San Cristobal to Santa Cruz

Thursday morning we were up very early as we planned to leave San Cristobal around 6am as the sun came up. We got ourselves ready and then we realised that the autopilot was not working.  And the windlass was slipping again…that just needed a tighten up…but the autopilot refused to play despite swapping out fuses etc. So we decided to go without and hand steered out into a beautiful glassy flat day – just shame there was no wind.

We arrived just after 4pm after our 44 mile passage having passed the island of Santa Fe to starboard.

The anchorage is rocky and not well charted so we felt our way in gingerly and anchored off to one side. The set we got was so good that I thought I was going to be catapulted off the bow when the anchor caught LOL. Anyway….we called the agent….and he came by around 5pm. No officials otherwise just another $15 and a passing over of papers from Bolivar in San Cristobal. Great…we are legit again.

We didn’t want to go ashore and leave Morphie until we were sure she was safe so we just had a couple of beers in the cockpit and had an early night after watching a spectacular sunset. On both our minds was the autopilot issue….we can’t continue without an autopilot as it would be impossible for us both to hand steer for the next 3k miles…   What would we do?!?

First thing Friday morning we changed fuses – blew some more up – and by a process of elimination we worked out where the cable was routed through the boat into the binnacle. We also knew that the master computer and the autopilot head were both operational otherwise they wouldn’t be blowing fuses. So we checked the cable….and pulled and pushed in some very tight hot sweaty spots….and couldn’t find anything untoward. So we took the plotter out of the binnacle and found a join in the autopilot cable which looked suspect. Richard stripped it…rejoined it….and phew the autopilot came back to life!!!    We were very very happy….and greatly relieved.

We decided to go ashore in the afternoon, wander the town and get some internet. Well…we were shocked to find that no alcohol was being sold between Friday and Monday lunchtime because of the Ecuadorian elections. So bars were shut, restaurants were empty, supermarkets and shops had padlocks and tourists were not impressed LOL. We got our internet fix and headed back to Morphie for a couple of cold ones in the cockpit – but not before we had found at least two hardware stores and a large supermarket with fantastic bread!!!   Woo hoo….

Saturday morning we were up early and were relieved to find the autopilot was still working LOL. The anchorage started to fill up with Oyster boats which are on an around-the-world Rally and lots of stern anchors are being deployed. We couldn’t deploy one ourselves because of the boats surrounding us – and, anyway, the rolling wasn’t that bad. But it does cut down space for others as there are all these little anchor balls to avoid – and the water taxis are clearly not impressed!!!

We headed into town with our gas bottle – armed with the name of the company who could fill it – to find that the owners are Seventh Day Adventists so do not open on Saturdays. Never mind we found a nice café and had coffee before heading back to Morphie for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning we were up early again and headed into town with the gas bottle. We took a taxi to the store and they confirmed that they could fill it – happy days – so we left it with them to collect it on Monday. We then decided to continue to explore the town and admired the street art…the restaurants…the bars….the fish market….and the views of the rocky anchorage. It is really pretty here.

At the fish market there were birds looking for handouts and we enjoyed watching their antics for a while – not to mention the skills of the people working there filleting the fish.

We also spotted a crazy tortoise buggy and another strange looking vehicle.  Oh yes and we came across a nice iguana (land version) and our first bit of education around the headhunting past of the locals..

The heavens then decided to open and the streets were a bit treacherous for us wearing flip flops so we found a nice café and ate ice cream while we sat it out. Then we carried on walking towards the Charles Darwin Research Station and enjoyed the sights and sounds along the way. Behind the scenes of the waterfront though, the housing is pretty poor and the strict rubbish laws appear to be ignored in the residential areas.

Arriving at the Darwin Centre we enjoyed following the tortoise path and entered the giant tortoise breeding centre….

It was very informative and neither of us knew that the temperature of the eggs during incubation determined the sex. Anyway…we checked out little tortoises…middle-sized tortoises….giant tortoises…and one making a run for freedom. And, of course, as this is a breeding centre we also came across a couple having sex. The noises and grunts were not attractive and apparently it goes on for two to three hours….the female did not look like she was having fun!!!

At the end of the tortoise breeding centre walk we were ushered into an air-conditioned waiting area – not sure why.   So we just followed the crowd and were surprised to find ourselves looking at the late Lonesome George…  What a sad end to an amazing creature.

We continued on and enjoyed the iguana exhibit particularly as this type is unique here. Also we learnt how the scientists are actively trying to eradicate an invasion of foreign egg-killing flies which are threatening the extinction of the mangrove finch population. And, of course, let’s not forget that we met up with a young version of Darwin.

Moving back towards the town we stopped at a local hotel and had a couple of waters. We loved the sea lion snoozing area and lost count of the number of marine iguanas we saw. Sea lions are not so prolific here as in San Cristobal….which seems a bit strange really.

Leaving the hotel we came across some land iguanas and did a bit of shopping – of course Richard had to get a new baseball cap.  We also arranged to go on a highland tour on Monday afternoon.

Sunday night we spent in the cockpit watching all the boat movements and enjoying another lovely sunset.

We also received the sad news that Richard’s brother-in-law Peter had passed away which took the wind out of our sails a bit. We knew he was ill before we left so had visited whilst at home but the news was still a shock. Our hearts go out to the Culpan family – we are sorry not to be there with you at this difficult time.

Monday morning we were up really early and got a water taxi into town. We hired a taxi and, first stop, was the propane shop. And it was filled – yay – that’s a relief. Then we headed to another store for more fuses…and another for some more. I think Richard has cleared out the island but he feels happier now that we have a larger supply just in case we experience more difficulties with the cable.  We also managed to find 20m of data cable in case he has to rewire it completely.

Back to Morphie for a quick lunch and to drop off our gas bottle and purchases….and then back into town for our tour. We had a private taxi with an English speaking guide. We admired the scenery driving through the towns on the way to the highlands and were amazed by the huge well-maintained cycle lanes. The explanation is that they hold international cycling races here.

We eventually turned into a dirt road which was framed by trees making a tunnel-like effect.

We arrived at the privately-owned ranch and had to pay $3 each to get in. We wandered the grounds and came across loads of wild roaming giant tortoises – some asleep, some in the bushes, some in the mud and most of them eating fresh fruit. They were either chilled and ignored us or they grunted their displeasure so we moved on. It was amazing to see these fascinating tortoises in their own environment – and some of the boys are huge!!!

We then entered the lava tunnels which were scored out by lava flows beneath the surface and, unusually, some of the tunnels had multiple layers indicating more than one volcanic event. It was absolutely fascinating.

And, finally, we drove off to visit a huge crater. This was created by a lava flow stopping at the top of the crater – the top section cooled and created a crust – and then when the lava when back into the earth the crust collapsed leaving behind this sinkhole. Shame it was raining at this point as we would have liked to have lingered a little longer. I think you would need a drone to get the full effect of it though.

Back to town we realised that there were more people about – the locals particularly like their crushed ice drinks.

The bars were selling beer again so we went for a wander, had a couple of drinks and a bite to eat, before coming back to Morphie for the night.

Today, Tuesday, and I’m suffering the effects from the local food last night. We didn’t really consider the hygiene standards of the place we ate. Richard, of course, with his iron constitution is completely fine despite us eating the same meal!   So we are having a lazy day – we have to sort out the bank as our card got refused in the ATM yesterday – and the iPad decided to freeze our most important weather app. Luckily there is a PC version so we have still have access to the data just not in such a good format. So it looks like we need to ‘chat’ with Apple too…..  And we moved from bar / café / bar to get strong internet but it was rubbish today.    We are actually getting a better service from the mobile hotspot using our phone with a local SIM card.  I’m glad there is such a great water taxi service here.

We had planned to go to a nice restaurant tonight but that’s definitely not on the cards now LOL. Tomorrow we are heading out on a full-day snorkelling trip to another island – which we are not allowed to visit in Morphie – so looking forward to that. Apparently this is another shark opportunity but I’ll not believe it until I see it!

Oh yes… and officialdom is driving us nuts…. We have a local Zarpe to go to our third island Isabela but there is no immigration there to check us out. So the information we had was that you check out here with immigration…go to Isabela…and leave from there towards the Marquesas. But that is no longer possible so they want us either to bring Morphie back to Santa Cruz to check out or we pay another $215 and they’ll send an immigration official to Isabela to stamp our passports. As the ferry only costs $60 return trip we think that is a rip-off so we are going to come back here for our international departure papers.

Bye for now