The journey we are about to describe takes us onto an amazing 30 hour boat ride from Puerto Chacabuco and the beautiful island of Chiloe. It involves Chilean fjords, marine mammals and a scary knife attack… If this spoiler has gotten you interested, keep reading!
Boat to Chiloe Island
We booked our ticket while in Coyhaique, at Navira Australe, the cheapest company and one of the only boats leaving for Quellon (south of the island of Chiloe) at this time of the year. When we booked, we first didn’t know we were taking the long route but we knew we were going to spend at least 20 hours on the water: nobody was able, or wanted to tell us the time of arrival…
Filled up with supplies, mainly junk food and homemade sandwiches, we boarded the ferry on foot with around 15 other backpackers and probably 5 times more locals traveling by car. As we boarded, the sun set and we quickly went to sleep after few card games with our friends from Coyhaique. Grateful that nobody was using any of the seats on our row, Steven and I shared the 4 seats trying to find the most comfortable and less awkward position. We failed but managed to find a bit of sleep despite baby cries and snoring old men.
The next day, is probably one of those days we will never forget, and this, for many exceptional and terrifying reasons.
Chilling and spotting blue whales
With more than 20 hours on a boat, it meant a whole day chilling on the deck and enjoying the incredible views of the Chilean fjords and the volcanos that pop up from the mainland. After being caught in snow only a few days before, the weather was incredible with blue skies and no wind, allowing the boat to ride without a bump or a roll. While the locals mainly stayed inside the boat watching soap operas on TV, all the backpackers including us were chasing the sun on the deck moving from one side to another as the boat turned and the sun changed side. What a lazy life for a bunch of backpackers, picnicking, drinking beer and eating chips, while reading, sharing stories or looking out at the horizon on the search of wildlife.
I was one of the most determined one, unable to stop looking into the waters and hopping to see a blow… Steven on his side, trusted me to find the whales and was determined to finish his book “In Patagonia” while still in Patagonia.
Tireless and with an unflagging enthusiasm, I spotted a blow as I was alone on the deck. Unable to move, I called as loud as I could for my travel mates. A blue whale had just passed by the boat. It was the first time we were seeing this giant of the sea, the largest mammal on Earth.
The boat continued its journey along the fjords, stopping once in a while in very remote areas. It was really impressive to reach such places which mainly survive from fishing and a weekly (or maybe fortnightly) ferry… Some people boarded from islands on which 4WD would drive on the beach to access the ferry ramp… Madness! But let’s be honest, this is NOT the maddest thing we would witness that day…
The mad story: seeing somebody getting stabbed…
As most of the backpackers had joined the locals in the “restaurant” area, eating rice salad and cookies while playing different card games, a movement of panic filled the room. One of the girls who was also backpacking around South America, was standing with a guy behind her, hands around her neck choking her. I will never forget the expression in her eyes as she glanced at me. It was a mix of misunderstanding, fear and call for help. She couldn’t talk and was obviously shocked by the situation. After a moment of incomprehension, a few men jumped up and managed to free up the girl. As they tried to hold the attacker on the floor, we saw him twirling a knife in the air to reach anyone that would touch him. Some men surpassed the fear of the knife, and the guy ended up weaponless.
As all the men in the restaurant were attaching the attacker to a pillar, all the girls ran to find the victim and see if she needed help. As I arrived to her, I asked if she was hurt. She mumbled she didn’t think so as she raised her shirt. When she saw the blood dropping from the side of her chest she lost all her colour and started panicking. One of our friends held her and applied a piece of clothing to the wound while a few of us were looking for help, yelling at the crowd to find a doctor.
Throughout all this confusion, the crew behaved very badly. A Belgian guy who had a broken shoulder while hiking Cerro Castillo was trying to help the girl… He ended up being tackled by the waiter for some reason we couldn’t explain. The captain and other crew members literally told me to “fuck off” in Spanish as I was asking them assistance. They accused “the foreigners” of drinking on the boat and causing the fight…
Fortunately for the girl, the attack happened only 1 hour away from the town Melinda situated on an island. At the harbour, the police boarded the boat with two doctors. The girl who had been attacked was finally transported to the clinic of the island while the attacker and 7 of her friends went to the police station to attest as witnesses. After 3 or 4 hours waiting, they all came back to the boat except the young Chilean man who stayed in detention.
We sailed toward Chiloe island and arrived to Quellon, 30 hours after leaving Puerto Chacabuco. As the sun rose that morning Steven, the Dutchies and I, left the boat and waited for our bus to Castro, 2 hours north. A few days later, as we were exploring the island, we bumped into the french girl who was obviously doing better and had decided to continue her travels in South America. With a very positive set of mind she really impressed us by pursuing her trip and planning on volunteering in a farm while healing. She had been released from the clinic with 7 stitches along her right ribs, the knife had had not reached any organs. We were pleased to hear about this from her and wished her to get better as our paths took different directions.
I checked a few times on Chilean and international news to read about the attacker and understand what happened to him. The police never found out the reason of the attack. For what we remember and heard from the group of friends, that guy sat down at the table while they were playing cards. He asked a few times if he wanted to join the game but refused each time, not being really talktative. After an hour or so, he jumped onto the french girl for no reason… As for her, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time…
Read more about this event (in Spanish)
Costs and useful information
Currency April 17 (average) :€1 = 714.20 CLP
Bus from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysen : 2,200 CLP (€3)
Shuttle bus from Puerto Aysen to Pto Chacabuco : 500 CLP (€0.70)
Boat to Quellon w/ Navira australe : 17,500 CLP (€25)
** note that all the links we add are FYI. We are not remunerated by either the companies/organisations nor per click.