I am Bruce Good, Seabourn’s director of public relations. I am currently sailing aboard Seabourn Sojourn on a Patagonian Passage East from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a region I’ve always wanted to visit, and I thought I’d blog from here to let you know what it’s like. Hope you enjoy it.
I awoke on Thursday, November 10 and pulled aside my drapes to reveal a panorama of tall, heavily forested granite islands gliding by just outside. The forest was dense and multicolored, with a wind-whipped, wiry character very different from the tropics. But beneath the ceiling of fog and ragged clouds it was beautiful, and mesmerizing to watch. Now and then we passed the corral of orange buoys and metal frames that marked a salmon farm near the shore of a distant island, the only signs of mankind in the panorama. Shortly before noon we came to Puerto Chacabuco, the port for the Aysén region of Chile south of Puerto Montt and Chiloé. It has the look of an outpost in the mostly wild surroundings, but clearly busy and focused on commerce. I had selected a five-hour excursion called “Patagonian Nature in Depth” which took us to a privately owned nature reserve near the town. Other choices included excursions over the nearby Andes passes to the Simpson River valley and even a horseback ride in the Simpson Valley. After a short tender ride to the dock, where we were met by a basking harbor seal, we boarded coaches for a short 15-minute ride to the park. The Aikén del Sur Park is owned and operated by a private company that specializes in eco-tourism in this region. They maintain the trails and facilities and employ the rangers and guides, who are excellent. A brief orientation alerted us to the fact that while it’s easy to think of the surrounding forest as “virgin,” because it is virtually unmarked by human endeavor, it really is second-growth that replaced the climax forest that once towered to an average height of over a hundred feet here. The interim was a result of a government policy in the 1930s that allowed clear-burning for agricultural purposes. This idea resulted in catastrophic wildfires that decimated over 50 percent of the native forest in Patagonia. This huge region still supports fewer than .8 people per square kilometer, so the forest is still untamed even though not truly untouched. Our guides led us in small groups along a two-kilometer trail through the forest, criss-crossing clear streams and pausing occasionally to learn about the trees and other plants, their characteristics and in some cases medicinal uses. Many of the trees were in full bloom, and the meadows were dusted with buttercups that attracted bumblebees the size of small birds. Out-sized rhubarb plants with leaves several feet across likewise had sprouted conical towers of reddish blossoms. We came to a 65-foot waterfall called “The Old Man’s Beard,” and paused for photographs. Finally we climbed to a saddleback overlooking a lovely lake between looming forested headlands. A steady, chill wind swept blowing showers down from the mountains behind us and sent us scurrying into the warmth of the nearby lodge, where fragrant, spit-roasted lamb and Chilean wine awaited, along with a festive folkloric show. Sated by the feast and entertained, and invigorated by our afternoon in the Patagonian wild, we returned to Chacabuco, the tenders and our waiting Seabourn Sojourn. That evening’s departure was even more dramatic than the morning’s entry had been, with steep granite slopes rising from the pewter-tinted fjord into veils of soft grey clouds, tracked on their lower slopes by silvery waterfalls and on their upper shoulders by trailing ermine-tails of snow.