Surprises in Santa Cruz
27 February 2009 | Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Arriving in Santa Cruz, Galapagos was a surprise on many levels. There are 15,000 inhabitants, human that is, in this port alone. It's much more sophisticated than I imagined. Over 25,000 people live on these not-so-remote islands that are located about 650 miles due west of Equador. Humans began colonizing these islands in the early 1800's and, Charles Darwin arrived in 1835 to study the plant and animal life. Unfortunately, during the first half of 19th century the whalers nearly wiped out the tortoise population, using the animal as the main source of meat on extended expeditions. Each whaling ship provisioned their holds with somewhere between 100 and 600 tortoises. Thankfully, there's a conservation effort in place and we met a few tortoises up-close and personal. We arrived during the Mardi Gras celebration and many official offices were closed, thus delaying our check-in procedure. After a few days, we got passports stamped and rec'd the go-ahead from the port captain to roam Santa Cruz and beyond. Zen can only anchor in this harbor, while we can take day or overnight trips to the surrounding islands for tours. Romping through 100-yard-plus natural underground lava tubes, seeing the land iguanas bathing in the sun with teenage surfers riding a curl in the background, and visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center, where the 200-pound 120 year old tortoises pose for the cameras and the iguanas rest in a pristine surrounding, are just some of the fun things we've done while here. On Zen the animal life continues with blue footed boobies drifting by our hulls, huge pelicans coming to rest on our bows for a few minutes, swimming iguanas touring around us, and sleek seals swimming in search of fish. At night, we've overlapped with another US family on s/v Lightfoot. They too have a daughter and son who are enjoying this adventurous lifestyle. Sometimes we all eat together, sometimes kids stay onboard for a movie while the parents dine out. Lightfoot and Brick House (a great couple from Middletown, RI!) just departed for the majestic Marquesas, we wish them a speedy journey and will overlap w/them in French Polynesia. One surprise in Santa Cruz is the cuisine. As you all know, "it's all about food" for Zen. We are touring the world to taste all the local flavors, and boy, did we get it here. Peering into the busy kitchen, while perched on a ledge, Cammi, Cole and I watched David, the executive chef at Angermeyer Restaurant, prepare the meals we were about to enjoy. It was like watching Food Network, live. David gave us anecdotes from his childhood and morsels to die for. It was such fun that we went back for a Chef's Choice Evening that included a 7-course-meal for $35 per person. It was delicious, fun, exciting and a perfect ending to a day of animals and adventure. David, with us as his audience, had a good time, too. So much so, that he'd like to join us on Zen for his night-off. It will be a family event with all involved in the cooking. More surprises to come undoubtedly.