A traveler once told us,during a conversation on a starry night while drinking “mates”, that he heard from another traveler that there is a cargo boat that goes from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (or vice versa) and in addition to carrying containers and merchandise, it also has room for passengers. – “He said it was one of the best things he did during the whole trip through Latin America.”
We still have to pedal more than a thousand kilometers to reach Punta Arenas … but the idea of that boat will not leave our mind.
The boat leaves once or twice a week and the journey lasts 32 hours. Service all year. All this is subject to change for climatic reasons.
It is a cargo boat with capacity for about 180 passengers, most of them local people crossing vehicles or merchandise. It is not a cruise ship or a tourist boat and the amenities are fair.
The staff is very attentive and they love to talk with people, share stories and even help you enjoy the trip. However, they are not there to meet your needs and even less your complaints, but to cross with the ship. They only speak Spanish.
There are two types of seats: Normal and Bed. The bed is more spacious and reclines more, but the difference is small. We opted for the normal due to price and also spent almost the entire trip outside (jumping inside very often to catch some heat and escape the rain, when it rained).
Around 140 euros for seat and 190 euros for bed (prices 2019). Free bicycles (that is a good one!). Meals are included. Do not expect “French haute cuisine” … carry supplies in the backpacks, you will not regret it. There will be time to eat well, very well in fact, in Punta Arenas or Puerto Williams.
The only company is TABSA OR TRANSBORDADORA AUSTRAL BROOM and theoretically you can make a pre-reservation on their page. Good luck on this mission. They never answered our emails, pre-booking request or anything at all.
They have offices in several cities because they have different routes in Chile. In Puerto Natales we went to their office and they told us that they could not do anything, thanks for coming and have a good day. Pure latino style … so we had to wait to reach Punta Arenas and risk that the boat was full or wait another week … how good it is to travel with time!. There were plenty of places and that was the mid-high season.
10 points for the hot coffee we were invited to while we were waiting to buy the tickets in the office after two hours pedaling in the cold and rain.
The boat ride
The journey is what will remain in your memory. Seeing Punta Arenas falling behind smaller and smaller and entering in the southern seas.
No sign of human life but all the marine fauna in its maximum splendor: Seals, Whales, Sea Lions … mountains and skies from pictures. Changing colors and climate, rain, cold, more landscapes like out of stories by Jules Verne … Cold waters and wild vegetation.
Canals between mountains, with snow-covered islets in the middle of the steepest seas to follow the safest crossing. The waves at times leave us all silent. It’s cold but the views are making everyone speechless. And the glaciers appear.
Every 15 minutes you have to go to warm your body, and when night comes everything seems magical.
And with all the exceptional scenery the travel mates, some travelers and other locals, create an atmosphere of calm and companionship. We all share this place, this moment. – “I do this route once a month and I never get tired of looking and listening to the sea,” says a man from Puerto Williams.
And we see a great city in the distance, out of nowhere, with its lights altering what have been the last two days … Ushuaia, the end of the world. So many years waiting to meet you Ushuaia, So long we have dreamed of meeting you …
And we continue south, to Puerto Williams. – “If Ushuaia is the end of the world, Puerto Williams is .. beyond the end of the world” one of the crew member jokes.
And yes, that traveler who met that traveler who met us was right: It is one of the best things we have done throughout the trip … in all our trips.