Passage to the Galapagos and the Galapagos

We had a five night passage to the Galapagos.  Since seasickness was at bay for our captain and crew, it turned out to be a decent passage.  The seas were favorable and we made decent time.  We also crossed the equator!  Dan made it very fun for the kids given he is already a “golden shellback” (someone who has crossed the equator at the international date line).  We were to become merely “shellbacks” but we still needed the blessing of King Neptune (aka crazy Dan).  King Neptune requested our presence in swimsuits on the bow.  With music loud and Dan dressed in Ariana’s wizard Halloween costume (among other things), Dan provided rhyming summaries he had written for each of the three of us, made us slather in squid snot (shaving cream) where we were doused with a salt water hose.  Good times.  A few years ago, I bought each of the kids a coin that celebrates becoming a shellback, and they can have them engraved with the date when we finally reach a place that can do that for them (probably New Zealand).

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We were very happy to finally arrive into San Cristobal.  The Galapagos have SO many rules in order to go there and that was a bit annoying, so I will start with the bad before I hit the good.  I don’t mind rules and regulations if everyone is forced to comply, but that simply is not the case in the Galapagos (which I suspected given a book I had read regarding the Galapagos).  Unfortunately, locals get a pass and that may eventually take its toll on the wildlife there.  As a sailboat, you cannot have ONE barnacle on your boat bottom.  How do they know if you do?  As soon as you arrive, they have divers checking your bottom.  Dan had donned scuba gear and cleaned Do Over back in Las Perlas, but one boat in the ARC was not clean enough and had to sail back out 75 miles to have their boat cleaned professionally.  They inspect your food when you arrive, and some boats had thrown their freshly caught fish overboard before entering Galapagos waters because of this—which ended up being a waste.  And back in Panama, we had to permit someone to “fumigate” our boat in preparation for the Galapagos, which in my opinion was ridiculous since we never even tied to a dock in the Galapagos—even to fuel.  (They have a fuel boat that comes to your boat to provide you with diesel.)  Plus, I am not a fan of who knows what kind of pesticides being sprayed in our boat given it is such a small space and we have kids.  But, in the Galapagos, we saw some locals working on their boat who waited for low tide so they could scrape, sandpaper, and paint their boat bottom.  Those copper-based paints are TERRIBLE and yet it was all allowed to seep into the water, despite the fact these local boat owners did this in exactly the place where authorities were set up to collect a tourist tax.  Ah, the hypocrisy!

Okay, now for the good—and there was a lot of good in the Galapagos.  The wildlife was spectacular!  We had watched a BBC documentary about the Galapagos and its unique creatures and we were all excited to see them.  We visited three islands (San Cristobal, Isabela, and Santa Cruz) and each offered something unique.  On San Cristobal, we toured the island with Widago and K1W1 Beanz, visiting an old volcano that was now a lake, a tortoise sanctuary and a beautiful beach.  On Isabela, we kayaked and snorkeled on our own right from our boat (one last “bad” thing—locals are allowed to do this but tourists are supposed to hire a guide just to enjoy the water that is right underneath their boats).  But here, we saw marine iguanas (AMAZING creatures who have evolved to swim, eat algae off the bottom, and then to secrete the excess salt by blowing it out of their nasal glands), penguins (really, in the wild?  I LOVED this), baby reef-tip sharks, blue footed, red footed, and nasca boobies, some beautiful fish, and a surprise for Dan and Ariana…  They were snorkeling a bit away from me and out of the darkness this sea lion swam right for them!  It caught them by surprise and they were relieved it was merely a sea lion and not one of the sharks hanging out in the bay, especially since just a few days before, Ryan and I saw a 5-6 foot shark jump entirely out of the water as we stood on the stern of our anchored boat.  I was so excited!  Except then it hit me that this was the same water we kayaked and snorkeled in just a few days before!  I am just glad the shark wasn’t going after a person!

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And then there were the absolutely insane sea lions.  Despite barriers on the stern of our boat (we could barely get over them ourselves to get on the water taxis), the sea lions STILL managed to board our boat.  We came home one night and one had gotten onboard, wiggled to our cockpit, jumped up on our cushioned settee and decided to take a nap.  And don’t expect them to just leave when you get home and yell at them either.  Nope.  They have to be chased off!  They became quite annoying and it took me a long time to clean that oily, sea lion cushion…

On another day in Isabela, we rented bicycles with Widago and K1W1 Beanz and rode to the “Wall of Tears.”  This used to be a prison and the mean prison official forced the prisoners to build this rock wall for no apparent reason.  Now, you can hike up above it and catch a gorgeous view of the island and the bay.  Here, I had a comfortable bench and about 15 minutes of solitude and serenity while some of the rest of the group opted not to do the hike up and others did a bit more.  It was wonderful…

Ariana and Ryan also took a surfing lesson with a local man and the kids from the above-mentioned boats.  They had a great time and both managed to get up on their boards by the end of the few hours they spent out there on the water.

On Santa Cruz, our family hired a taxi driver to take us to the caves and the wild tortoise area.  That was a nice day.  We stopped for lunch at a very local place for chicken, rice, beans and plantains with our driver.  Then we went through the caves with the promise that our driver would be waiting at the other end (which he was).  Afterwards, we were able to get up close and personal with a few types of Galapagos tortoises, some much older than 100 years!  Unfortunately, two of our days on Santa Cruz were taken up by provisioning and trying to get good enough Internet to download Kindle books for our very long passage to the Marquesas.  Ugh.  I had to make sure I had enough food and drinks for about 30 days (an extra week just in case).  I actually kept a log of the meals I made to keep track of the ingredient I had used versus still had and to make sure I used up the veggies and fruits before they went bad.  I will save the trip to the Marquesas for another post, however.  And I promise not to bore you with the tedious, repetitive, monotonous routine of a three week ocean passage!

Kicker rock from Wizard’s Heel Beach


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Ari is not too old for snuggling with her dad…


On our boat…again…


Penquins of Galapagos

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Good Produce at the Weekly Market in Galapagos


Blue-Footed Boobies

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Marine Iguana swimming


The tunnels and tortoise area


Climbing through the tunnels

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