Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tuesday 19th June

Puerto Ayora
Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands.

0 44.914 S
90 18.417 W

We had planned on this being our last day here in the Galapagos Islands so the day was dedicated to the last minute things that you have to do before departing. We gathered up the sheets, towels, boat documents, computer and trash and called a taxi to take us ashore. After dumping the trash our next stop was to drop the laundry off so we could be sure to have it back by the evening. We then made our way to the port captain’s office to clear out, that took us all of 5 minutes as when we showed him our documentation he said we were good to go and didn’t need anything else. This wasn’t quite true, we had to go to the police station and get out exit visa stamps in the passports; we saw the same lady at the police station that checked us in so that was a painless 5 minutes too, then we really were free to leave. We had decided to make a “must do” visit to the Darwin research facility that exists here and to that end we hailed a cab and for $1 we rode to the entrance of the research facility. There was no entry fee and we wandered in to the visitor’s interpretive centre where there were lots of information boards about the type of research work that the facility undertakes here in the Galapagos, obviously it deals with the world famous Giant tortoises, the Iguanas, the sea lions and the little penguins but it also deals with a lot of the bird and plant species that are peculiar to the place. We were surprised and a little disappointed that there was no guided tour of the place; we wandered about until we stumbled across the pathway leading to the giant tortoise breeding pens. Here we found that the tortoises were corralled according to age and the island they originate from. The newest hatchlings were this year’s and they were quite small, all were numbered on their shells. As they get older they are moved to larger corrals which are deliberately kept like the rough terrain of the islands, this is to “toughen them up” for when they are released back to the wild which happens when they are 5 years old. The research centre is careful to keep records of where the tortoise eggs come from so that they can be certain that they are returned to the correct place when they are old enough. We had been told that they only feed the tortoises on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the rest of the time they have to fend for themselves, eating the leaves and grasses that are in the corrals. Whilst we were visiting we noticed that the tortoises in one of the corrals were being weighed and measured but there was no information as to how often this was done. We made our way around the enclosures on a 10 foot high wooden walkway and as we were going around we were stunned by the size of some of the cactus plants (trees!) that were growing there, I took a photo of Gerry between 2 of them to give some idea of how large they were.
The trunks of them were more like a normal tree than a cactus plant – they were hard and bark like, in fact we now knew what the light shades in one of the restaurants was made from – this bark from the cactus plants. We made our way to the larger corrals where a few adult females were kept for breeding purposes in one and 5 very large males were kept in another. You could walk around these corrals and touch the tortoises as long as you didn’t interfere with them. When we got to the male corral one of the largest tortoises was having a “domination moment” with one slightly smaller. Take a close look at the photo – we wondered if maybe there was a need for sex education or if the bigger tortoise was maybe coming out of the closet. We can tell you that the smaller tortoise underneath wasn’t very impressed and mad some loud honking noises as he moved out from under the bigger tortoise. We half expected to see the bigger tortoise roll off onto his back and wondered how he would right himself again but he managed to land on his feet right off so it wasn’t a problem. We saw lonesome George along with the 5 females that make up his Harem – I don’t think he’s lonesome at all! After the tortoise corrals there were a couple of corrals with Iguanas in them, orange and yellow coloured ones; they weren’t as large as the ones we had seen in Miami but they were just as ugly and one of them was shedding it’s skin which made it look even worse. All around the facility there were small finches that are specific to the island and we passed a group of ornithologists with huge cameras taking photos of them as they went around. We finished wandering around and made our way back to the entrance just as it began to spit with rain, luckily for us a taxi drew up almost as soon as we got there and we rode back into town, stopped at the bank for some cash then went to the internet café to read emails. Once we had finished with the internet stuff we walked to one of our favourtie cafes for lunch – they do a “meal of the day” and for $4 you get soup (pumpkin), a main course (chicken drumsticks in a mild curry sauce today), a dessert (orange cake) and a fruit juice (passion fruit and orange); each day the entire menu changes – it is a very cheap way to eat a decent meal. We met a couple of people there that we knew and were entertained by a story of an Australian boat that had arrived in dock “missing” the captain. As there were only the 2 people on board to begin with it sounds very suspicious, the other guy said that the captain “just vanished” somewhere on route from the Marquesas to here and he didn’t report it or put out a distress call as he didn’t know how to work the radio – does this sound likely to anyone? He did manage to get the boat the rest of the way here by himself, it all sounds very suspicious to us. The captain’s wife (who was not traveling on the boat) is reportedly a bit upset! I wondered why she wasn’t beside herself and ranting and raving, could there be any chance it was a contract job on her husband? There is an enquiry going on into it and we all want to wait around to heart the next installment. Having finished eating and gossiping we walked up to the municipal market for our last minute fruit and vegetables, I managed to buy all sorts – beans, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, melon, pears, grapes, mushrooms and zucchini to add to the rest of the stuff I bought the other day. There was almost everything available as long as you hunted and pecked through the various stalls; it wasn’t cheap though, at least double what it would cost in the States. Gerry decided he was tired and needed a sleep so we caught a cab back to the dock and made our way back out to the boat on the water taxi. Once we got to the boat Gerry surprised me by getting the dink into the water and going over to JJ Moon to help Barry try and work out what was wrong with his generator, it had quit working 2 days ago and Barry hadn’t been able to fix it yet. You would think that with all his recent experience of fixing our generator Gerry would have been able to diagnose the problem with Barry’s instantly but this wasn’t the case and they are going to take the fuel pump into the mechanic tomorrow to see it that is the problem. (Have you realized that this means we won’t be leaving as planned tomorrow?) Gerry returned to our boat with dirt dust and grease over his clothing, I wasn’t impressed as it will be 3 weeks until we see the inside of a laundry again. We went ashore to collect our sheets and towels and ate dinner along with a Kiwi couple that we had met in Panama, and then it was time to return to the boat for the night.



Blogger ARITA said...

Dear Jerry & Nikki,
We have bee following your blog with great interest
since the day you left. I log on at night and catch
the latest whether it is a fish you caught (or lost)
or whether it is some great weather you caught or
lost, or whether it is an anchor you caught (or lost),
all of it has been exciting and very illuminating. You
tell a great story Nikki even heeled to port or
starboard. enjoying every minute of it and great for
us too as we are going to be a year or so behind you.
I received our Australian yacht registration in the
mail this week. One step closer. we likewise will be
heading for Queensland when the time comes although
again subject to how the finances go we will go to PNG
first before coming to Cairns. It is still way too far
off to think about just yet.
I know it may be too late already but i have all the
Garmin blue charts for the Pacific downloadable to a
card for use in your Garmin chart plotter. I didn't
buy them until after you had left, but with mail I
could get them to you if needed. Let me know. Also in
your stuff if you happen to have some old photos
showing " Lassir" from your Rabaul days, I would love
to have a copy. I have thoughs of one day putting the
whole saga together. I'm including a couple of pics
and hopefully you'll be able to download your mail in
the Marqueses rather than your sat phone and anytime
you want to skype us we're online at the email
Keep up the great work, for it really is a dream of a
life time and you are almost halway home.

Best wishes,

Rob & Lauren
Yacht " ARITA "

11:57 a.m.  

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