Antarctica and Patagonia: An Adventure on the Seabourn Quest – Part XI (Reflections + Puerto Montt and Heading Home)

It is hard to express the emotional and learning journeys I encountered over my 21 day Antarctica and Patagonia Adventure on the Seabourn Quest. 

Seabourn Quest in Neko Harbor, Antarctica

What I do know is that after:

  • The anticipation
  • Gathering up my Seabourn parka and being briefed by the Seabourn Expedition Team 
  • Seeing that first penguin in the Falklands (and King Penguins)
  • Crossing the Drake Passage
  • Watching the fog lift and Antarctica instantly appearing
  • Making the first landing and smell of a Gentoo penguin colony
  • Seeing the ice
  • Losing perspective of size and distance due to the magnitude of Antarctica and purity of the air
  • Sitting on a rock and just taking it all in
  • Seeing icebergs
  • Taking a short hike on the snow actually in Antarctica
  • Crossing the Southern Polar Circle
  • Leaving Antarctica
  • Being hit in the face with “civilization”
  • Craving to see something “big” again
  • Needing to again embrace pure nature
I was very happy to awaken at 5:00 a.m. so that I could meet my guide in Puerto Montt, Chile to go on a hike (a real hike); just the two of us.  I made sure I was on the first tender at 6:00 a.m., anxious to meet my guide and head off to hike a slope of a huge volcano.
The drive to the Osorno Volcano was breathtaking.  To the left of me was a spectacular sunrise
Sunrise -Puerto Montt, Chile
and to the right and left of me were but a few of the many volcanoes in Chile.  
And then we came upon Osorno Volcano which sits on the edge of the enormous Llanquihue Lake
Osorno Volcano
We arrived at the national park and drove up to a viewpoint which only partially gave some scale to the vastness of the area.  The guide took me over to one of dozens of dormant vents from the volcano and offered for me to walk out onto a narrow rail-less “bridge” to look down and take a photo.  My immediate thought was, “Uh, NO!  I am not going to join the other hikers who died falling into the vent that travels to the middle of the earth and were never seen again.”
We then headed over the the “El Solitario” Trail on the slopes of Osorno Volcano.  It started out as a cool morning a very narrow trail through dense forest; not what I was expecting.  The trail was composed of lava sand, so it was essentially one step up and then slide back half a step.  But then the views started to peak through and it was beautiful…and also just what I needed!
One of my favorite “sightings” was what looked to me like a small Japanese garden with the morning dew still sitting on the lava sand.  I took a moment there.
A natural Japanese Garden on the Osorno Volcano, Chile
The trail then headed down and opened up into a field with a spectacular view; something photography just can’t capture.  (Not quite Antarctica, but most certainly a Wow.)
As I walked towards a lava field, the black compacted ash-laden soil transformed into a river of black lava sand

that then transformed into a stream of black and gray volcanic ash and stones

and then into a river of volcanic boulders

Continuing on the hike went through a river bed carved out of a flow of hot mud and ash from a prior eruption.  Where is Geologist Jennifer Fought, of the Seabourn Expedition Team, when I need her?!


Sadly, the hike portion of my day came to a more than sudden end, but I did visit some waterfalls and then a few moments at Llanquihue Lake.  The blue color of the rushing water was quite picturesque, but overall I found the Petrohue Waterfalls less than impressive; probably due to the vastness of Antarctica and the Chilean fjords.

Finishing off my day was a visit to the local market in Puerto Montt.  It was kind of a full circle thing as I wandered.  While the gigantic vegetables (grown in the volcanic soil) were impressive, and the fresh fish and blocks of kelp and seaweed interesting and colorful…

Fresh Salmon…Look at its eyes!

Interesting display of salmon fillets
Blocks of dried kelp and seaweed
Huge barnacles. I so wanted to try them.
Smoked Mussels.  Yum!

running into Jennifer and Meredith, from Seabourn Expedition Team, and sharing some ceviche with abalone with them was even better.  Over a three week cruise it does get a bit more personal; and that makes this Seabourn Antarctica and Patagonia cruise even more compelling.

Ceviche with Abalone…and The Works!

In a rather surprising and ironic end to the Patagonia portion of my journey, as we wandered out back behind the market…after scouring the seas for sea lions for days on end…an impressively huge bull sea lion with his harem were patiently waiting in the water to be fed salmon scraps.

Bull sea lion with his harem

A seriously huge bull sea lion 

The last day at sea included what should not be a controversial lecture, but is one: 

Climate Change

Without getting too far into it, the Seabourn Expedition Team does a Q&A after the lecture hosted by the true scientists (not “mere” naturalists) to answer questions.  It was amazing and frustrating to me to listen to people who honestly believe climate change is not real or not a crisis based upon what politicians assert rather than what scientists know and present.  I cannot understand the devoted and emotional need not to accept climate change is real and threatening; especially by people who just spent weeks traveling to some of the most fragile and affected areas of the world, were presented lectures not so subtlely discussing the effects of climate change.

I also cannot understand what interest they are so vested in that they reject science and what is happening around the world.  If there are ways to do something without polluting the oceans and air that is even less expensive than the more polluting options, regardless of if there is climate change, why are they against it?  I felt like I was back in the 1970’s with my long hair (or, should I just say “hair”) and love beads.  The difference now is I more lean toward the, “I would rather have a good result than be right. Right only makes you feel good for a moment.”

Taking a breath…It was then time to pack and my last real challenge:  Closing my suitcases!  I did not buy much in the way of souvenirs, but did have the Seabourn parka, jacket, cap and backpack to take home.  And, although I wore almost everything I brought, next time I would leave the tuxedo and accessories behind.  But I did get it done!

After disembarking in San Antonio, rather than a boring two hour drive to Santiago, I took two of my clients on a wine tour, a Chilean beef lunch and a short tour of Santiago. 

But it was then time to head to the airport and my 20 hours of travel back to Lake Tahoe.  Normally when I drive up the eastern face of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Reno, Nevada to my home I take a moment and go “Wow!”  This time: Not so much. 

Seabourn, the Seabourn Quest as well as her officers, staff and crew, plus the Seabourn Expedition Team, put together an incredible experience.  An  uncompromised luxury cruise experience combined with an expedition cruise that guests well into the 80’s enjoyed without much compromise for those of us that are a bit more active and nimble.  As you can tell from my eleven articles on this Antarctic and Patagonia Adventure, it was truly a life-changing experience for so many of Seabourn’s guests.

I shall end with this:

Leaving Antarctica was like reading the introduction to the world’s greatest book…and then leaving the book behind.

I will be back.  And I will be able to appreciate it even more because I know so much more. 

Interested in your own Antarctic Experience? Please call, email or message me!

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