Our ride in Puerto Montt went as scheduled except for a three hour diversion for some administrative lessons about Chile. I think this info will be instructive; thus, I add the diversion here. We decided to immediately seek a place to get some coffee and get on the internet upon reaching shore. Our ship had anchored in the harbor at 7am on a foggy and dark dawning morning. We took our time getting out of the ship and thus reached shore by tender around 10am. The tender pier was at the far end of the harbor in a relatively depressed, industrial section. We quickly passed through the Chile customs area and arrived on a two lane street crowded with tour buses and taxis. The shops on the street were in old buildings, usually one or two stories tall and even capped with corrugated roofs in some cases. We passed up a few opportunities for coffee in the first 2-4 blocks and finally passed out of the industrial area. The Colinda hotel appeared ahead opposite the water and seemed appropriate. I checked for internet availability (yes) and food (not for another hour) and bathrooms (downstairs and clean) and settled into one of several stuffed chairs for an internet and telephone session. I completed a few financial transactions and personal Skype phone calls before trying to get details about transferring funds from my government 401K account into my personal IRA at a brokerage house.
I had faxed a signed form to the government office in Argentina before we boarded the ship and now found that the internet site showed no info about the ensuing transaction. I had a second form which needed to have my wife’s signature guaranteed by a notary, but believed that no notary services were available overseas. In the past week, I had contacted the ship’s business office, found no notary service, but arranged for the Captain to provide his signature and seal instead. Now, during my phone call to the government office, I learned the Captain’s seal would be insufficient. When I responded that I would be out of the country for two years and asked for some alternative, the office responded that I must have a notary, although a foreign notary would do, as would one from a US embassy. They also suggested the ship’s chaplain had authority to notarize documents; however, this was available only on US Navy ships and I was on a Norwegian flagged cruise ship.
They also revealed that my earlier fax had been received, but was unreadable. When I checked on what they meant by unreadable (completely messed up fax mis-transmission, or just a poor quality fax) they indicated the latter, saying they could read my signature but not the background letter (which was one they had sent me themselves and must have had a copy). When I asked if I could simply darken by hand the important parts of the letter, they responded that I must not doctor the document in any way.
I ended the call discouraged, fearful that the only solution was a $2000 side trip by my wife and I back to the US to get a document notarized. Nevertheless, I approached the desk clerk and asked if Chile had notaries. He shrugged his shoulders indicating he didn’t understand my English. I checked our dictionary and found the word for notary was notario. Upon uttering that word, I saw his face light up and he immediately indicated directions, eventually showing me four locations within two blocks. Stunned, I gathered up Marilyn and we walked 50 yards up the street and turned to see a large corner modern office with an enormous sign in front indicating “NOTARIO”.
We walked up the steps into the office and found 6-8 clerks on this first floor, apparently doling out notarization services and even more clerks visible in individual glass fronted offices on a second level. I took a number and was soon being served by one of the clerks. I showed her the required document and she turned for the back office for someone with better English skills. I started working on my Spanish skills. The clerk asked for two pieces of ID and we showed her Marilyn’s drivers license and the copy of the passport which the ship had given us when they took our passports in Buenos Aires when we checked in to the ship. The clerk’s face turned ashen when she checked and found that the copy wouldn’t work—we needed the actual passport. But after working my tears display on several layers of supervisors and working through fifteen minutes of hand signals trying to indicate that it would take me three more hours to return by tender back to the ship, then find someone still on the ship who could retrieve my passport from wherever the ship stored them, then return by tender, one of the supervisors relented and they agreed to provide the notary seal. They did this for a total cost of $3. We kissed several pairs of feet, took photos with our saviors, and left with the required documents, ready to take on the next task of getting the documents back to the appropriate US government offices.
We looked for a FEDEX or UPS office and found none. I didn’t want to use local mail because I had been warned of the delays and uncertain deliveries. Eventually, I decided to use the ship’s fax services. I’ll let you know at some later part of another blog whether this eventually works.
By this time, my stomach was growling and we decided to try lunch. We passed a few likely restaurants but continued on to a nearby shopping mall because Marilyn also wanted to check out the leather purveyors for a black purse and/or a wallet. We walked around the mall, took the escalator up to the third floor and eventually settled upon a fast Chinese food vendor. The food was adequate but unremarkable. The mall itself was also adequate. It was filled with high school and college age people with about 25% older people, many in family groups. All had cell phones and some had laptops. We used our laptop and the free wifi service for a few more family calls and then went off to continue our ride.
We retrieved our bikes which had been locked along the shoreline-hugging walkway. By now, it was very crowded with students and office workers walking around for their lunch. The fog had also lifted and the sun came out to reveal a pretty harbor view. Our NCL Sun stood out in the middle of the harbor. This walkway path was level, but the roads which led away from the harbor quickly slanted up towards the high hills or mountains immediately behind the town. The town itself contained 5-8 parallel roads at sea level and stretched for a few miles around the harbor.
Beyond this town part were a few clusters of several hundred homes each stretching out into the hills and on both sides of the town itself. I suspect Port Montt contains more than 150,000 residents. Towers of churches stuck up above the commercial buildings in a few areas and a few modern high rise buildings were interspersed around town. These were 20 story edifices and probably contained apartments/condos, offices, and hotels. At the far end of the town was the train station. A park near our ship contained historic trains and railroad tracks and signals indicative of the town’s development as a source of agricultural and forest products. The harbor contained several small freighters being loaded/offloaded.
The young people on the path clustered in groups of 2-20. The couples were often seen snuggling even now at 2pm, and some others were playing games along the shore or talking on cell phones. We even passed three teenagers smoking something which I sure was not tobacco and another group of 8-10 including a girl drinking out of a box which I believe contained wine. Uniformly, they were polite, though. We rode through the town area to the extent of the 10 feet-wide path and passed onto a narrower walkway for a mile more before the town and the views ran out and we decided to return to the ship, substantially because the riding became difficult due to the number of people also using the small path.
The ride was pleasant if a little shorter than usual, but the day seemed a big success. We interacted with numerous local Chileans to good success. We got a good knowledge about this part of Chile and its people. We saw the good and the less good of the town. And we were now tired. I liked Port Montt and would plan to move deeper into the countryside the next time we have a chance.
The two sites below contain good tidbits about Port Montt and its history and tourist info.