March 27, 1999
CATCH UP LOG
When I left Salinas on 9 March to fly home I knew we would have separate adventures for
a time. Now I am back aboard the Sea Gem with a comfortable crowned tooth and lots of news and pictures of our new granddaughter, Savannah.
had able crew with Morgan Bentley and Dean Carmon to get Sea Gem
from Salinas to San Christobal. He knew Jeff and Kathy Elledge
and I might not arrive in time for us to sail from San Christobal
to Baltra. We arrived there after the last bus so a kind and
considerate Ecuadorian gentleman helped us haul all the luggage
which consisted of mainly frozen provisions to a pick up truck which
happened to be at the scene. We climbed in, luggage in the
back, with multiple and assorted people and headed out. you
have to know the meaning of blind trust in such a situation because
few people in Ecuador speak any English. We knew we could
not stay at the ferry landing for there is virtually nothing there,
only the end of the road to the ferry that goes to the ferry landing
in Baltra. The landscape is sparce but a good road leads all
the way (about one and a half hour over the mountains to the other
side of the island. There is a marked difference in the landscape
on opposite sides of the mountain due to the rainfall, one side
desert like and the other decidedly more tropical with beautiful
flowers, fruits and vegetables.
From the time we boarded the ferry I was trying
to get my hands on a VHF to call Charlie and let him know we were
OK but I had to wait until we were dumped on a curb across from
a bar in the downtown area. I saw a yachtie looking group
and asked to borrow his VHF and got Charlie right away. He
had met all the buses and had given up hope of our arrival and had
gone back to the boat. He raced in to meet us and we muscled
all the gear down to the dingy dock and got a "panga"
or water taxi to take us to the Sea Gem. From there it was
a crash program to put frozen food away and get our gear together
to leave for our five day tour aboard the Galapagos
We were booked for the first class tour while some of our friends had the luxury tour. We went to all the same places with a wonderful guide, Gustavo Castro, who became a friend over the days we were there.
not only has an excellent command of the English language but a
love of the Galapagos that is contagious to all of us who love wildlife.
He is very knowledgeable about all the flora and fauna of the islands
as well as the history and importance of preserving this unique
spot. Actually the Ecuadorian government is doing a lot to
care for the islands as far as regulating the tourism. No
one can tour without an approved guide. Food, drink or cigarettes
cannot be carried to the islands or consumed on them. I never
saw a piece of litter in any of the park spots. In fact, even
where the beaches are washed
by the extremely high tides there is little debris on the beach
or on the rocks. The towns and roads are clean also.
This island group is definitely still a third world country, but
the Galapagos is set apart by standards they have imposed on themselves
and follow. A large amount of revenue is generated by tourism
to the Galapagos and it goes to Quito, the capital, but very little
ever gets back to the islands. This seems to be a really sore
spot with the thoughtful residents.
The tour boat we were on had thirteen passengers and seven crew members, plus the tour
guide, Gustavo. We were fed three full meals a day, served in a nice air-conditioned dining room. Breakfast was at seven, lunch at noon and dinner at seven in the evening. Everyone
retired right after dinner, exhausted from the days activities. The cabins were air-conditioned and each has a private bath. The accommodations are not luxurious but
very comfortable and the crew went out of there way to make our stay pleasant. We had excellent and imaginative menus for each meal including an evening of lobster that one of
the passengers helped the crew dive for at night. The lobsters are in caves and Brad, from Foxy Lady, caught them but in doing so sustained some nasty sea urchin punctures. The
local treatment is to burn the spines with a candle, then pour the hot wax on the burned area. He said the treatment is worse than the injury but his hand seems to be healing in spite of the first aid.
Speaking of first aid, Chuck Adams, crew member of Distant Drum, cut his hand pretty badly but was sewn up by Captain Duke and he is also healing up nicely. Amazing what
necessity can prompt. Chuck showed me the cut and it looks really fine.
We have included a map of all the places we visited in our five day tour.
The impacts of the Galapagos come from many sources. The shear raw beauty of the landscape is one thing, each island is different and each dramatic. There are white sand
beaches, green sand beaches (actually not green but covered with bits of green stone that look almost like unpolished emeralds), golden beaches, red sand beaches, the color of
bricks, and black sand from volcanic sources. Each beach is unique and each has abundant wildlife of one form or another. There are also cliffs that rise directly from the sea with surf
pounding, crashing and receding with rhythmic power. The powerful rollers are relentless even when the sea is glassy calm.
We made forays on to each island in a large wood dingy and on all but one trip the crew
insisted that we don life vests. Even when you take a water taxi in the harbor they insist on a life vest. Gustavo would announce each day, at his briefing, whether it would be a wet
landing, meaning on the beach, or a dry landing on to stone stairs or rocks. Some of the landings could have been termed crash landings for Darwin, who drove the boat, powered
by an on and off again Evenrude, would have to hold the bow into the rocks while we scrambled off between crashing breakers. More than once someone would have to be
pulled back as the boat receded, to keep from falling between the boat and the landing place. The crew, including the dingy driver, were excellent, if they were not I would not be
be so comfortably writing this log. There are no markers around the islands and the captain and its crew moved her between anchorages at night so we would not lose any tour time during the day.
We had not only a variety of nationalities in our group, but a
variety of ages. Charlie and I may have been the oldest and
there was one delightful seven year old boy with his grandfather.
He was well mannered and when we had our last gathering his grandfather
made an impassioned speech about how much the trip had meant to
him as an Ecuadorian and how he felt close to the group. The
child then went around the circle and hugged and kissed each of
us. We had Australians, Germans, Swiss, Ecuadorians, and Americans.
We communicated fairly well and all of Gustavo's
lectures were in English, with Spanish for the grandfather and his
grandson. Most of the Ecuadorians I have met are very polite
and very gracious. We have done everything from swimming with
sea lions, marine iguanas, beautiful fish and sharks to climbing
a mountain and descending deep underground for a long walk through
a lava tube. Everywhere there is evidence of the explosive
volcanic formation of these islands.
and over I thought of the brilliant mind of Darwin and the importance
of the Galapagos to our current pool of knowledge. How observant
he was and his observations changed the way we think about the marvels
of creation. These islands are a wonderful place to visit,
to learn and to appreciate the wonders of our world.
Kathy left today for the states, leaving Jeff here to sail with us. Tomorrow we leave to cross the Pacific. She carries photos for the
web site and a Happy Birthday present for Caroline.
(5 years old April 8)
From the Sea Gem, on the equator, in the Galapagos, until later....