GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: 6th – 26th August 2017

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Yes we do see you hiding under there!

 

We are finally here after 6 ½ days, motoring for around 3 days then sailing up wind beating and bashing ourselves and poor Neverland. We picked a weather window with light southerlies on our nose rather than strong southerlies on the nose, a better option. Our crossing from South America to Galapagos was really an arc, due to the wind direction. We needed some East to the South wind, so we didn’t have to tack again, which we got in the last few days.

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These Sea Lions were quite at home on park benches in town.

We were delighted to arrive in the lee of San Cristobel island around 0600, I got up and started all the sorting and cleaning required for the Galapagos officials. I trundled up in a daze to find Stu in all his wet weather gear trying to keep warm!!! It’s 23 degrees with no humidity yay. I have since learnt that Galapagos has 4 major currents supplying its waters – there’s the Humbolt current that comes from the Antactic travelling up the South American coast first, the South Equatorial current (from the east that’s cold), the Cromwell current from the west that’s cold containing deep and nutrient rich water and the Panama current from the north that’s warm.  We are in the middle of the dry season where mean air and sea temperatures are 21 degrees, brrrrrrrr a massive difference from the 30-34 degrees with 90% humidity we  been in the whole time. Jake is loving the colder weather, and so am I.  We are on the equator and its freezing!!!! I’m sitting here, the day after we arrived writing with a blanket on!!!! We haven’t felt cold for the whole time we have been away (10 months!), its lovely to be cool again especially since we ran out of water and hadn’t had a shower in a while during our last few sailing days! We still had our 20 L emergency ditch bag and loads of bottled water – so don’t worry parents we had water. We could always slow right down and turn downwind to smooth the ride to make water if we really needed but we were wanting to get there, plus need to conserve diesel (from the generator powering the water maker)

 

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This little finch flew into the saloon to say hello.

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We are waiting for officials to arrive. There was a mix up with our agent and he was based on Santa Cruz island, so we had another agent. So 8 people came aboard, 2 police, 2 customs, 2 national parks officials and goodness knows who else. I offered coffee, tang and biscuits they soon all relaxed (except the port captain all dressed in a fluorescent white immaculately pressed uniform and looking very serious) and they were all joking around, goodness knows what about, poking fun at our agent I think. So I filled out the usual customs forms while Stu answered questions and we both showed the customs officials around who were looking in every nook and cranny for bugs and drugs! They looked under our bed and found 8 ounces of cocaine…….huh!…nah, just messing with you, just checking your paying attention :). They lifted beds, opened all cupboards and draws, looked in the bilges and they asked for our shoes then wanted me to scrub them clean (which I happily did). In the end they found one larva, one live spider and some seeds on the soles of our shoes which they carefully placed into test tubes using gloved and tweezers then it was labelled. The snorkelling diver passed the hulls, yay – well done Stu. I was very glad I went through the whole boat and cleaned every cupboard and surface of mould – it was worth it.

 

When we arrived Stu went to pass out while we were entertained by a family of playful Sea Lions under and around Neverland – such a wonderful welcome. Yesterday we went ashore to swim with the sea lions on the beach, donned all our warmest wet suits and it was great. Sea lions swimming past us, murky water and I was reluctant to put my head under due to the bitter cold water, but just awesome. The beach is littered with people in amongst the sea lions, such a strange sight. Sea lions sleep on our back steps every night and are regularly hopping up. Stu found 3 in the dingy! Sea lions are littered all over the docks, rocks in town, benches in town, beaches, fishing and smaller boats in the anchorage – they are everywhere. We spotted some Marine Iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks on the board walk in town, such weird looking lizards, flatter faced and dark grey to black, kind of ugly compared to their cousins on the mainland. Apparently, 20% of the animals in Galapagos are unique to the islands.

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Big daddy Marine Iguana

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Stu has now come to accept that Sea Lions will be on the back steps, he used to run up and shoo them away as their poo is hard to clean off, but no longer – he he, kids and I are good with that! Though….. that has now changed since we found one under our saloon table!!! Stu almost stood on it, she almost looked annoyed from being awoken, she had to climb the 3 steps up which they seem to do easily. After much commotion she was off. So now its war against the Sea Lions on Neverland as the other night one came right up (past my little rope barricade) and pooed everywhere then proceeded in its hast to get away from me poking it with a broom, to smear it everywhere!! NOT IMPRESSED, Jake and I spent 3 hours the next day scrubbing the deck. SO, now no Sea Lions allowed, I have set up a jerry can wall, and loads of rope obstacles to try to stop them coming up. Plus, I am up with my prodder all hours of the night if I suspect them unwanted scally wags aboard! How it has changed from the beginning! But we still love them, just not on our boat.

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Oh…. must I move!

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Upon our return we find three sleeping intruders.

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A not so quick escape.

 

 

 

Jake is fascinated by the amazing birds here (also thanks to David Attenborough). He has been drawing them and creating an information pamphlet about all the Galapagos animals. We brought a book about all of the creatures here of which he has poured over since our return from town. Stu went for a surf today (returning in an hour as freezing) after fixing the rudder arm and sussing out the leaks in our fore cabins, while the kids and I went into town. We did some touristy browsing, got a sim card for Stu’s phone, found the markets which were not that great, as I know where to get 12 bananas for $1 in another shop which is loads closer, had lunch (Alex spilt his milkshake after having a ‘I didn’t get to sit in the seat I wanted so I’m going to sulk on this other seat on another table for a while,’ episode! He did not win and eventually got over it). Was a good day.

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A male Frigate bird, the pirates of the sea. They are known to steal other birds food and eat their chicks.

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Beautiful Blue Footed Booby, kids thought the name was hilarious!

Yesterday we went for a hike from the Interpretation centre up the cliff and beyond, to a beach where we had a picnic lunch with a Marine Iguana on a black boulder beach which was originally made from lava. On the way we saw loads of seals, some giant turtles in the crystal clear waters below, loads of Great Frigate birds (confirmed by Jake the animal expert) on the cliff and tonnes of lava lizards on the way.

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This is a common site as we are taxied from Neverland to the towns dock.

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Our lunch time friend.

Today (11/8/17) the kids and I did a little school (I’m trying to do a lesson per day or two from the ‘All About Reading’ book with Alex and Sienna in the hope to get their reading up), then we went to the Interpretation centre. The Interpretation centre is a history and science information centre that is free! It was OK, though the kids were a bit bored, Jake liked the information about the Volcanos. Then off to get some food, ice-cream and checked internet at a local cafe, Face Book is on and off so very slow. When we returned to Neverland (Stu didn’t come with us as he wanted to do some boat jobs), we found Stu in bed groaning! He was shaking with fever and complaining that his sore shin was throbbing.

 

The day after we arrived after all the officials were on the boat, Neverland had to be fumigated – we had to leave Neverland for 4 hours.  Upon our return it was almost dark, Stu went down stairs and he fell straight down into the bilge! His foot and leg went down into the open floor hatch at the bottom of the stairs, that the fumigator left open, and his leg fell into the bilge from a height as he was running down the steps!!! All the pressure of his falling body went onto his left shin bone. He took a long time to move and went straight to bed in pain. The next day it seemed ok but bruised, the following day we went for that hike and today it looks infected, is way more painful and we think it may be broken, have an indent or small crack. I gave him  Neurofen and started some Augmentin Duo antibiotics stat and 2 hours later he looks better, but it’s the Neurofen helping. Our agent just arrived to give us info on tours and where to go to find the hospital. I really hope it’s not fractured, I’m still hoping he has the virus all the kids have had!!! Though I don’t think so looking at that wound!

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Stu went off to the Hospital today while I did school with the kids (I wanted to go with him but he preferred to go without the entourage of noisy, bored kids, fair enough). He came home with great news, no fracture – YAY. I’m not sure what would have happened as we haven’t been told how long we are allowed to stay, but 20 days is the normal, not enough to heal a fracture though! I certainly am not going to sail with 4 others to look after, we need Stu to be A1. So today on our way home we bumped into our Agent and Port Captain, she said we were going to have to leave in 5 days but because of Stu’s leg she will talk to him and we will get an extension (provided we go back to the hospital and get the certificate from the Dr). Hmmmmm, that Port Captain was a little odd. All the information we have read states we can stay 20 days but that is dependent on the Port Captain (of which it may be less if the port is full of boats, we are the only one though), he has an arrogance that is thick in the air, and he made me feel uncomforatable with his suspicious stares. So we still don’t know how long we can stay here for. We haven’t done much as Stu’s leg is really sore and swells up a lot when he walks on it.

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Giant Tortoise

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4 week old Turtoise

Today we did the highlands tour in a taxi. We saw the Giant Tortoises at a nature park called Galagapagaria. Our tour guide showed us Tortoises from one month to 80 years old. These Giant Tortoises are only found on this island, they mate for 1-2 hours, once a year and have 50 eggs that they bury 30cm with their own faeces and urine mixed into a muddy pile, nice! If the temperature of the eggs is 29 degrees or over they are female hatchlings if 26 degrees then they are all male hatchlings.

 

We went to the oldest tree on the island, 300 years old, pretty impressive especially since most of the island is covered in low bush or small tree shrubs. This tree house would not pass any OSH rules back in OZ! An impressive tree, I could have taken more pics but the rain stopped me, yes rain on the equator and it was cold too.

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Wobbly and slippery bridge up to the oldest tree top.

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Alex giving me a heart attack.

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It really was a Faraway Magic Tree, complete with rope swings.

We climbed up to the inactive volcanos edge, we were up in the cloudy mist, we could occasionally see the lake in the middle of the volcano, but it was cold and windy so the complaints quickly sent us all down to the taxi again. It would have been an awesome sight if the clouds had lifted.

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It’s a volcano crater…..apparently!

Upon our return to Neverland the kids fell in love with the cutest little sea lion on our back step, it was playing with a peg. They were so chuffed with it that they were willing to clean its poo off if it did poo on the steps!!! It was giving the kids big puppy dog eyes, I must say it really was super cute with the biggest eyes you have ever seen. The kids have begged and pleaded to allow ‘No Poo’ special back step privileges. He poses for pics, unbeknown to No Poo as he allowed us to pat him when he was asleep and looks too cute. So I can’t say no, and he hasn’t pooed (yet), therefore he is allowed on the back step, only! There was another larger pup that was cute, he was called Smash Lip (yes, the name  is self explanatory).

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Introducing No Poo

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Stu’s leg is really paining him, he is resting it as much as he can so that means we haven’t done as much as I would have hoped yet. It seems to be getting a little better with the antibiotics and his fevers are gone, but it’s going to be a slow process as its an ulcer around the size of a 50c piece (AUD). We are wanting to dive on Kicker rock, we sailed past it and it looks epic, a tall piece of rock with vertical cliffs and 2 cracks that you can swim through (well one u can swim though), apparently you can see hammerheads, giant turtles and sea lions. Not sure it’s wise for Stu to go in the water now with his wound, but we will play it by ear.

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We met a boy and his mother today at the park, where Sienna fell off the monkey bars and severely hurt her coccyx. Laura is British and married an Ecuadorian and they are bringing up their 5 yr old son on Isabella island. Very interesting talking to her about life on the islands, from cocaine drug busts from Columbia, to the poor schooling system here, to the lack of insight the locals have in regards to how special these islands are rather than just a hard place to live. To initially populate these islands the government offered many incentives for those willing to move here from the mainland, now tourism is the number one money maker. Food is all shipped from the mainland and no one can be bothered growing food, so it’s super expensive. Money is easy here due to tourism and no one likes to work hard, she says. As there are more children than adults, this will have to change as their economy won’t be able to sustain them.

 

We did go on a tour of kicker rock (no option to see it otherwise as most of the islands are national parks and everyone has to go with a guide, including the locals!). It was  epic, Alex snorkled through the gap with Stu and I (by that stage the other two were cold and were taken back to the boat). In the gap there were so many sharks swimming below us! Alex was super brave. We all got to see lots of giant Turles, Sea Lions and bright coral walls. It really was worth every cent.

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This is Kicker Rock.

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Just before jumping in to snorkel around it.

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Before snorkelling kicker Rock, we went to a nearby beach, the guide said mangrove seeds grow if embedded in sand heavy end down, so the boys proceeded to plant a mangrove farm.

 

Alex – we went up a volcano and there was poo bigger than a storm petral! It was more like a rock than a piece of poo. In the middle of the volcano, there is a fresh water lake and there is Frigate birds. There is mist!!! Lots of mist, it’s more like clouds than mist. When we were in the mist it was the north pole, yeh well kind of!!! AlexColam.com.

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No Poo features again on bottom step.

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A stinky pirate aboard, we have enough of those already!

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Big Mumma

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Boat school, Galapagos style.

 

Here are some more pics of snorkelling Kicker rock.

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Look….. a snorkelling Sienna.

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Jake above the turtle.

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Alex, Stu and I swimming through the gap, this was our view below. I stayed close to Alex, he was super brave (not bad for a 7 year old, just a bit proud of him!)

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Galapagos sharks.

 

 

 

 

 

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