Wednesday, January 17, 2024

A moment like this

My first visit to Chile was in September, 2002. I spent several days in Santiago, then flew 600 miles south to Puerto Montt, considered to be the northernmost outpost of Patagonia. While I would have loved to continue deeper into Patagonia which extends southward for another 1200 miles, I didn't have the time, so I rented a car and drove to Puerto Varas, a resort town on Lago Llanquihue, Chile's second-largest lake. Across the lake is a snow-capped volcano, Osorno. 

I got to my hotel on the lake in late afternoon and went to the bar for a drink and to drink in scenery so breathtaking I wanted to commit it to memory. Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This,” the song that had made her the first American Idol just a week or two before, was playing in the background. I found it odd that a song from an American tv show that had just been released was already a hit in Chile. To this day, whenever it comes on the radio, I’m transported back to Puerto Varas, the stunning scenery, and that sublime moment.

Today is the second day of my second visit to Chile, day 13 of a 16-day cruise from Buenos Aires to the Falklands to Antarctica to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America, and up the Pacific coast to San Antonio, Chile. 

The ship left Punta Arenas, Chile, in Tierra del Fuego yesterday afternoon and this morning emerged from the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific where the sailing was anything but smooth — the ship was bouncing up and down, shuddering at times. 

Mid-morning, the captain announced that, because the water was so rough, he was going to steer the ship into the Patagonian Archipeligo, a series of channel islands that form a barrier between the Pacific and the Chilean coast. He said the diversion from our intended route would not only provide a smoother ride, it would give guests the opportunity to see Chile’s world-famous fjords. 

It was a bonus I didn’t expect, the cherry on top of the sundae of a trip that has far exceeded my expectations. I spent the afternoon on the top deck, awe-struck by ice-blue glaciers, rocky islands, endless forests and snow-capped Andes peaks. There wasn't a sign of human life -- no people, no boats, no roads, no trails, not even a fishing cabin -- for 10 hours. This part of Patagonia is not only uninhabited, it is absolutely pristine.

Though it’s summer, it’s cold in southern Chile — I wore my parka the whole time — so after a couple of hours I stepped into the cafe on the 14th deck for a cup of coffee, which I enjoyed as I continued looking out the window as some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen passed by. 

In the background, “A Moment Like This” started playing over the cafe's speakers.

Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this.

Lucky me, I've gotten to experience it twice. 

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