Unique Galapagos Islands
17 April 2012
Even though the trip to the Galapagos saw us motoring for 70% of the time we did enjoy the calm seas, crossing the equator and on the second last day we managed to catch our biggest Mahi Mahi yet (our freezer is full). We were pleasantly surprised upon our arrival into San Cristobal Island to see Ganga already in the bay. With Bridget's parents onboard they made up great time. Bridget's father commented that the last time they visited the Galapagos there was only five yachts in the bay, today there is over twenty-five all heading to NZ or OZ with as many more already gone ahead as well as behind us. We're like a floating community; all moving in the same direction at approximately the same time and now that we're getting to know each other we offer advice to one another and look out for each other. It's really nice!
Checking into the Galapagos is an expensive bureaucratic nightmare. First of all you have to have an agent so upon arrival different agents water taxi over spruiking for business. Prices range from $175 to $125; we paid $100. When you choose one they return with a team of people from the navy, national parks authority and quarantine then after a thorough check of the boat and approximately $500 later they all leave. The agent earns his $100 going back and forth for a couple of days doing all the paperwork including getting a permit from the navy to buy diesel. New rules also apply now that we are not allowed to leave the anchorage which is different to previously years where yachts were able to visit four different ports and anchorages. Now we have to take ferries if we want to visit other islands, which is not ideal.
One quickly begins to forget the cost and hassles of entry when sea lions start jumping up on the boat to sleep. I have to say we thought they were just so cute at the beginning, but we have progressively moved them from our cockpit to our back step to now having fenders out trying to keep them off the boat altogether after many attempts to clean up after them. Hugh had a terrible job cleaning the back step after one sea lion seemed to have a bad case of the runs and liked to lie in it - enough said.
We enjoyed two great days with Ganga where we hired a car and visited a lagoon made from a crater, a tortoise farm and an awesome beach called, La Loberia, where we swam with sea lions, turtles and multitudes of fish. Hugh fascinated with the sea lions spent ages imitating them in the water and giving them his flipper to chew on. The next day, we all did two dives at Kicker Rock where we saw hammerhead and reef sharks, octopus, moray eels and iguanas. Our guide, although a nice fellow, was very careless and left the majority of us with practically no air in our tanks by the time we finished.
San Cristobal has a very relaxed atmosphere, which we like. Food is reasonable so we eat out frequently helping to save our boat supplies for the passage. Unfortunately you can't land a dinghy anywhere on the island so everyone takes water taxis at $1 per person per trip. The same goes for refueling the boat, we had to fill our jerry cans at the local service station using land and water taxis, tip them into the boat diesel tank then go back and fill them again. Diesel pricing is interesting too where locals get to buy it for a ridiculous $1 per gallon (26 cent per litre) and tourists are charged $5.38 per gallon ($1.41 per litre). As you can imagine, some entrepreneurial water taxi guys have set up a black market offering fuel to yachties at $4.15 per gallon. We know someone that bought it but it turned out to be dirty fuel so we stayed well clear of it.
We took the ferry (more like an overcrowded small speed boat) to Santa Cruz Island today to visit the Charles Darwin research centre and Lonesome George, the oldest and last tortoise of his kind as all attempts to breed from him have thus far failed. He is nearly 200 years old after all. While Santa Cruz was busier and had more tourists, we much preferred San Cristobal. I can safely say that many people but particularly our nieces and nephews would have a ball with all the wildlife and uniqueness of the Galapagos. I can only hope that some of them will get to enjoy it here one day as we have.
The wind is building nicely for our passage to the Marquesas Islands tomorrow. It will be our longest passage of the whole trip at 21 to 23 days. We're looking forward to it and surprisingly are not at all apprehensive!