Casa Perla, our home for the next week or so while we arrange permits and supplies. Puerto Montt is euphemistically referred to as southern Chile´s "transportation hub" in all the guidebooks and it is true that the city has the edgy feel of a bus station and shipping port. In short it is a working city with an authenticity that is lacking in more touristy towns. Throughout Chile so far we have found the people to be patient with our Spanish, friendly and open, and the streets safe, Puerto Montt is no exception.
Our to-do list here is HUGE! Back home if we want to go kayaking we buy some food, dump the boats in the water and head out. Not so here in Chile. For one we have to wait for our boats to be trucked from Valdivia. Next we have to arrange for a permit from the Chilean Navy to transit their waters and submit to a safety inspection of our equipment. Only then can we wander the markets and buy our food and fuel for the first month of paddling. These complex logistics are all part of the adventure. We must be sick.
The Navy was expecting us. One mention of "kayak" and we were whisked out of the waiting line filled with Chilean fishermen and down to the Port Captain´s office where we waited. Much shuffling of paper ensued. Finally we were led to a room where an array of fully uniformed and decorated Navy officers sat bolt-upright around a polished conference table. The Navy ensign and Chilean flag stood at the far end of the room. It all felt very official and formal.
Official and formal it was, however, also friendly, professional, and courteous. We had laid the groundwork via e-mail over the last several months, so most of the discussion had already taken place. The officers had some suggestions about our route and information about sea conditions we might expect to encounter along the way. They did not question our plans or capabilities, or ask us to deviate in any way. Only recommendations were given. This was a pleasant surprise. Handshakes all around. The final hurdle to starting the trip will be on Tuesday when three officers will inspect our safety equipment to ensure that it meets the Navy´s requirements. Whew!
For now we are tucked away at Casa Perla, also home of Kayak Austral Outfitters who´s principal, Thomas has paddled much of our route and has offered a bunch of useful tips and imformation. We´re soaking up some spanish, customizing the boats and making new friends, big and small.