Chile Review – the awesomeness begins

shipsm.jpgNow before I blow your tutti-frutti minds with the singular ass kicking that was my trip to Chile, let me state this disclaimer: I’m well aware that my smug bragging of enviable trips lately has far outweighed the usual abject misery for which I’m known and admired and perhaps this is becoming a little tiresome for you, my loving readers. It’s a proven fact, for whatever perverse reason, that people vastly prefer to read hilarious tales of someone else’s travel despair over reading hilarious tales of wine baths in five star hotels.

Well, you know what I say to that? You’re all sick, sadistic crapheads. After over four years of nearly uninterrupted negative 10 star travel, I think I’ve earned every wine bath and relaxation massage from unusually large, masculine women that I can get. Also, I’m still quietly trying to push the “Stupefying Envy” literary genre to the forefront of travel writing so I can finally score a deal for my Lambo book. Meanwhile, if you absolutely need to read about sustained suffering and corresponding losses of dignity, click on the “Romania” category to the left, read just about any post and you should get all the personal anguish you can handle.

So! Chile! Good times. And the good times started a full month before I even left. Usually when I travel for this magazine I spend weeks composing emails, sleuthing the email addresses of select marketing people, sending emails, waiting, re-sending, being ignored, drinking/sobbing/cursing, finally hearing back, replying and finalizing just to score a comped room for a few nights and maybe a comped flight. Not this time. The ‘adventure cruise’ line that invited me arranged everything. All I had to do was show up at the airport in Minneapolis, produce a passport and look cute, all of which I accomplished effortlessly, as always.

barsm1.jpgMy flights out of Minneapolis and Dallas left pretty much on time, something that I had started to believe was a theoretical impossibility for flights departing the US these days. The only downside is that American Airlines has seemingly shifted their oldest and most abused planes to the South American routes. There were no personal entertainment systems for each seat (the AA flights I took between Rome and JFK in June had the best personal entertainment systems in economy that I’ve seen since Singapore Airlines) and the seats had been packed down by the steamroller butts of 3,364,949 previous travelers, making them about as comfortable and forgiving as an iceberg. I ended up sitting on both the little pillow and the blanket, so as not to damage the exquisite contours of my delicate tushie.

After 20 hours of travel, I gingerly disembarked in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt and was met by a representative from the adventure cruise line and purveyor of freebees “Nomads of the Sea”. Five minutes later I was being whisked to the port in a brand new Mercedes van. I began to get the sense that no expense had been spared.

Being the last guest to arrive at the posh, lodge-style welcome center in the marina, I didn’t have long to connect to the WiFi, send in the riotously hilarious Gadling work I completed on the plane and stuff my face with cold salmon, a savory plate of ravioli and flan before we were being led to our ship ‘Atmosphere’.

furrychairssm.jpgAtmosphere isn’t a large cruise ship. It only has capacity for 28 passengers (and 32 crew), but there were only 10 passengers on this particular voyage (four of us being journalists), so there was plenty of room to spare. Additionally, there was space left over for a helipad, a spa and storage for the approximately 75 bottles of wine that we consumed over the next seven nights. The main level, where we ate, drank and socialized, was open and comfortable, with two giant horse shoe couches, furry spinny chairs and cabinets stacked with wine and books on fly fishing, birds and Chile’s fauna.

We met the crew, I was force-served a Pisco Sour (a popular Chilean cocktail made with Pisco – a local grape brandy – lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup and bitters) and, with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack piped over the sound system providing ample goose bump ambiance, we shoved off into the open sea.

We inched out of the small marina, with a backdrop of low, scrub-covered hills and distant mountains dotted with small cottages, harking of Norway or New Zealand. With my Pisco Sour gone and the open sea ahead of us, no sooner had I uttered “what now?” than we were being lured to the helipad for pulse-quickening, impromptu helicopter tours of the local islands. We went up in groups of five and six in the Bell 407 (top speed about 150 MPH), taking off and landing on a moving ship I might add, to buzz low over sheep farms and countryside a million shades of green.


appitizerssm.jpgBack on the ship it was cocktail and appetizer hour. I immediately got to work on my tireless wine research while we were served oysters with salmon caviar, red onion foie gras and salmon cups with guacamole. Dinner started with grouper, then a beef entrée with lentils and potatoes. Dessert was pistachio flan, Cream Brule, ice cream and assorted chocolates. Since my wine was always refilled whenever it reached half-mast, I’m not entirely sure how much I had, but it was probably less than 10 glasses.

Stuffed with food and wine and more than a little tired, having just traveled from the northern hemisphere (managing about three hours of fitful sleep on that sadistic plane seat), I retired to my comfortable room, with an magnificent bed, topped with an absurd duvet that was almost as thick as a standard mattress, five star plush towels and robes and a surprise little chocolate box on the pillow (we were treated to one of these each night).

Though the boat was steaming to our first objective a 100 miles south, the ride was shockingly smooth. Gratuitous helicopter ride notwithstanding, as I drifted off to sleep, I wondered when the adventure on this ‘adventure cruise’ was going to kick off. (Note the overconfident, doomed foreshadowing…)

Next time on the Chile Review: “Oh, you wanted ‘adventure’? I got your adventure right here, you city-softened pasty!” said the five foot tall, 105 pound female guide as she shouldered about 106 pounds of food, turned on her heel and started purposefully marching towards the glacier two miles distant.