05 June 2008 | Isabela
Our forth day in Isabela was designated tour day. We had met a friendly English/Japanese couple on the trails over the past few days. I suppose you're pretty likely to see the same few folks on this island given the population and scarcity of tourists. They were traveling the Galapagos with a great guide who spoke pretty good English. He recommended another guide on the island to us.
Unfortunately we missed our 8AM meeting while sorting out a diesel top up with Fabricio. Fabrico does Taxi work, tours and will also bring you diesel. He is a great guy and highly recommended but he doesn't speak much English.
In town we asked Marco, chef at the Albermarle Hotel if he had any English speaking guide ideas for us. To visit most of the park areas out of town you are required to have a guide by the national park. Marco directed us to Andres, a friendly young man with functional English skills. We spent the better part of the day with Andreas.
Sierra Negra is 1,000 meters high and must be amazing on a clear day. The hike is great with some pretty steep bits to get to the caldera's rim. You can hike all the way around the rim if you want to spend the day. It is the second largest volcano on earth. You can also some up on horseback which would be fun.
Sierra Negra was awash in clouds today. It was still a wonderful sight. It would clear from time to time letting you see how vast the crater is. The vegetation climbing the volcano and throughout the park at the top is also wonderful. You can easily see the arid lowland, transition and highlands zones peel away as you ascend.
After our visit to Sierra Negra we explored some lava formed caves on a lower area of the park and then went in search of provisions. Andres took us to a farm in the fertile hills leading up to Sierra Negra. It was a great experience. The farmer walked us through the hill side where here and there we would find scattered plots of this and that. Four or five rows of tomatoes over here, an odd pineapple bush over there, through some trees and across a culvert to some watermelons, around some bushes and up the hill to the orange tree, native bush, trees and bracken all around. Hideko has pretty much managed our ship's stores single handedly and she was in heaven. She was particularly happy to see green tomatoes. They originally told us they had no tomatoes yet and couldn't understand why we would actually want green ones. At the end of you collecting hike you present the farmer with your sack, he carefully eyes it, weighs a few things and then blurts out $11. The deal of the century on the freshest produce you could possibly ever acquire.
Back in town we had a lovely dinner at the Albermarle hotel with the BBC Galapagos series playing in the background and the sea rolling in on the white sand beach outside. It was perfect. Unfortunately we overstayed our tide window.
We got back to the dock at 9PM, the lowest low on a new moon. Shooting star was sitting eerily still in the darkness of the marina. A quick check from the flashlight told us that we had two or three feet and the same number of hours before there was any prayer of floating out of here. Unlike Little Star, Shooting Star was not a dinghy you could man handle over the sand and lava rock to the water.
We curled up on the wooden benches in the gazebo just above the barely floating landing and waited. We are on the equator in June. Most would assume a temperature in the 80s or 90s. It is actually lovely here this time of year. The cool southeast wind comes in with the cold Humbolt current and the frequent overcast all conspire to keep conditions very moderate. As night though it can even get cold. It was. At least for cruisers wearing shorts, tee shirts and flip flops.
At about midnight I climbed down into the marina, still very dry in parts, and slide Shooting Star gently into the water. We all sleepily piled in and had a quiet ride back to Swingin' on a Star.