Exploring San Cristobal

Wednesday morning we awoke to find a sea lion in our cockpit fast asleep on the cushions.   He was not amused at being shooed off and tried to bite the stick Richard prodded him with.   There was another one cuddling the fenders on the transom too. 

So another attempt at keeping them out had failed….more measures called for….this time with brooms, fenders, canvas, ropes and old-fashioned foam lifejackets.    Richard got on with boat jobs – this time he was moving the downhaul for the whisker pole – and I did the laundry.   He also checked engine hours for maintenance purposes and fixed the toilet seat – again!   Hopefully this will work this time.  

Later on we headed into town via water taxi and got some drinking vouchers from the ATM before visiting the dive store to book a two-tank dive to Kicker Rock for Friday……it’s Spanish name is Leon Dormido.   We then wandered the town – which is called Puerto Baquerizo Moreno – and first walked the length of the main seafront promenade and were fascinated by the cactus trees.   

Away from the main promenade – which is largely tourist-related such as tour shops, boat trips, souvenirs, cafes, restaurants etc – the housing deteriorates as you get further into the town away from the seafront.  And there is quite a lot of rubbish around too which surprised us bearing in mind how serious they allege to be about preservation of their environment.   And we even spotted some asbestos sheeting just lying around….don’t breathe in!!!   

We eventually found the municipal market – for fresh fruit, vegetables and meat – and were interested in the huge food court on the upper level.  Sadly we were between breakfast and lunch times so nothing was on offer – would have been interested to try some local food.  

We purchased some fresh vegetables – surprised by the lack of variety – and then headed into a number of small shops to see what else we could get.   Purchase of the day was a couple of bags of dried milk powder – have been looking for that for ages LOL.   But we came away pretty much empty-handed as the stores have a very limited range of pasta, rice, noodles and pulses with the occasional pack of biscuits and tomato sauce on offer.   Most of the shopkeepers appeared bemused that tourists were actually shopping for food – and they seemed pleased by my Spanish attempts to be polite and friendly.  Another good find was the bakers – so we got some fresh bread and pastries too – the first in a long while!

We had a couple of drinks on the seafront before returning to Morphie.   And, of course, we watched sea lions enjoying themselves….. 

Back to Morphie to find sea lion No.5 (or wonky eye as we call him) back on the transom fast asleep….so our defences had been breached again.  

We left him there for the rest of the afternoon while we got on with more boat jobs – Richard filled up Morphie’s tank from our diesel jugs in preparation for them to be filled again.   We used 25 gallons of diesel since we left Balboa Yacht Club so were pretty pleased overall with our fuel consumption.   He also reinforced the shelf that the autopilot lives on in the lazarette – he noticed that it had been flexing a bit whilst underway.      

Before the sun went down we evicted No.5 again and reinforced our ramparts.   Let’s see if that will keep them off.   They obviously seem to see us as a challenge and every night under cover of darkness they work it out.   We don’t mind them really but they smell…..and they poop and pee…and the flies love to hang around them….   And they tease pelicans too as they try to catch the little fish that are hiding underneath Morphie.

Before we went to bed Richard had a rum punch to celebrate his new Shellback status.  

About 3am we were woken to the noise of a sea lion barking loudly.    We checked it out and there was another small one in the cockpit.   Seriously don’t know how he managed to get through the small gaps left….but was quickly evicted by frightening him with the beam from the torch.

Thursday morning and it was laundry day again on Morphie.    We also arranged for Bolivar, our agent, to come by on Monday to collect our diesel and petrol jugs and our gas (propane) tank for filling.   We aren’t allowed to purchase fuel here so this is the only way to go…. and we know we are getting ripped off at $120 for 25 gallons of diesel plus some petrol but we have no choice.   

Lunchtime we headed into town and walked to the Darwin Interpretation Centre.

This was an interesting snapshot of the history of the Galapagos from its formation through volcanic activity and included different migrations – not all of them successful – right up to the current day and the challenges that they face, particularly lack of fresh water.   It talked about evolution of the species and how animals here had adapted to their environment with, of course, the most famous being the shape of the beaks of the finches according to their food.    It was a pretty dry exhibit with lots of reading and little else…..but it was worth the effort.

We walked back – intending to go to the little nearby beach for a while – but there was no shade of any description.   Also there wasn’t even anywhere to buy a bottle of water and, by this time, we were parched.   So we walked back into town and found a little local kiosk on the water front where we had some fish and a soda.    As we wandered across the little walkway that leads back to the pier we came across a Nautical Museum too….which was also interesting.   They mention HMS Beagle and its historic journey to these islands but they didn’t have a painting of it which we thought was a bit strange….

We got back to Morphie mid-afternoon pretty shattered so we rested up and got our dive gear ready for the morning.   Oh yes…and defences breached again by No.5….so further reinforcement activity again!  For dinner we ate Richard’s tuna with coconut rice.   Was delicious.

Friday morning…and no seals on board!!!   Woo hoo!!!     We got up early…in fact an hour early as Richard set the alarm clock for 7 and it went off at 6 because he had failed to change the clock to Galapagos time.   Never mind….time for a cuppa.    We got our stuff together – only basics like wetsuits and masks – as the price was the same whether we used our gear or theirs so we didn’t bother to schlep all our gear over in the water taxi.

We arrived at the dive shop as planned…and were delighted to hear that there were only three divers onboard the boat.   There were a bunch of snorkelers too but that’s fine.   We introduced ourselves to our fellow diver Eric, a pilot from Canada, and headed to the boat and enjoyed the 30 minute ride to the rock.  We arrived very close alongside and kitted up.  The sea was really rough as we jumped in……and the waves were breaking over our heads as we swam backwards towards the rock. 

It seemed to take ages to actually make the descent and we had used up quite a bit of air in the meantime.    As we descended into the gloom we were disappointed that the visibility was terrible…..just plain awful….   We saw huge shoals of fish;  a turtle;  a couple of sharks;  and some large grouper etc.   But the dive was demanding with currents especially as we swam out into the blue or rather the black.  This is where the hammerhead sharks school but, to be honest, they could have been all around me and I wouldn’t have seen them.  It was pretty spooky especially when you hit the freezing cold thermoclines!!!    We returned to the rock and the dive leader took Eric to the surface as he was low on air and then returned for us.    We continued diving until we were at the maximum time allowed before we surfaced and swam to the boat.   When we picked up the snorkelers they had seen sharks, turtles and sea lions and were so excited … Oh well, never mind, there is another dive to go.  

We waited out our surface interval and kitted up again – this time we were going to go through a crevasse in the rock.  

We jumped into much calmer water and went down…then headed into the blackness of the cave.    Eric was unhappy – especially when he saw the sharks close up – and decided not to continue.   To be honest, the conditions were intermediate to advanced level and he was not really experienced enough for the challenges of the day.  Just glad it didn’t put him off diving for good and it certainly didn’t affect our experience.   The divemaster, Conselo, continued to lead us through the cavern…and we had some close up encounters with black and white tip sharks and a turtle….plus a sea lion who decided to bump into me.    We were being pulsed backwards and forwards with the currents and had to cling on a couple of times….   Anyway we then decided to swim around the rock and go out into the blue again hunting those elusive hammerhead schools.   Well…as we headed off….the current was strong and I struggled…and the boys were ahead of me and seemed to be getting further away.   This made me struggle even more until eventually I had to admit to being a bit panicked and asked them to turn around….  Conselo, bless him, held my hand until I got my breathing back under control and then I was fine again.   Thankfully I did not have to abort…we just turned around…and rode the current like superman…and I enjoyed the rest of the dive.  We stayed down a bit longer than planned and we surfaced after almost an hour.   Despite my little blip this was a much better dive than the first one so I’m glad we persevered….despite the poor visibility….we saw some great fish.   It was disappointing not to see the hammerheads but you can’t have it all!

Back to the boat and we headed over to a deserted beach….we had a great chicken stew and rice lunch….and then went ashore for an hour or so.  We swam, we chatted, we lazed around and generally had a good time.  

Then back in the boat for the trip back to town and everyone decided to go onto the hotel that some of them were staying in….so we ended up spending a few hours there drinking happy hour mojitos and daiquiris…and a fun time was had by all.    Great signage too!

Back to Morphie and we were seal free…woo hoo…have we finally cracked it?!?   Anyway…we decided to forgo dinner and just had a couple more beers in the cockpit before having an early night.  We were both a bit sunburned from the beach – no shade at all – and tired from the exertions of diving.   

This morning, Saturday, we awoke to find another small seal in the cockpit fast asleep curled up in our new helm chair.  Get lost!!!   We poked him and he reared up and tried to bite the stick again….definitely not happy about being moved on.    Finally he left and we had to reconsider our defences yet again.   This must be iteration no.8 at least LOL.   We dropped dink lower so that he blocks access to the cockpit from the transom and we’ve covered the stern with canvas to make it slippery for them to climb on.   A few have tried already but have fallen back into the water.   We’ll have to see how that works out.

We are having a relaxing day today keeping out of the sun and might go ashore for a sundowner later.   Tomorrow, Sunday, we’re planning on hiking to another remote beach and we are hoping to snorkel with sea lions and turtles….   Apparently there are marine iguanas there too.     So we’re looking forward to that.

Bye for now