Aboard the ms Veendam: The end and the beginning

Puerto Montt, as seen from the ship.

ABOARD THE ms VEENDAM –  Our first port call on this fortnight journey was Puerto Montt, named for an early governor of the province. And it is quite literally at the end of the road. The road meaning the Pan American Highway, a noble concept whose opposite extreme is far, far away in Alaska.

Pulling up to a small dock was not a practical option for the 55,000-ton, Veendam, so passengers boarded the ship’s tenders which ferried them back and forth between the ship and the town.

A tender from the Veendam.

Cloudy weather initially greeted those who fanned out on various shore excursions. These ranged from an $80 four-hour drive along the shore of three villages to a scenic $175 eight-hour tour through the countryside, which included lunch and a boat ride on one of many lakes in the region. I didn’t choose one of these, but all with whom I spoke said they enjoyed the day.

The Mapuche statue in Santiago.

This area is especially identified with the Mapuche, the indigenous population of Patagonia. In recent times, much has been said in admiration of these people who vigorously attempted to defend their lands against the Spanish conquistadores. I recalled the Mapuche statue I saw a few days earlier in Santiago’s Plaza de Armas. It was purposely left unfinished to honor the spirit of these people and decry the subsequent dismemberment of their culture.

Strangely enough, there is a strong Bavarian look to many of the buildings in Puerto Montt, a result of a German immigration in the nineteenth century. The oldest structure is a cathedral built of redwood in 1853. Their influence is enjoyed today by those who still consume a popular type of German fruit pie.

Cruisers got their first look at some dormant volcanoes in the area today, most still capped with snow in this late-spring season. One seen clearly from the ship seemed for a time to have a puff of smoke cuddled up to it. But it just turned out to be nothing more than an apparently friendly cloud.

Photos by Robert W. Bone

November 9, 2012

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