I haven’t seen another ship in the three days we’ve been at sea – the Ecuadorian government does a nice job of rationing access to the Galapagos; our guides are experienced and well trained; many hail from these islands.
Currents delayed our Saturday morning arrival at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. I was up early so took the extra time to enjoy the sunrise, do some laundry and catch up on home finances – the real world does occasionally intrude on our travels. Today we expect to have a few moments of internet access while onshore, so I’ll have to check in on our HomeExchange guests, confirm some future bookings, and get a blog post up. It’s been good to be away from the negative news cycle for 4 days; I can only imagine the week’s Trumpian travails.
We had a dry landing in Puerto Ayora and just enough time to glimpse at the pleasant tourist town as we loaded buses and drove off to the Darwin Research Station, home of the famous stuffed Galapagos saddleback tortoise “Lonesome George” and current king and latin lover Santiago. It was a hot walk from the gate up the road to the station, but a pleasant visit to well organized exhibits and the breeding and rehab facilities for endangered local species.
Next the bus drove us to the town’s edge where we hopped on surprisingly well maintained mountain bikes for a hot climb up to a local sugar cane farm. Max and Ben hammered the hill and Sue braved the climb well. At the top we got demos of the rustic sugarcane processing and the resulting sugar water, brown sugar and moonshine. The group stopped for a BBQ lunch and swim, then I parted ways in search of wifi while Sue and the boys went to see lava tubes and giant tortoises. They made the better choice as wifi was impossibly slow… we’re falling further behind on our blog posts.
Back on board we had a local band and dancers after dinner. The musicians mixed Andean flutes with Caribbean rhythms and Son syncopated calls: Sue said it reminded here of music from the Buena Vista Social Club. Las niñas performed three dances in various dress; last they wore light white dresses which had hand-painted Galapagoan wildlife on the fronts. They coaxed us all onto the dance floor and the Russian couples set the tone, gamely matching the latinas step-for-step. It was comical to watch the crowd shift left and right across the floor as our ship rolled with the swells. Soon enough a conga line snaked around the bar. But it’s an older crowd and our days are full so the revelry had an abrupt end for most of us… though I expect the Russians extended their vodka-infused night up on the sun deck. Вечеринка на влад.
We woke to a wet Sunday, but that didn’t stop us from a soggy walk to the 200-year old “post office” where the boys dutifully deposited post cards into a post-mounted rum barrel. Here the mail is delivered as it once was: sailors returning to appropriate ports are duty-bound to hand-deliver any letters. Out of curiosity the boys wrote letters to themselves to see how long it might take for a letter to arrive; we sought letters to Reno/Tahoe but found none.
After a wet tour of local beaches Sue and Max returned to the comforts of the Santa Cruz II while Ben and I donned wetsuits and snorkeled. Conditions weren’t great but it was more comfortable below the surface, and our heartiness was rewarded by the local penguins who swam with us for a bit. Swimming with penguins is the one clear memory I had from my previous trip to the Galapagos about 24 years ago. It’s strange fun for mammals and birds to be in our element… water.
After our snorkel Ben took the first zodiac back to the ship; I stayed to watch over the Pleasanton girls while their parents Annette and Philip took an anniversary snorkel. Philip is yet another modest, accomplished engineer; this time with a Stanford degree, working at Lockheed. The Galapagos seems to attract the math-minded.
Back on board Ramiro gave an entertaining lecture on Darwin’s life and the current of events that resulted in the publication and acceptance of his Origin of Species and evolution revolution. Sue and Ben mixed hard words with the unapologetic Russian smokers out back… some battles can’t be won.
We skipped the glass bottom boat tour in favor of another deep water snorkel – good call. The dropped us off near a family of sea lions and warned us to stay out of the alpha male’s bay… but we were close enough to see a dozen young sea lions frolicking about in the water… they were as interested in us as were were in them. This drift snorkel wafted us past a white tipped reef shark, a stonefish, a huge clawless blue lobster, and yet more playful young sea lions… I could have watched them for hours, but the guides beckoned. The weather remained foul so we skipped the flamingo walk in favor of chatting with other weather refugees, blogging and laundry.