Puerto Villamil, Isabella - Galapagos
Here we sit on Isabella Island in the Galapagos and it definitely feels like paradise. It's a sleepy little beach town with a number of nice hotels, cute outdoor restaurants and lots of wonderful beaches. We are now secure in a very calm anchorage which is a wonderful change from the ones we have been in since we got to Ecuador in mid Oct. No swells so we are having quiet nights and don't feel like we are out to sea even when we sit on anchor. We put Zak on a ferry at 6am Thursday morning along with Bill's brother Matt, wife Dawn and their kids who met us on Santa Cruz island and spent 3 days there with us before we all came here to Isabella for the remainder of their week visit. They take the ferry back to S.Cruz and catch a plane to Quito. From there Matt & Dawn go to the jungle Friday morning and Zak will fly to Miami to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a couple of days before flying back to Maine. He has worked out an internship at Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor from now till May which should be great experience for him. The rest of us are just very sad that he never could wrap his arms around this cruising lifestyle and was unhappy enough to want to get off the boat and do something else. We are very lucky that Sierra and Rob will be nearby and hope that with his parents half way around the world he can manage on his own...for me it's a harsh reality that even my baby is grown up!
The animal life here is quite phenomenal...we see sea lions, blue footed boobies, penguins, and iguanas on a daily basis and have had the luck while snorkeling to swim with sea turtles, sharks, rays, lobsters, and tons of colorful fish. Did you know that boobies always pair up and that they dance with each other...in their blue shoes! We pretty much have to do all our activities on guided boats but have been able to find some great guides and take some really cool trips (it's just been outrageously expensive). Feels mostly OK though as it will in the end protect the nature of these islands and keep them alive and endemic instead of overrun with tourists and the likes. Two days ago we went to these lava tubes that were the most beautiful and weird landscape you could imagine. Also with Matt and Dawn (from Santa Cruz) we went to Seymour Island for a birding and snorkeling expedition and did another trip to Santa Fe island for a snorkel trip that included lots of swimming with sea lions and some crystal clear waters. Before we met up with them we had spent a few days on Floreana (very small island with only a few hundred inhabitants). There we went on a dive at Champion Rock although it was only the boys as I had a bad cold and cough but I did snorkel with them at Devil's Crown, another outcropping of volcanic remnants. That day on the way back our guide Max made sure we stopped at a place we could see hundreds of flamingos and a beach full of sea turtles.
I am now realizing that I am describing this part of our travels backwards but oh well. On our way to Floreana from the first island we anchored at in the Galapagos (SanCristobal) we were up on the bow fascinated by 6-8 dolphins swimming with us...they love to catch the wake of the bow and just play along with the boat for a long time...Well all of a sudden we heard the fishing reel spinning so dashed back to the cockpit and started reeling her in...Both Bill and Gram had a very hard time and we realized we had a very large fish on the line. After quite a struggle we pulled up a 60-70 lb. yellow fin tuna. The biggest other tunas we have been catching were more like 15-20 lbs. max. After it was dressed and cleaned we are betting we have 40 lbs of primo sushi meat...not as good as the one in the news that was caught in Japan and fetched $178,000 or something like that but we think ours would probably fetch $500 or so in the US and at least paid back all the money spent on fishing gear as well as providing us with some remarkable all you can eat sushi dinners.
First point of entry in the Galapagos was San Cristobal, which we reached after a 560 mile sail from mainland Ecuador. We had one day and one night that was kind of uncomfortable but all in all it was our best sailing yet. We made it in just 3 1/2days which is great time and we were so excited to be in the Galapagos. Our first impression on San Cristobal was how incredibly odd it was to land on the wharf and walk up onto the malecon and have sea lions lying around all over the place...Gram thought they looked like the drunks in NYC after midnight. We liked San Cristobal and stayed there 10 days. Quiet town, nice people, and a good place to try to get a sense of what we could do in the Galapagos. Went to a tortoise breeding center where the park is trying to preserve this nearly extinct species. Very well done and overall our feeling is that even tho' they are charging a lot to be in the Galapagos they are doing a great job of putting money back into the infrastructure and really improving the park and trying very hard to preserve the natural beauty and specialness of this place. We did some biking on San Cristobal...tried to make it up to a crater lake but the 2000m climb was too much and we had to bail after a couple of hours of uphill pedaling(amazingly enough it only took 15 min to get down what we spent over 2 hrs going up...and it was easy!). We did get to visit the crater a few days later when we hired a taxi and went there and to a beach on the opposite side of the island. That beach with it's fine white sand was a definite 10. While on San Cristobal we did go out one day on a snorkel trip to a place called Kicker Rock. Snorkeling between the two steep pinnacles of this formation was awesome as was a drift snorkel on the other side. A few days later we lucked out and arranged for a dive. It was just the 4 of us and 2 divemasters which was a total luxury...they point out so many things we might miss and of course provided for me this extra level of comfort. That trip included a boat ride about 20-25 miles to Espanola and two dives. They were both great and Zak did really well on his first post certification trip. He's kind of a natural- with those big feet of his he barely needs flippers. And me, because I get so cold had on two wet suits so needed a ridiculous amount of weight to be able to get down (like more than any of the boys). Spent a quiet Christmas Day on San Cristobal. Surprisingly enough the Ecuadorians do not make a big deal over Christmas...surprising for a country that is 95% Catholic. It was my first year in a decade and second year in my Grasshopper life (34 yrs) that I was not doing a retail Christmas. Sierra said the store did well and that perhaps we are seeing an end to the recession. I think we even ended the year a little bit up!
We are planning on staying in the Galapagos until the end of the month...prepping for the big push to Easter Island..the 2000 mile passage that I am a bit apprehensive about. Internet is not reliable here so we are headed to town to see if we can do better there than our wifi on the boat. If anyone wants to respond please use firstname.lastname@example.org as we will be pulling those down off the satellite phone. Hope this new year and new decade brings good stuff to all. We send our warmest (literally) wishes your way.