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Day 1 - USHUAIA. EMBARKATION ON MV OCEAN VICTORY
Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina - the world’s southernmost town. Explore the quaint city or local countryside. Alternatively, consider a day trip off the beaten path to the raw, natural archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. It's a hiker's paradise with rugged snow-capped mountains, glaciers, flower-filled meadows and boggy quagmires. In the afternoon, we board our ship, the 5-star Ocean Victory.
We sail towards Puerto Williams on Chilean side of the Beagle Channel. The channel has rich wildlife with cormorants, penguins and sea lions on virtually every rocky outcrop, and dense temperate rainforest reaches from shore to tree line and the eternal snow. In this harsh climate, the hardy people of the now extinct Yagan tribe resided, as described by Charles Darwin in his journals.
DAY 2 THROUGH MURRAY AND BEAGLE CHANNELS TO CAPE HORN
Today we are going to see the famous "horn", Cabo de Hornos. It is difficult to predict the day’s program, as the waters south of the horn are unpredictable at best. Should weather be fair, we will use our landing Zodiacs to go ashore on Isla Hornos at the memorial for sailors who have lost their lives here.
Although the ship is very stable, we will hopefully get a brief impression of what the old sailing ships were going through in Magellan's and Darwin's time, and rejoice that ships are no longer what they have been. The first "modern" sailor to navigate the race was the Dutch captain Willem Schouten in 1616, who opened the dangerous route. But haven't the locals been here long before?
DAY 3 GARIBALDI FJORD OVERLOOKING CALVING GLACIERS AND MOUNT DARWIN
Today's highlight is sailing into the narrow and unbelievably beautiful Garibaldi fjord in Alberto de Agostini National Park – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its spectacular soaring glaciers and rich plant and wildlife. It is not uncommon to see a group of killer whales in these waters feasting on the seafood.
DAY 4 FORT BULNES, CHILE AND STRAIT OF MAGELLAN PARK
As we leave the island of Tierra del Fuego, we head into Magellan Strait and reach Fort Bulnes. The fort was built in 1843 on the rocky shores of Punta Santa Ana under the command of President Bulnes Prieto to maintain control of the Magellan Strait and the ships that sailed through it.
The fort is today restored to its original form, and the area around included in the fascinating Strait of Magellan Park.
DAY 5 THROUGH THE CHILEAN ARCHIPELAGO. SCENIC SAILING THROUGH THE LABYRINTHINE FJORD LANDSCAPES.
The day is set for cruising on the legendary Strait of Magellan, which divides “Land of Fire” from the South American continent as well as the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean.
Ferdinand Magellan, whom the strait was named from, was a Portuguese explorer on commission of Spain's Charles d. 1st and the first to navigate the strait in 1520. Chile annexed the Strait under President Bulnes in May 1843, emphasizing Chile's supremacy through the construction of the previously visited fort.
The climate is sub-antarctic and the coast is rugged and vegetation-poor. Yet these coasts have been home to a highly developed and populous Native American culture, consisting primarily of maritime, nomadic hunter-gatherers and others who contented themselves with staying on land from which they fished and collected seafood. The tribes lived isolated and unaffected by Western civilization until about 1800, after which they quickly became extinct as a result of new diseases and radical eradication campaigns initiated by the governments of Chile and Argentina. Today, our overall knowledge of these many different peoples is extremely sparse.
DAY 6 PUERTO NATALES, CHILE. VISIT TO THE NATIONAL PARK TORRES DEL PAINE.
The Captain has through the night navigated the vessel more than 200 kilometers east across Chile through the world’s most complicated fjord system. Disembarking in the town of Puerto Natales we are ready for a bus drive into Torres del Paine National Park. Crowned by the three majestic granite towers, "Torres del Paine", and “Paine Grande”, 2,884 meters above sea, and encircled by huge lakes, calving glaciers and open grasslands where guanacos feed, it is fair to say that this is among the most beautiful national parks in the world.
"Paine" is a Native American word for "blue", and today's excursion into the national park shows why. We will drive through the park and enjoy the view of the mountains throughout the day. Occasionally we will get off the bus and take shorter walks to reach the best vantage points.
DAY 7 SAILING ON THROUGH THE ARCHIPELAGO. MINI-CRUISES THROUGH THE FJORD LANDSCAPES IN OUR ZODIACS.
By now, we are in the deep archipelago and the ship navigates through the many narrow waterways, almost all of which are called canals. The route follows the canals Sarmiento, Esteban, Angostura, Inocentes and then into the long narrow Canal Messier. It is incredibly beautiful no matter what direction the eyes are turned. Pointed rugged, often snow-capped mountain peaks, glaciers, lots of life above and below the water. The canals have all been shaped and extended during the recent ice ages, when they were filled with glaciers from the Andes to the east. As we enter the 250km-long Messier, we begin to see small fishing villages. We will plan for Zodiac landings along the way where appropriate.
DAY 8 PUERTO EDÉN, CHILE. CRUISE TO THE BRÜGGEN GLACIER.
Our goal this morning is the 60 km long Brüggen Glacier, slowly flowing down from the huge Patagonian Ice Fields. We cruise in safe distance from the active glacier front – and continue north through the Messier for more adventures.
It is a must to visit the small, completely cut-off town of Puerto Edén, which, with less than 200 inhabitants, lies on the banks of the Canal Messier. The sea is the only access because neither roads nor paths lead to Edén. The city also has no roads between houses and shops, only wooden promenades or boardwalks. The population lives primarily on fishery and seafood collection, which is picked up once a week by a cutter.
DAY 9 CALETA TORTEL VILLAGE, CHILE
We have reached the northern end of Canal Messier, where we find yet another exciting and typical Chilean village in this area. Caleta Tortel was built in 1955 to utilize the area's cypress trees for timber production. The village is located where rivers, meltwater and the sea coalesce into a mossy subsoil, which is why all houses are built on stilts and the roads are, like in Puerto Edén, built of wood. Cypress of course.
DAY 10 AT SEA TOWARD CASTRO
The trip continues along the coast of Chile, and we have time to enjoy the ship's facilities, perhaps a little massage, a visit to the shop or an interesting lecture on the nature or culture of the area. You can also relax in one of the hot tubs on the deck or take a dip in the small pool.
DAY 11 CASTRO, CHILE
In the outskirts of the Chilean Lake District and we visit yet another city on stilts, Castro. It is the county’s third oldest city, founded in 1567. The area has been hit by earthquakes and tsunamis several times, and in 1837 the city was effectively leveled with the ground.
Castro is an exciting city to stroll around. The famous wooden churches on Chiloé, of which four are in Castro, are one of Chile's largest cultural treasures and were added to UNESCO's list of cultural heritage. Many of the churches are built entirely of wood without as much as a single nail.
DAY 12 THE NATURE-PROTECTED ISLAND OF ISLA MOCHA. HIKE IN THE BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPE OF THE NATIONAL PARK.
Today’s landing is on the small island of Mocha, of which half is designated as a national park. Originally the island was inhabited by the so-called Lafkenches people. Francis Drake visited the island during his world circumnavigation, but had to leave after being seriously injured by the island's residents. In 1685, the governor forced the entire island population to what is today the city of Conception. There are several stories from the 19th century about a giant white casket whale that belonged to the island of Mocha, called Mocha Dich, which should have inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick.
In 2007, skulls from the original Mocha people were compared to skulls from the Easter Island and was found to have astonishing similarities, supporting the theory, originally put forward by Thor Heyerdahl, about the connection between South America and the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean.
We will utilize the ship's Zodiac fleets to make the landing and learn about the national park and the local flora and fauna.
DAY 13 AT SEA TOWARDS VALPARAÍSO
Today it is time read, listen to lectures and relax in the company of the other passengers of the ship and enjoy the delicious meals the chefs of the ship spoil us with.
DAY 14 VALPARAÍSO, CHILE. CITY TOUR, WINERY VISIT AND TRANSFER TO SANTIAGO DE CHILE.
After breakfast, it's time to leave Ocean Victory and get ready for the homebound journey.
Valparaíso, one of Chile's oldest cities. The city is constructed on a number of ridges around the bay and is known for its old cable cars, 15 of which are still functional. They lead from the harbor up to the old UNESCO-protected residential neighborhoods. Here colonial-era German and English traders lived in the colorful houses that illuminate the cityscape.