sarah is truly a sweet English Rose, but behind the lilting voice, warm heart and soft demeanor lies a soldier who can fire a sniper's rifle. Both are nurses and have performed relief work and military service in such "peaceful" locales as the Falklands, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think that Sarah's alter ego is either photographer (she must have taken a couple thousand photos during the trip) or veterinarian (she seemed compelled to help any and all stray dogs in Argentina and Chile which is a LOT!) Alan's alter ego is clearly to be a singer in a musical as he definitely has the voice and loves to ham it up.

Ben and Rachel (Ben is in the middle back of picture and Rachel is facing away wearing black&white jacket) - Another British couple, though not (yet) married despite much egging on by the group for Ben to "pop the question" on board the ship. The two of them have been traveling since the start of the year and are on an around-the-world ticket. They had already been to Japan, Australia and New Zealand among other places. They also continued on to the Galapagos after our tour was over. They are both around 30 which means at their age I was working 80-90 hrs/week in a start-up and had never taken a vacation longer than 2 weeks! Ben's alter ego is definitely card shark. He seems to know every card game ever invented and a half dozen variations on each. Rachel is not quite as easy to peg, though I will say that despite all her pre-stated trepidations about the hikes, she didn't miss a step once time came to hit the trails. I'm gonna go out on a limb and call her alter ego "power hiker" :-).

Klemens and Valerie ("The Swiss" sitting together in the lower left corner above) - If anyone is going to belie the stereotype of the stern, reserved Swiss it is these two. Valerie is warm and friendly (especially to stray dogs to whom she only served the highest quality of fresh sausages). Klemens was probably the funniest one of the entire group and really put the supposedly unrivaled British wit to shame with his incredible sense of humor. Klemens is traveling on a sabbatical from work as he somehow convinced his boss that he needed to travel around South America to learn Spanish in order to further his career in engineering. Valerie was simply on vacation, though being Swiss I think they both pick up languages faster than the rest of us learn a new card game. I would say Valerie's alter ego is definitely animal rescue worker. Klemens has already made plans to open the first Swiss International Offshore Bank of Puerto Edan (see next post) and was actively recruiting clients and investors from the group. Of course, both of them also have side jobs as Swiss ambassadors of good will and chocolates which they doled out on a daily basis.

Erin (Dark hair, just beyond Sarah's hat) - My fellow American and fellow computer nerd. Also the only other one taking a "mere" three week vacation. She is from the Seattle area and works at...yes, you guessed it...Microsoft. But, please, don't hold it against her :-). Erin is a true Pac-NW spirit and definitely into the outdoors. Outside of the research labs of the world's biggest software company she is an avid hiker and mountaineer/climber in training.

Robin (Can just see his head behind Rachel) - Yet another Brit! Robin is my fellow runner. Or, rather, I should say that he is the runner of the group because next to him I am a slow, plodding jogger. He is the cheez half (along with Alan) of the singing duo "Hamon y Queso". His 2:45 marathon PR clearly seems to indicate the direction of his alter ego. However, I think his nickname of Sir. Robin may tilt the hidden talent in a more royal direction.

Nigel (Very rare for Nigel not to be in picture though look around the site as his cleanly shaven skull is unmistakable) - Nige is an Australian who has been living in London working as a civil engineer for (I believe) an architectural firm. He was another one on the extended travel itinerary, taking time off after leaving his job to head back down under and work on his MBA. He has been all over South America and this was the tail end of his trip. Nigel lived up to his heritage and did nothing to dispel the stereotype of his countrymen as he was alway the first to hit the bar with beer time starting as early as 11am. Nigel was the first person I met on my trip and I found I got on well with his laid-back, easy-going personality. Were it not for the funny accent he could definitely hail from Cali. While he mostly played basketball as a youth, I'm gonna have to call Nigel's alter ego a cricket player. He definitely took joy in demonstrating his bowling technique as he taunted the English over the spanking the Aussies were giving the Brits in the Ashes Series.

Oana (Not pictured and not surprising, though you can see her standing behind me in the "toasting" picture up further) - Oana is Romanian by birth, but is from Germany. While she at first came across as a bit aloof and reclusive, once you got her one-on-one she was a good person to talk with and definitely has her own very dry sense of humor. In the end she almost seemed the saddest to see our (by then) close knit group of friends each go their separate ways. She definitely had her ideas about how things should be run which is why I think I will give her the alter ego of "tour leader". I say that with a grin that I hope she will understand. The thing I will remember most about Oana is how, even though she was always the last one to arrive at every checkpoint during the hikes, she always had the biggest smile on her face. It was a smile that seemed to say quite simply "I am happy to be here and that's all that matters". I've also never seen anyone quite so excited at seeing her luggage come round on a baggage carousel.

Well, that's our group. You'll probably see more of them throughout my pictures if I ever finish posting them all.


miki said...

That's great that you ended up with such a wonderful sounding group. Looks like you picked a perfect trip for yourself. Welcome back.

Eudemus said...

Yes, I ended up with a really great group of people to travel with. The whole trip was absolutely amazing. I need to get on the ball and get the rest of the photos posted. The really good stuff is AFTER the boat trip.