Thursday, July 28, 2011

Darwin's Theory Revised

This isn't the Captain's first attempt at Galapagos.  3 weeks earlier he headed out with a different crew of 7.  They turned back - turned back! - because of mechanical difficulties.  Even though we had to re-route to mainland Ecuador for bad fuel, this is a one way ride for us!

We headed on knowing full well we didn't have the proper authorization, to the tune of 1000$, from the mainland, but a friend told us we could tiptoe around a wild west village called Villamil without concern.  When we arrived, we paid our significantly cheaper dues to the Port Captain & ventured out.  Galapagos!
The islands are famous for the right & wrong things.  The animals are obviously quite unique to the islands because of their isolation, & it is where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution.  (He is celebrated so much, he has an island named after him!)  But it not the tropical rainforest you might imagine.  It is very dry & arid, with mostly desertlike conditions.  It is a paradise in it's own right, & still draws foreign & Ecuadorian exiles alike, with cactuses every which way you turn & a porous black volcanic coastline.

Lounges of lizards, hundreds of them in a bound.  Black iguanas you can't see & when your focus shifts, suddenly they are everywhere - including inches from your feet!  The great tortoises have only recently been reintroduced to the wild.  Their population has diminished since they are easy prey for introduced species & hungry sailors, who would take hundreds of them on passage as an endless supply of fresh meat - something I can relate to.

To my dismay, we had a ton of boat chores to do: cutting fishing net off the propeller, tending to the generator that recently crapped out on us, re-provisioning, refuelling & re-watering, etc.  Getting it done efficiently is the trick, but they've given us a week's breathing room, so no hurry on any front.

Our anchorage is home to sea lions, penguins & blue footed boobies.  It is also hurrendous to navigate because of very shallow rocks & sand bars, which we hit almost everytime we went one way or another.  But if we made a slightly larger arc around the perimeter this way & zigzag a little more to the left that way, we could see these super cool creatures in their natural habitat!  A couple times they were in a feeding frenzy with the huge-ass pelicans at the docks.  When it was done they all acted cool, but weary of the sea lions that'd swoop around, chase them & clearly run the show.

Every night we were isolated to our boat, not wanting to chance the shoals at night & in low tide.  We made our own fun & became good friends with the 2 other boats in the harbour - Aquamante, a Dutch boat, & Baju, a German catamaran.  Since they had been there a week already, they gave us tips on who to talk to & how things go around here.  We had some fun nights on each other's decks, drinking & being merry!  This is the sweet side to boat social life.  This, and being able to tell people on the mainland, "See that boat there?  That's ours.  We're sailing across the ocean.  No big deal."

Together with Baju we went volcano climbing!  All the islands are a chain of extinct volcanoes.  At the highest top of the crater, it was so much more like the moon than what I expected.  Red & black rocks fused together.  Very otherworldly.  The last eruption here was in 2005!  So recently!  This is the most exercise we've had in a long time, our existence pretty much minimized to our 46-by-12ft world the rest of the time, so we are properly winded by the time we get back to the trailhead.  Feels good.

During this whole time, we've been sindestepping pretty much every regulation we possibly can, & it's about at this point everyone starts asking for their cut.  We had an ominous feeling right off the back when shaking hands with a gentleman & realizing he was the islands Agent - a bloodsucking mafioso of Ecuadorian bureaucracy who corners the market on fucking yachties & milked us of 700$ on the mainland.

Suddenly we were being stopped on the street to ask questions, the boys at the docks were looking for handouts & we're pretty sure the Port Captain was fired.  The Parks Department were sympathetic & we got out of paying the park entry fee to go to the volcano, so long as we don't leave the town here on out.  Afterall, we still have legitimate boat chores to take care of.  Great.  Which means no diving, which we haven't gotten around to yet, or sidling our boat over to the rocks 40m from our boat to see penguins, since that's technically part of the National Park.  Hmm okay.  We've dealt with adversity before, so no worries.  We'll figure it out.

Me & an American threw our boards in the back of a truck & hitailed it to the closest beach break.  The waves looked AMAZING the past couple days, but today they were very wishy washy.  (I marvel at surfers' creativeness when describing the waves, which is perfectly comprehensible to surfers & incomprehensible to outsiders.  It's always clean, choppy, smooth, draggy, bouncy, mushy, etc.  These waves would be called cha-cha, Spanish slang for piss.)  I dove right in, only to prove that my skill level is what I would call Determined Beginner.  It is NOT longboard weather.  I caught a couple very early on, & afterwards couldn't even get out for all the white water.  Paddle paddle paddle paddle paddle paddle, only to be still touching bottom.  I gave it a good effort, & walked back to town with an Aussie from the Sunshine Coast & an Ecuadorian.  A great sunny afternoon.

This time when I did my "See that boat?" gag, I was taken aback.  There's a f-ing warship in the harbour!  Like, a proper gunship!  Shut the f up!  Carrying my 9ft board an hour back into town (I literally don't have 2 cents to rub together, or 1$ to pay a taxi), salt drenched & tired but happy, I rendezvous with the boys.  "Have you talked to Jamie?"  Yeah, he said to meet him at the docks in 30 minutes.
"There's a change of plans.  We need to get our shit done now & hit the high seas.  See that ship in the harbour?  It's the Ecuadorian coastguard.  They're here to kick us out.  We have until 6am."

So began our fateful journey across the Pacific ocean.  In haste.

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