Boats and Bikes

I have just returned from a multi-day boat and bike trip. We bused from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysén. The boat took off from Puerto Aysén, we traveled through the Guaitecas Islands and arrived to Muelle Exploradores. We then biked from the Muelle to Puerto Tranquilo. From Puerto Tranquilo we drove back to Coyhaique.

All in all it was a gorgeous trip, but let me start with some photos!

The port where the boat  Natalia II  is stored at sunset.

The port where the boat Natalia II is stored at sunset.

Puerto Aysén

Puerto Aysén

We left Coyhaique on Sunday on a bus to Puerto Aysén. We unloaded the bikes from the bus and pedaled to the port to load onto the boat that would be leaving the next morning. I was surprised by the boat, I guess I had imagined it to be like the research vessels my dad works on, but it was an old cargo ship that is used to bring supplies to people who live on remote islands. Once a year 40 fully grown livestock (sheep, cattle, pigs) are loaded on at one of the islands and brought to the mainland. Luckily, today was not that day.

We arrived at the boat and were greeted by two men, the captain and his co-captain. They were worn and weathered just as many sailors are, but they were friendly enough. I figured three women and two men, not a bad ratio. The ship was rustic and wooden inside with a moist smell that really makes you appreciate and yearn for fresh air. We were given the upstairs bunk rooms and I quickly fell asleep in my sleeping bag. We would sleep the night in the port and take off early the next morning. I woke in the night struggling to breath from the lack of circulation in the boat. I was able to open the doors and return to bed.

I woke in the morning already sea sick. The boat had taken off while I was sleeping and the water was rough. I walked into the galley, and was greeted by 10 men who must have arrived early in the morning. They stared at me like a zoo animal and they would for the rest of the trip. I’ll spare you of all that, it wasn’t my favorite part of the trip.

Some of the salmon farms we saw along the way.

Some of the salmon farms we saw along the way.

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We passed by many salmon farms, which was my main motivation to come on the trip in the first place. The salmon farms are not very attractive, but what is worse is the trash that washes up onto all the pristine islands. These islands are mostly uninhabited, they are filled with lush trees and look almost like a sight you would see in the amazon rainforest. But then in the middle of no where you see large bouyes and netting washed up on the beaches.

There was nothing to do on this old boat but talk and I took advantage of the time to talk with these men about climate change and fishing. They were very eager to speak. Many of them didn’t know much about climate change, but they knew its effects. They spoke about the good old days with large snow falls and abundant fish. One man said, “I don’t understand how so much has changed in so little time.”

In terms of the salmon farms, these men were not fans. Their reasons were obvious. But they did mention that the salmon farms are an employer to Chileans and that could be seen as a plus. But the farming gets in the way of the artisanal fishing and that combined with the trash and environmental impacts makes salmon farming a negative thing for these men.

My absolute favorite part of the trip was when we made bread. If you know me, you know I am a passionate lover of all things bread. We made typical chilean bread that are one person sized little loaves. We also made deep fried bread. This instilled a whole new appreciation of life at sea for me. We ate incredibly well on the ship.

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We spent another night on the boat and arrived to Muelle Exploradores the next morning. We unloaded the bikes, chatted a bit and headed out on the bike ride to Puerto Tranquilo. It took us two days to get there, constantly stopping in awe of the gorgeous glaciers, waterfalls, rainbows, and mountains. The terrain here is rugged and wild and I am absolutely in love.

In two to three days I depart on a bigger journey all the way south to Cape Horn. My hope if to stop at el Chaltén, Torres de Paine, Navarino Islands, and finally Cape Horn. I plant to return to Coyhaique sometime at the beginning of November. Should be another grand adventure!

Gloria Goni-McAteer