Friday, May 19, 2006

Adventures in Galapagos

The approach to Wreck Bay along the north coast of San Cristobal was very picturesque and punctuated by sea lion, whale and turtle sightings, all serving to whet our appetites for the wonderful abundance and diversity of species to be found here. In the bay, the first species we encountered were enthusiastic and thirsty; Walter and Rita from Noa, and Will and Alyssa from Ragtime waved us in to the anchorage, and gave us time to anchor (just) before they dingied over to help us celebrate our arrival. It was fantastic to make landfall for all the obvious reasons, but also because during the passage, Ragtime had come into contact with a suspect fishing vessel which, judging from the crew's actions, had been intending to stop Ragtime and possibly board her. Alyssa had sent all vessels on our radio net an email describing the event and just warning us, and we had been keeping extra vigilant watches, but trying to identify small unlit boats at night is a challenge, and the stress of the potential hazard and consequences makes the watches rather onerous. Having arrived here, we were told that two other boats had similar experiences and had narrowly missed being boarded, but conversley, Andrew and Carolyn on Revision II had enjoyed a beer with a fishing vessel that approached them, so who knows? It's a strange world.

As the sun set and we all got mellow in Kika's cockpit, sea lions would intermittently hurl themselves over the sides of Ragtime's dinghy for a little sleep. They are delightful either sleeping on the sunkissed decks of dinghies and boats, or furiously darting through the water - there´s no halfway.
Sea lion at rest (for a change!)
It is much cooler here than in Panama which is a great relief. The sea temperature is chilled by the Humboldt current, which is why the sea lions like it here so much, and this in turn cools the atmosphere. We woke on Sunday morning to what felt like a late summer's day in England with a distinct autumnal chill in the air - guaranteed to bring on a pang of homesickness!

We caught a water taxi into town and headed to check in with immigration and then the port captain. All went smoothly much to our relief, as various reports of the checking-in process suggested difficulties with communication and arbitrary charging methods. They must have liked us! We have spent this week doing the odd job aboard, but we have also managed to take time out and enjoy ourselves. The town is small but has all we need (I visited the launderette on Monday - service wash - excellent!) food is cheap and delicious and once again, the locals are interesting and friendly. The island has a varied landscape with undulating hills and a couple of volcanic peaks. It's mainly dry with hardy vegetation. We took a trip up the volcano on Monday and there the air was chilly and the environment reminded me of walking on moors at home.

Since our arrival we have been lucky enough to see the giant tortoises (and some tea-cup sized infants in the tortoise nursery) which are being raised in a protected area not far from the bay.

Apparently they live to between 150 and 200 years. Sadly they were gravely endangered after whalers from the US and England took them (not difficult, they don´t move quickly) and stored them live in their ships´ holds for fresh meat on the way back home. They were extremely low maintenance livestock, surviving for up to a year without food or water.
Pocket Size Pets (Do you think they´d miss one?)
Pocket Size Pets (Do you think they´d miss one?)

We have swum with some very playful and cheeky sea lions, been privy to a pelican catching its lunch, discovered huge black marine iguanas in the sand dunes and yesterday, we found ourselves unexpectedly swimming with a large turtle.

The amazing thing about this place is that despite its unrivalled position as top of the nature pops, there's no-one here! We haven't really had to share our experiences with anyone else and consequently there is a complete absence of taking your turn and straining to see round someone's backpack or oversize camera. There's just us and our backpacks and cameras!

Today the final boat in our net, Helene, is arriving (they had really bad luck with currents and winds on the passage from Panama which has prolonged their passage). In fact they are motoring into the bay as I write, so tonight there will be much jollity and celebration.

On Sunday, we are going SCUBA diving for the day and are looking forward to seeing more magical things. We have been promised a glimpse of hammerhead sharks, but I can live without that! I´m quite happy with some angel fish and a turtle or two thanks!

1 comment:

Mrs. Brian Johnson said...

I stumbled upon your blog by pressing "Next Blog" on Blogger and have been captivated by your adventures! Many of your photos have been copied into my screensaver folder. You've really perked up the life of a stay-at-home mom in Massachusetts. Gute Reise!!