Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Mon 18 Apr 2011 22:25
00.44.64 S 90.18.57 W
We are enjoying our time at Puerto Ayora! The weather has continued to be inclement, heavy rain showers often (unseasonal we are told), so it is very hot and humid. Geoff finally arrived on thursday afternoon, after a near arrival on wednesday! Apparently due to the rain, the radio at the airport was out of action and the plane was unable to land, so a 3 hour flight to nowhere for GBW and then a successful arrival on thursday from Guayaquil. Barb moved to a hotel ashore on thursday, as she was pursuing some educational opportunities through the Darwin Centre. We encouraged John to enjoy the land based facilities, so we have all been catching up daily and enjoying dinners together. Barb left Galapagos today for Quito in Ecuador.
We visited the Darwin Centre, saw Lonesome George, the famed last existing tortoise from the island of Pinta. He is aged between 90 and 100 years and the scientists are still hopeful he will mate although he doesn't appear very interested! There were also several land iguanas and many more varieties of giant tortoise, from the various islands. It was feed time and the tortoises were all lined up enjoying their meal of leaves.
The most fascinating place in the bay is the fishmarket, which runs all day every day and of course attracts many tourists. The scraps are fed to the waiting pelicans and one very special seal - Pancho - who waits at the feet of the fishmongers and keeps the pelicans under control. A sea iguana also participates in the action. It's not unusual to see the fishermen chasing the opportunistic pelicans to retrieve a fish. Huge wahoo lie on the ground, just too much temptation!
We took a taxi ride on friday up to the highlands in the centre of the island and walked down through a lava tunnel - very dark and wet from all the rain, but well lit, even though the electric wires were mistaken for hand ropes on several occasions! Then on to a "tortoise farm" on the edge of the national park to see more giant tortoises in their natural habitat, including a pair mating - a very slow, noisy, cumbersome exercise!
The extraordinary thing is that none of the wildlife appears to have any fear of man, no matter what species. We also went out to a beach (Garrapatero) on the east coast which had been washed away by the Japanese Tsunami. Several areas had been affected apparently.
The Galapagos Islands were first discovered in 1535 by the Bishop of Panama! The tortoises were in high demand after the islands discovery, in the era of pirates and whalers - they could remain alive in the hulls for months with no food or water.
On saturday we took a day trip to an island on the east coast of Santa Cruz - Islas Plazas and walked among the sea lions, nesting sea birds, multitudes of land iguanas, some sea iguanas and red and blue footed boobies. Then on to a snorkeling spot at Punta Carrion which was quite disappointing. Numbers of fish, but very murky water. A small hammerhead shark was seen as we anchored. We also saw many rays leaping out of the water and splashing down again, something we hadn't seen previously.
The people here are very friendly and happy and we are all enjoying testing our spanish - with some hilarity! Food is good, particularly the seafood and is mostly cooked to perfection. Internet and phone service seems very intermittent.
We are watching the weather (still very little wind) and are thinking we will leave tomorrow later in the day, once we have been to the local fruit and veg market to stock up, and completed our clearance formalities. We don't have the luxury of waiting for a weather window, as both Geoff and John need to get on with their lives!