Galapagos Adventures May 3 2007
4/21 found us well rested after a night of sleeping like rocks. We attacked our "To Do's" in a divide and conquer fashion. Erin washed down Barefeet with a vinegar and water mixture to remove the salt from the passage while Chris got the foredeck awning strung and secured...what a difference some shade makes. A quick break for some eggs and then back at the list...Chris stayed aboard for the diesel delivery (right on schedule at 9am) and the delivery of clean laundry. Erin went into town with Serai to hit the Saturday market and get a mini-tour of the islands researched and booked. The Saturday market was wonderful; tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, oranges, papayas...and loads more...all at very reasonable prices. Oh yeah, and live chickens, too. The tour was not so easy...but finally accomplished through pantomime (I did not have translator Chris with me) at the airport and internet reservations for a hotel. We will fly to Isabela for two nights and then to Santa Cruz for three nights...boats just aren't available for our quick time table.
We had a great farewell meal aboard s/v Serai...bring your own drinks and meat to grill...before they headed to the Marquesas. They are great fun and we certainly hope to cross paths again in French Polynesia. 4/22 after a call to the credit card company reminding them that "yes" we are traveling in many countries and "no" do not turn off the credit card (same conversation was had in Panama...but clearly the message did not make its way from India to the US) it was a leisurely Sunday with a walk in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal to the interpretation center and along the seaside trails. 4/23 it was up early for a quick flight to Isabela Island (population approx 2500). This is a charming island with Puerto Villamil as the main town. The sidewalks are carefully constructed of volcanic rock with streets left paved in sand...enchanting. Our hotel (Tero Real) was a modest seven room place with a proprietress, Carmela, that could not have been nicer (we have yet to meet so much as a grumpy Ecuadorian). We wandered into town and bumped into Jason and Emily...okay, so they made a quick (illegal) stop before continuing to the Marquesas. And, they were chatting with a cruising couple that were checking into San Blas when we were...we are certainly all on the same path. Since we are still in the land of ceviche Erin had pulpo (octopus) ceviche with fried plantains...delicious and Chris went for the fried chicken with french fries...awesome. By the way, lobster ceviche is also around every corner and Jason and Emily swear by it...we will take their word for it. Needless to say, several beers and wines later we finally scattered our separate directions...I think we disappointed the staff because we stayed right through the 12-3pm siesta time. Ooops.
4/24 we were up early (breakfast a la Carmela) and off for a horseback ride to the volcano with guide Julio. It was first to the Sierra Negra volcano (second largest volcano crater...7.46 mile diameter...in the world - Tanzania holds the title) on horseback followed by a walk through hardened lava to Volcan Chico and back on the horses for the return trip. The landscape is simply dramatic; seashore to rainforest to desert to lava in about 30 minutes...amazing! The cactus, birds and vistas were amazing...but boy was it dusty...we were covered in red dust. A quick jump in the shower...oh yeah...don't get electrocuted. It seems the water heater element is IN the head of the shower nozzle...with the circuit breaker a mere seven inches away (in case of an emergency?). We rested for a bit then headed to the flamingo lake (bummer - only one there when we arrived) and the giant tortoise breeding ground.
4/25 and we were off to Santa Cruz Island...okay, the plane actually lands on Baltra island - a short 10 minute ferry from Santa Cruz (a nod to conservation of species). It was another puddle jumper (max 10 people with pilot) and less than an hour later we were met by our next hotel... a splurge... The Royal Palm (www.royalpalmhotel.net). Puerto Ayora is the main town on the island and the main port of entrance for the archipelago with a population of approx 10,000...definitely bigger than our last two towns. Gosh was this hotel a beautiful place...and sooo much English! Wow! But no worries, Chris did not let his wonderful Spanish get rusty. First order of business was getting a dive trip arranged with Sub-Aqua (www.galapagos-sub-aqua.com)...then a burger by the pool. 4/26 we left about 7:30am for the dive trip. We had been fitted for wet suits the day before (yes, the water is cold...due to the Humbolt current) and all was waiting for us on the dive boat. There were six divers (Aussie, Brits and US), a dive master (Natasha), a helper and Captain. We suited up (with the help of some shampoo for lubricant...full wet suits are tough) and in we went at Seymour. It was two dives with lunch in between (more on that...later). Visibility was not too good but we did see some critters; white tipped sharks, a ray, sea lions, schools of fish and a couple of turtles...and blue footed boobies looking down from the rocks and frigate birds flying overhead. Holy mackerel! And the rocks - they were shafts of hardened lava that went from above the water to below the water...kinda resembling giant crystals. Too bad, though, no hammerheads.
Back at the hotel we went for a dip in the pool and then some CNN on the TV...then it started...oh my goodness...it started. Something definitely did not agree with our systems and needed to be evacuated...immediately and repeatedly. Tough because it was unclear whether to sit on or to kneel over the toilet bowl...aaaggghhh! The only saving grace was that the eruptions were staggered...thus avoiding a fight over the single toilet. The hotel was wonderful - they arranged for a doctor to see us, filled the prescriptions for us and kept us fully stocked with Gatorades. Erin made a recovery a bit ahead of Chris (as she had started earlier) and squeezed in a visit to the Charles Darwin Foundation Headquarters and Research Station. It was nice but no fun without Chris...he had his heart set on seeing Lonesome George (last survivor of a particular variety of giant tortoise...and uninterested in mating with two genetically similar females living with him). Erin got Chris a mug and a photo of the sign (George was shy for Erin, too). George was alive when Darwin visited...wow!
4/28 we headed back to San Cristobal Island a bit fragile and a few pounds lighter. We had asked a launch driver, Henry, to watch Barefeet while we were gone but we were a bit nervous how it would all turn out...after all, she was simply anchored. It seems we had no reason to be nervous. Despite a bit of a sea lion fiesta on Barefeet, Henry was amazing; he shooed sea lions off of Barefeet, cleaned the mess they had left and installed barbed wire as an added deterrent. They are cute but quite smelly fellas. Yikes! We gave Henry some cash and a bottle of wine - smiles all around. Now, to re-establish who is alpha male with the sea lions...Chris is angling for the title...even getting up several times throughout the night to shoo off cheeky sea lions. Oh, and the climate here is great for our power plant...while we were gone our solar panels kept our batteries full and our freezer is still frozen - priceless!!
4/30 we did some more cleaning of sea lion residue, got some interneting done, a little grocery shopping and a few more boat items on the "To Do" list...we are getting final checks done before heading to the Marquesas at the end of the week. We met up again with s/v Lasse; a wonderful German family (Ben, Carol, Nils - 5yrs and Lisa - 3 yrs) that we originally met in Panama (and Ben was also along with Fifth Element as a line handler). Unfortunately, they have some engine troubles and had to be towed into Wreck Bay by other cruisers...now the fun of getting Volvo Penta engine parts in Galapagos...more likely a FedEx shipment from Germany. Lasse left Germany two years ago and are headed to New Zealand as an ultimate destination.
5/1 we went on a tour of the island with s/v Lasse. Our guide was Carlos the taxi driver. Carlos showed up bright and smiley at 8:30am in a festive Hawaiian shirt...off we went. We are still in the land of fresh tropical fruits and juices and stopped along the way for some roadside sampling of raspberries, guava and passion fruit...literally simply pulled the taxi over and sampled...delicious! Our first stop was the turtle breeding center (seems every island has one) and made it in time for the morning meal. These giant tortoises roamed freely and often crossed our walking path. The large ones were literally 100 years old. Then it was off to the Lagoon El Junco...the largest fresh water reservoir in the archipelago. We all walked the perimeter (the reservoir is in an extinct volcano crater) and marveled at the swooping frigate birds diving for fish. The male frigate bird has a red balloon (scientific term) under his "chin" that he inflates in order to attract the ladies. This is no small balloon and looks quite cumbersome...ah, all in the name of mating. The green surroundings and scrub vegetation with clouds and cool air swirling felt a bit like being on top of Mt Washington...spectacular. Then it was back down to town for some lunch; fish soup seasoned with cilantro and I think peanut butter (honest, it was tasty) followed by rice and a cabbage/chicken salad, and a slice of watermelon for dessert...and of course a glass of fresh squeezed orange/papaya juice. The final stop was at the seashore to check out the iguanas...yikes...they are big, dinosaur looking critters. Lasse family stayed at the shore for some beach time and Erin and Chris headed back to town...but first a stop at Carlos's house...where we invited the family back to Barefeet. Squeezed in some boat work before our visitors arrived then we just visited and ogled the harbor...not much English so Chris was the main communication link. It was fun and there was even a bit of swimming.
We head off for the Marquesas in a couple of days. It will be a 3000 mile trip - so at 6 MPH it should take about 20 days. Lets hope! Our position will continue to update - but we won't be able to post any more logs for close to a month. Wish us luck in the crossing!