Friday, 26 January 2018

Chile Summer Series: Glacier Cruise (Part 2)

Last post I described the beginning of a glacier cruise I took in southern Chile in 2006. Now the adventure continues...


On the second morning of the cruise we awoke to find the Pio XI glacier right outside our window. This is the largest glacier in South America, stretching back some 70 kilometres into the mountains.

If you saw this in a movie, you'd assume it was a special effect. Filling our field of vision is a cathedral of ice, ranging from pure white through blue shades to almost indigo depths.

Great vertical cracks resemble caves, promontories look like spires.

On its upper surface are projections like great crystals, and gigantic cracks hint from where the next giant chunk of ice will fall into the sea as the glacier makes its way down from the heights.

After a run in the ice-filled fiord in the excursion boat, we return to the ship and stand on the top deck as the Skorpios cruises parallel to the glacier’s cliff-like surface.

Every so often a chunk of ice breaks away and hits the water, with a deep crash and ensuing waves.

Standing there with a quiet sense of reverence, we all feel we’ve seen a major highlight of our travelling careers.

"Just look at it," says one of the Australian women. "Forget about photos. Look at it and carry it in your mind".

So we put down our cameras for a moment and just look.

And as we look, a barman sidles up with the inevitable brightly-coloured cocktails on a tray.

And so to Eden. Puerto Edén that is, a fishing village set in the middle of this chilly beauty.

It's strange to come across a settlement after travelling for days through areas with no evidence of human activity.

There are no roads in this part of Chile, and not even any streets in the town; instead, it has a series of raised boardwalks which lead around the village and up to a nearby lookout.

It's an attractive place, even in its obvious poverty. Fishing boats lie high and dry on the shore, brightly coloured with hand-painted names; fishing nets sit piled, ready for use; and the different coloured roofs are pleasing as they follow the curve of the bay.


The locals supplement their incomes by selling handcrafted souvenirs to visitors, mostly woven baskets and model boats made of wood or hide. We buy a few to pay our way.

Back on the ship, afternoon tea is served as Puerto Edén slips away in our wake, disappearing from sight as if it were never really there: like a South American Brigadoon.

Over the next few days we see more ice than you’d ever hope to meet, in an assortment of breathtaking glaciers. Each has its own distinctive formation: one even looks like a giant frozen meringue.

The mix of onboard treats and external adventure continues, typified by the Captain’s Ball whose buffet features animals carved from butter

Then for our final excursion, we go ashore and walk right up to the face of a glacier.

This seems to be the hallmark of the cruise: a neatly-judged balance of comfort and adventure.

Aboard we have pleasant cabins and plentiful food and drink, which are contrasted by frequent excursions to the rugged, primal wilderness outside.

Although the passengers are mostly a middle-aged bunch, I think it would work well with a family group, as there’s enough activity to keep kids occupied. And there are no unexpected costs, as the tariff includes all food and drink, even the alcoholic variety.

But that special glass of Scotch we had earlier - chilled by 50,000 year old ice from a glacier - may have spoiled me. Where’s the fun in drinking whisky with day-old ice, when you’ve had the really old stuff?

Information about Skorpios cruises can be found at skorpios.cl.