Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chaitén's Still Smokin'!

Last Thursday, I took a drive from the city of Castro, on Chiloé, to the ferry port of Quellón at the south end of the island. As I approached Quellón, the view across the Golfo de Corcovado included an enormous plume of ash and smoke, at least twice the height of surrounding cumulus clouds, from the still active Volcán Chaitén. The photograph here was taken from a distance of roughly 85 kilometers.

Tomorrow afternoon or early evening, I’ll have a chance to see the plume closer up, as the Navimag ferry Evangelistas (pictured here at anchor in Angelmó, near Puerto Montt) will sail past it en route to Puerto Natales. I won’t get a chance to see it any closer up, though, until next month, when I head back overland via Argentine Patagonia.

Meanwhile, so I’m told, the southbound ferries that are usually so full at this time of year are less so this season. That’s because, when Navimag fixed this year’s fares, it did so after the 2008 summer season, when the strong peso raised their costs, and the cheapest fares rose from US$410 to US$510. While the more expensive cabins are still fully booked, the less expensive berths have proved too pricey for many budget travelers, and many of them are going empty. Navimag has recently introduced student discounts on the route, making the fare closer to last year’s in dollar terms; with a stronger dollar buying more pesos, they may still come out ahead.

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