World ARC - Day 44- 21th Feb – Isla San Cristobal , Galapagos

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Mon 22 Feb 2016 15:29

00:54S 89:36.8W

World ARC - Day 44- 21th Feb – Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos

The 19th February saw 20 ARC boats all converging on the Eastern end of San Cristobal, the first and nearest island to Ecuador, 540 miles away.
It was great to arrive like that, mostly together, with most of the fleet motoring in the calm and glassy sea down the northern side of the Island.
First it was a sea of Rays, with just their wing tips sticking out of the surface. Then Dolphins, whales and seals were seen.  Blue footed boobies, frigate birds and huge pelicans all wheeling around the boat. This was more sea life in 40nin miles than we had seen since leaving Europe.

Checking In............. All Day!
Peurto Baquerizo is the port, town and main habitation on the island, and we had to go through pretty stringent checking in. We arrived at 09.50. Kettle on for a brew and sort out time to make Nina spotless!
Three parties of checking in boats came.
First the divers, checking the bottom of Nina. Up they came after a thorough inspection, thumbs up, Phew. All the hard work paid off. We were OK. Only one of the ARC boats were rejected, Mearra Nieida, with their Finnish crew looking to borrow diving kit to go 40 miles out into the ocean, accompanied offshore, to clean themselves ready for another inspection.
Then in the afternoon, the second group of six people, to check for health,food and cleanliness, and fill out the forms. Tins were checked to see if we had any out of date, and our medical first aid kit was inspected. They made sure we had a system of recycling, and signs were up for holding tanks and not o throw rubbish over the side.
We failed! - we had a triangular bandage and some indigestion tablets confiscated. They were lovely about it, almost apologetic. A bit ridiculous, as we still fail to see how either of these things were seriously hazardous to our health?!
Third and final group of six people were the heavy hitters. Port Captain, Navy and Immigration. They arrived at 19.00, leaving us unable to go ashore all day, but never mind, had to be done. All Nina's equipment and particulars, and our details recorded, checked, inspected and verified. Forms and certificates issued, signed, countersigned. We passed, phew! we were in!
Actually, it was long and time consuming, an we had done an enormous amount of work to ensure our entry was OK. Success.
Reading the books and blogs, they were getting overwhelmed a few years ago by the boats entering  Galapagos, so the navy and Ecuadorian government took it over, and hence the enormous jobs-worth bureaucracy. Once they saw we were pretty good with everything, they were much more relaxed about letting things like packaging on meat and some fruits go through. If you started to fail the tick-lists, it was easy to imagine they would have been terrible, checking and inspecting everything. We got a very easy ride!

We did a trip in a taxi for the day o see the island, up to the volcano, which is windy, and a huge pool with Frigate birds wheeling and splashing to clean themselves.
We visited the tortoise sanctuary, where they protect and breed the last remaining giant tortoises.
We also visited the Darwin museum, where the history of the island was explained. Whales and tortoises were harvested to virtual extinction by the Europeans and Americans a couple of hundred years ago, for meat and lamp oil. Then the island became a murderous penal colony for the worst criminals from mainland Ecuador, then the natives were left to fend for themselves until Darwin visited in HMS Beagle, developed his theory of evolution, and challenged the generally held belief that we were created by god, and interest grew again in the unique flora and fauna, and the idea of protecting it and developing tourism saved the islands.

Nothing is frightened of people. Wary, yes, but not scared. You can walk right up to the animal life here.
It is absolutely fantastically magically stupendous to walk along a beach with pelicans walking and swimming past you. Pull on your mask and fins and swim with Hawksbill and Pacific Green sea Turtles, then come across marine Iguanas sunning themselves a few yards away. Magical place.