Final days in San Cristobal, Galapagos

Bill and Caroline
Tue 26 Mar 2013 20:20
Eco-awareness is far more prevalent than anywhere seen on the Atlantic side since Portugal. Recycling bins for waste, recyclable and organic 'basura' or garbage line the roads and walkways. The agricultural economy provides organic food locally produced on San Cristobal, very tasty, not at tourist prices and sold in the open market by locals with strangely reluctant smiles. The endemic species on the island (e.g. Miconia shrubs ) are supported by careful management of the environment and rogue invaders are beaten back and if not defeated then at least beaten into submission. The sheep which colonised the islands decades ago were removed (we suspect compulsory eating) and the landscape is now free to do its own thing. Dogs, cats and rats are kept under watch to protect the native species with islanders supporting the conservation methods. The slopes of the currently resting volcano are covered in the protected Miconia shrubs and frigate birds swoop to wash their wings in the fresh water lagoon in the core of the volcano.

The La Galapaguera (giant tortoise area) has a breeding programme which aims to have a 60% success rate for incubation of tortoise eggs found in nests in the semi-protected area, with tortoises numbered as they hatch and gradually moved through a range of small environments until they are released at the age of 5 (and no longer easily crunched by the non-endemic rats). Their long necks reach the mancheel tree leaves and their mini apples (the tree is also found in the Caribbean and signs remind us that they are poisonous to humans, even rainwater from the leaves can cause burns).

The blue-footed booby surprises us throughout the day as it dives a foot or two away from the boat to seek out the tastiest fish under Juffa, occasionally causing a loud bang as they misjudge their return to the surface and emerge after clanking their heads on the hull with silvery fish in their bills. Unfortunately no action photos as our photography skills are unable to deal with surprise elements such as bombing boobies but their feet are a really remarkable shade of blue. Not found out yet what the evolutionary advantage might be.

Juffa has been proudly supporting the local ecosystem with tiny black and yellow striped fish (not yet identified - possibly a new species?) living next to the algal slime on the hull, tiny crabs proliferate in every crevice and cling onto the transom, yellow tailed jacks hide in the shade from the blue-footed boobies and sea lions practise their fishing skills chasing all the wildlife on and under the boat. The propellors have become underwater UGG boots where the crabs hide out and barnacles secretly grow.
The inland town of El Progreso has the strangest accommodation which you can visit for $1 - the recycling theme continued. Beer crates, tree branches, plastic tubing and millions of beer bottles create rooms, shops and welcoming decorative features….but the tree house is amazing with a precarious walkway, climbing wall steps up the tree bark for the adventurous, split level sleeping compartment with ensuite facilities (see advert for more details and contact number should you want to stay). The significant tilt and wobbly vibes didn't feel all that comfortable. We didn't stay.

Final preparations are underway for the big crossing. The back of the mainsail has been reinforced to prevent chaff, the bottom and propellors scrubbed, again (note - the UGG boot look is not a good one), more fresh provisions are purchased, the much longed for 12v socket in the cockpit is installed with Mark's help (thank you Mark and Liesbet - s/v Irie) our last jaunts and some sad goodbyes to friends … and of course the sea lions.

Check out the size of the chicken - the latest in the evolutionary chain?