The first port we visited in South America was Valparaiso.This is a picturesque city, a busy port and Chile’s main naval base. The city is built on the hills surrounding a sweeping bay.

In the other ports we had visited the Bergensfjord had been easy to spot with its sparkling white paintwork and distinctive funnel, but the port in Valparaiso was so big that it was easy to get lost, as I did.:)

A group of us had decided to take the bus along the coast road to Vina del Mare, an elegant resort next door to Valparaiso. We spent a little time in the splendid shops and then spent the afternoon on the beach. I was due back on duty before the others. My musician friend B., who spoke Spanish fluently, offered to come back with me but I declined his generous offer. He came to the bus with me and asked the driver to put me off at the right stop and impressed “El barco norvego” into my non Spanish speaking mind!

When we reached the city again I was hoping, anxiously, that the driver would remember to tell me when I reached my stop, when a pleasant looking man indicated that it was the next stop. As we stepped onto the pavement he showed me what I took to be an ID card with his photo on. He indicated that I should follow him, which I did and then he proudly pointed to …..the railway station! Eventually he realised that this was not where I wanted to be, he thought for a moment, and we set off again. I was a bit nervous but followed him and fortunately he took me to a branch of Thomas Cook where the staff knew about the Bergensfjord and took me back.

At this time I had little idea of foreign politics and knew nothing about General Pinochet and the people who disappeared or I might have been more worried!

We were just as irresponsible in our next port, Puerto Montt. This is south of Valparaiso and lies in the Lake district of Chile. The port was a bit dull so S. and I decided to head for the mountains we could see in the distance. There was no public transport available so we hitch hiked! I shudder now when I think about it, and knowing in hindsight what the political situation was, but once again our guardian angels were on duty and a very nice gentleman not only gave us a lift to a beautiful lakeland village, but arranged to take us back later in the day! All this done with sign language, pointing at his watch face and big smiles.

We had lunch in a very pleasant hotel, picked a large bag of blackberries from the bushes round the lake, and then had a comfortable journey back to the ship. We gave the fruit to one of the cooks who made us a splendid pie.

We continued southward along the mountainous coast of Chile then passed Cape Pilar and entered the Straits of Magellan.

As we left the Pacific  for the spectacular journey through the Straits, the weather became much cooler and wetter and the sea rougher. We spent a morning in Punta Arenas, the most southerly city in the world, and I had never seen such torrential rain. When I came back on board I joked that I had fallen in the harbour and I was so wet that I was believed! We bought more commemorative stamps and posted cards home from the edge of the Antarctic.

At the Eastern end of the Straits we sailed northwards on the last leg of our journey.

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