Iguanas, Sharks and Boobies
29 April 2009 | Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galapagos
We've spent the last week sleeping, topping up our alcohol levels after ten, mostly dry, days at sea and exploring Isla San Cristobal, in that order! Once we had recovered from the crossing, we explored the island a little. Six of us got a taxi to take us to some of the places that others had recommended. Johnny, our taxi driver, turned out to be the best tour guide despite not actually being able to speak any English. He took us up to the Lagoon El Junco, an extinct volcano that is now full of fresh water and a haven for many different birds. The frigate birds go up there to wash their feathers as they can't do this is in sea water apparently.
We then went up to the Galapaguera of Cerro Colorado which is a project by the Galapagos National Park to re-populate the island with giant tortoises that they are raising from eggs. There used to be 100,000 of them but that's now down to only 1000. Many reasons for their decline including tourists bringing disease and other species to the islands, but also many thousands were taken by visiting sailing ships that kept them in their holds as a source of fresh meat on long voyages. They've raised 13 since 2004, so a pretty slow business, but they should live 150 years or more. We spent ages just watching them eat. Despite looking slow and cumbersome, they're feisty, bad-tempered things and you wouldn't want to get between them and a particularly tasty, green leaf. A male outsider tried to join them for a snack and was roundly seen off.
Our last stop was the Playa Loberia, a beach a couple of miles away from town where marine iguanas, sea lions, pelicans, stunning yellow Sallie Lightfoot crabs and assorted other odd creatures hang out on the rocks or swim in the surf. It's difficult not to anthropomorphize the sea lions. The big older ones look like pompous Brigadier Generals (Ret) barking out orders. The young juveniles are naughty teenagers that run around, climbing over all the others and generally being very irritating. You can imagine then saying "Whatever!' when they get told off. There's one very little one that Sandy from Taku Tori and I have been watching for a few days. He seems to have been abandoned by his mother and spends his time roaming the beach, going up to other seals and looking hopeful before they growl at him and chase him away. It breaks your heart to watch! Sandy wants to take him back to their boat and bottle-feed him!
A few of us went diving yesterday. The first dive was at Kicker rock, a volcanic stack 30 minutes off San Cristobal. We dived about 20 metres and saw many white-tipped reef sharks and a couple of Galapagos sharks but none of the Hammerheads that are supposed to be quite prolific here. The second dive was on Isla Lobos. Much of it was in less than 5 metres and very pretty. Saw a few stingrays and lots of schools of different, multi-coloured fish. Then we were joined by dozens of sea lions who came to play, swirling around you and bumping against you. One tried to take Bill's camera and actually had the cord in his mouth and was tugging at it!
The sea lions are everywhere on this island. Three have lived on our sugar scoop since we got here. They get in your dinghy if you leave it unattended for 30 seconds! (The dinghy smells disgusting incidentally. Sea lion urine has a smell all of its own!) They're on every boat, They're on the steps at the jetty. They lounge about on the promenade and the town beach. At night, when you're in bed, you can hear them banging the bottom of the boat, eating the little fish. We must remember to check all the cupboards before we leave!
The plan is to leave on Saturday. The weather forecast is 5-7 knots from the South East which means we'll sail South about 300 miles down to 5S and then West for the next 2700 miles when the wind should be 10-12 knots all the way according to the weather gribs (We download weather maps over the internet via the Sat phone every 2 or 3 days).
So my next blog should be from the Marquesas in about 4 week's time!
Happy Birthday to Richard on the 7th, Jen on the 19th and Happy 21st to you, Chloe, for the 22nd. Sorry, haven't sent you a special 21st present but I may have a sea lion for you! Jxxxx