In 2010, my husband and I stepped off the proverbial career-tracked train and traveled with our then one-year-old for six months. We spent two of those months in South America, specifically, in Peru (visiting family), Argentina (drinking wine and checking out some great cities and towns) and Chile (cruising through Patagonia and drinking more wine).
We had an amazing time in all three countries and I love giving unsolicited advice and recommendations on where to go and what to do, especially on the wine front. (I’m not a lush. We just really love wine!)
Despite drinking great wine and visiting some awesome wineries, however, our favorite part of the trip, hands down, was the small ship cruise we took in Patagonia.
In general, we aren’t cruise people. We know some who are and who love it but we prefer to just land ourselves in a town or city and then wander; get to know the local culture; eat, drink, get lost…. But, the only way to get to Cape Horn, Patagonia, is by cruise ship.
Given that we didn’t know much about, nor have a huge appetite for, cruising, we did a lot of research to make sure we were on a ship that suited our interests. Cruceros Australis hit the mark.
First of all, they were completely unfazed by the fact that we had a one-year-old in tow. This, despite the fact that we had to be the only nut jobs who have not only taken their one-year-old on this particular itinerary but included her in all of the off-boat activities (via bouncy zodiac), as well.
Second, they were super accommodating, from making special kid friendly (yet, still delicious and healthy) meals to helping us fit her into a life jacket for the zodiac excursions. Third, and un-kid related, because the ship was smaller than most other cruise ships, we were able to navigate smaller channels and therefore have a truly unique experience.
We started our 4-day excursion in Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost city in the world, the day the 2010 earthquake rocked Chile.
The calm waters we cut through on our way out of port soon gave way to crazy swells that were so huge not only did about 90% of the boat’s passengers (plus several seasoned crew members) become seasick but crew members were taking personal video of the swells that were crashing as high as the third deck on our boat.
Due to the choppiness of the water, unfortunately, we were unable to disembark on Cape Horn, as they usually do on this particular itinerary. We did, however, get pretty close to the island on the ship. Plus, we have a very cool, very large, full page customs stamp, complete with Penguins, in our passports to show that we entered Chile from Argentine through these waters.
After Cape Horn, we headed back toward the fjords that were closer inland and afforded protection from the surging sea. With calmer waters, we were able to disembark. First up was a small, no-longer-inhabited island (the native population having been killed off long ago by smallpox brought over by Europeans), which we reached by zodiac.
A hike to the top in the drizzling rain revealed some spectacular views and wildlife. By time we hiked back down, the skies had cleared and the crew were at water’s edge with cocktails on the rocks (glacial ice, of course) awaiting us.
Next up, we took the zodiaks out again for a closer inspection of the area’s many glaciers. The glaciers were stunning! The blue looked like someone had dropped in food coloring along the way.
Finally, we visited Magdalena island, to where the Magellan penguins migrate every year to mate. They were cute, they were friendly, and they stank to high heaven! Penguins as far as the eye could see – it was a sight to behold and one we likely won’t experience again.
It was a trip of a lifetime and one we will never forget!
* This post was also shared on Walking on Travels , where you can find more inspiring travel posts and tips.