Well, it’s been a fun filled and action packed few weeks since we arrived in Galapagos. I absolutely love it here so far; the people are very friendly and attempt to understand our bad Spanish, the towns are nicely maintained and although very new, they have a lot of character; and of course the wildlife is absolutely amazing. The first thing I noticed when I came to shore was that sea lions appear to have taken over the town. They sleep on the beaches, pavements, seating benches, the dingy dock and even take over peoples boats if they have an unguarded low transom or swim platform. I often swim next to Bob and have one or two of them come and say hello and play around the hull of the boat. We’ve also seen large sharks, sting rays, green turtles, frigate birds, brown pelicans, blue footed boobies and much more without having to even leave the boat. This place really is spectacular and I would recommend that any wildlife enthusiast should visit here if they can.
Of course one of the reasons for racing to the Galapagos was to meet my mum who was coming to visit. We headed to Santa Cruz (one of the more developed islands) to meet her as this is where the main airport is. I’ve been really keen for her to experience a bit of my lifestyle – to visit a really interesting part of the world, to see the boat, to meet Alex and to relax properly because she works far too hard. Living on the sea is definitely not my mum’s natural habitat and even at anchor she was sea sick. Still, she didn’t let that stop her from coming aboard on numerous occasions, swimming off the side of the boat, drinking and having dinner with us – we just made sure she was dosed up on Stugeron first. We had a really amazing 8 days visiting the various corners of Santa Cruz. We had heard that it was difficult to get around in Galapagos as the majority of terrestrial and marine areas are a designated national park and you’re legally required to have a guide with you at all times within designated areas. As guides generally cost $60-$100 per person per day, this was not going to be an option as we’re on a tight budget – especially considering how much we paid just to go through immigration and get our cruising permit. Luckily, this is not the case and there are plenty of places to visit without having to be accompanied by a guide.
We visited a number of beaches, including Tortuga Bay which is probably one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever visited. It’s a vast stretch of white powdery sand with turquoise crystal clear waters and hardly any people. It’s quite a long walk, about 40 minutes, along a cobbled path made through a sort of cactus forest filled with lava lizards, various small finches and other endemic birds. It can be a tough walk in the midday heat but definitely worth it to get to Tortuga Bay.
We also visited Garrapatero beach which is a 20 minute taxi journey away – another beautiful secluded beach which often has pink flamingos nearby – unfortunately we didn’t see any during our visit that day. The final beach we went to was the Playa de Estacion (Station Beach) which was part of the Darwin Research Station and is great for snorkelling and seeing marine iguanas and sally light foot crabs.
We also had a lovely day touring some of the more iconic places in Santa Cruz. We visited two giant craters known as Los Gamelos (The Twins) which are two collapsed magma chambers which provide great wildlife habitat and offer wonderful views into the chamber itself. We also visited an underground lava tunnel where we had to clamber over rocks and crawl through small spaces to get to the other side – great fun. Finally, we spent some time in the Giant Tortoise Reserve (El Chato) which was absolutely fantastic. Getting up close to these amazing ancient creatures felt like stepping back in time. The reserve was a mosaic of habitats including established woodland, scrubby habitat, small ponds and open grassland where many of the tortoises spend most of their days grazing. They are barely fazed by human presence and we were able to get within 2 meters of most of them. We could have touched them if we had so wished, but we didn’t due to the polite pleas of the reserve manager.
Paulina (Alex’s mum) also came out to visit for just under 5 days and managed to overlap with my mum’s visit for a day which was really great. We all went out for dinner and drinks in the evening so that our mums could get to know each other and also to celebrate Alex’s birthday. Despite his borderline depression of turning 32, he still seemed very happy to receive his birthday presents – especially the 6 jars of Parson’s pickled cockles from my mum which I’ve now hid in various corners of the boat!
I said goodbye to my mum which was particularly difficult as I know it’s going to be a long time before I next see her. Still, we both have a lot to keep us busy in the meantime so I’m sure the time will go quickly. We were fortunate to have Paulina’s company for another 3 days or so and it was great to spend time relaxing on Bob with her, shopping and visiting various bars and restaurants. Paulina loves to swim so we took her to Las Grietas which is a salt water gorge with rocky cliffs at either side and beautiful clear water. It’s a very refreshing swim and with a bar only a few minutes away surrounded by salt water lakes, where better to go?
We said goodbye to Paulina yesterday and we’re now getting ready to head back to San Cristobal as I’m going to take my PADI open water scuba course there (it’s $150 dollars cheaper than here in Santa Cruz). It was so great to see both our mums and we miss you both already! Thank you for coming all this way to see us, for bringing all that stuff with you from home and for the money you spent on us. Paulina I promise we will not be doing laundry by hand for a long time! 🙂