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October 28

October 28, 2008

Enter the demimonde of the multiple-day sea voyage.

After a comfortable, but insufficient night’s sleep – before I drifted off I distinctly recall seeing three o’clock wind around on my wristwatch – we roused ourselves just in time for the Puerto Eden‘s communal breakfast. The ship is a conversion from a freight-ship, and cannot quite accommodate all the tourists at once in its mess-hall, so everyone milled about for seats before collecting trays laden with cornflakes, fresh fruit, bread rolls, eggs, ham and cheese.

We began to run across people we’d met recently in Valparaiso, Chiloe and Puerto Montt and politely renewed our acquaintances, as well as striking up standard “so you’re a tourist as well?” conversations with people from Australia, Germany and France. The travelling group has mixed demographics, with a lot of people around our own age or younger, but also a lot of old couples weighed down with expensive adventure gear.

After breakfast, a lengthy briefing was issued by the crew’s “guides” (in France, they’d be animateurs) regarding the route, the guidelines for behaviour, and the potential hazards ahead. They made particular reference to the times we’d be in rough seas, fixing in our minds the need to take motion-sickness tablets at some point during the day.

The view from the ship was unastonishing for the bulk of the daylight hours, as we were passing through the wider channel south of Puerto Montt and the shore was distant. The sun came out and shone down for the better part of the afternoon, though, and we went up to the top deck to enjoy it for long periods.

In the middle afternoon, as we approached the western exit of the first channel, where Chile’s outer boundary meets the eastern Pacific, the guides screened the bizarre (90s?) film adaptation of Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits in the common area, starring Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder and Antonio Banderas among others. The cast weren’t able to redeem a botched effort, unfortunately – and several of them were very inappropriate for the putative ages of their characters. Couple that with some very oddly realised violence and sex … it was all a bit confused.

At around six o’clock I began to feel queasy and went downstairs to bed, as we entered the Pacific. This turned out to be a bad idea, as cooped in my small cabin bed, which is about six inches too short for me, with the boat beginning to pitch slowly backward and forward on the swell, I felt worse still. I took an Aventris and came back upstairs, and began to feel better after an hour or so. Nevertheless at our late-ish 8:30 dinner, I left my chicken and rice practically untouched and knocked back a couple of dry, white bread rolls instead.

Of course, the tablet didn’t come without a cost, and made me very drowsy. Max had also had one, and we weren’t able to keep our eyes open past the opening scenes of the evening film, a Chilean comedy about Chilean and Argentinian soldiers in Patagonia. We retired to bed, where we found both our older cabin-mates lying restless in bed looking a bit green. In the morning, the Golfo de Penas would be on its way and promised even rougher seas.

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