Penguins make everything better

We’re getting closer to the end of our stay in the Galapagos but there are still so many things we want to do before we leave. We need to finish various boat jobs before our next stint at sea. It will be the longest single journey at sea that Bob has ever done (at least since Alex has owned the boat) and we need to make sure she is well prepared. On top of that, I’m keen to get the analysis work done for my voluntary work at the Research Station. There’s also one island left to visit – Isabela, which is the final destination we’re allowed to go to as a cruising yacht. It’s the largest island in the archipelago and was originally formed from lava flows of six major and numerous minor volcanoes that have uplifted and joined over millions of years. Some of the volcanoes are still intermittently active. We’ve heard fantastic things about Isabela from other sailors and it had always been on the top of our list of places to visit whilst we’re here. So we decided to set sail for Isabela last Sunday and spend some time exploring the island we’ve heard so much about. It’s much more tranquil, less built up than Santa Cruz and San Cristobal and is home to the infamous Galapagos penguin and Greater flamingo – both endemic to Galapagos.

After a 10 hour sail through the night, we arrived at about midday last Sunday (23rd May). Although we had absolutely no wind for the sail and motored the whole way, the weather was glorious when we arrived. The wind was calm, not a cloud in the sky and the water was shallow and perfectly clear. A flock of probably 200 blue-footed boobies were torpedo diving for small fish schooling under the surface. They would fly in a group, all mimicking the path of the school of fish underneath them before torpedo diving in unison into the water. As we were setting anchor, Alex was concerned that there was a major problem with the windless because it appeared to be jammed and not letting out any chain. Whilst attempting to release the anchor chain by hand and loudly cursing the windless in the process, a curious penguin swam right up to us at the bow of the boat to see what was going on. “PENGUIN!”, Alex shouted whilst excitedly pointing at the water. They are so incredibly cute and I know that my brother have loved to see one (penguins being his favourite animal)! We stared at it for a few minutes before laughing at how amazing it was to see a penguin within 5 minutes of arriving in port, before we’d even finished setting anchor. Suddenly, the windless didn’t seem to be nearly as big a problem and we’d first thought.

One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had came a few days later when we decided to go for a snorkel off the boat just as the large flock of boobies started their daily fish hunt. It was an absolutely incredible experience to be in the water whilst hundreds of birds were torpedo diving all around us hunting for fish. They are so precise that there was no worry of being impaled by their beaks should they miss and accidently hit us. Still, it’s easy to forget that fact when a hundred sharp beaks are plummeting rapidly from the skies towards you, but the thrill of it all was absolutely exhilarating. All the birds would surface at the same time and take off right over our heads for another round – I could have touched them if I simply held out my hand. At the same time two adult sea lions were also fishing nearby. They would mimic each other’s swimming patterns and as we viewed them from the surface, they looked like synchronised swimmers – mirroring each other’s actions. They were good fun to play with and as Alex tried to imitate their movements, they would come closer to us to investigate what we were doing. Another occasion I had a green turtle swim right up to my face, it hovered in front of me looking at me for a good minute before slowly swimming away and going about its business. The wildlife here is just incredible and I would recommend a visit for anyone with an enthusiasm for nature, there’s nowhere else in the world quite like it.

We’ve also been for a walk to see some of the wild greater flamingos in a brackish lagoons just outside the town which was very nice. There are some really nice walks here which take you right through opuntia arid zones, salt lakes, lagoons and give you the chance to see lots of interesting wildlife in some really unusual habitats. There’s also a fantastic giant tortoise breeding centre here with what appears to be thousands of tortoises, all at different stages of development and a really good education centre.

Of course no place can be 100% perfect and Isabela has its downfalls just like anywhere else. The lack of development means that finding things you need is difficult and the internet connection is practically non-existent – so I might have to wait until we’re back in Santa Cruz before I post this (which I have ended up doing so apologies it’s 2 weeks late!). Also, there seems to be a problem of theft from small dinghies at the small floating dock outside of the town. Although overlooked by a relatively busy pier, anything that is not locked down to the boat is at risk from being stolen. Apparently, even outboard engines have been stolen if not locked down. We have been the unfortunate victim of the theft here too, but luckily just an inexpensive metal clip that was attached to the end of a line that was cut away. It was a subtle reminder that you can find not-so-nice people even in the nicest places. We’ll definitely be locking everything down from now on!

Well, I think it’s time to do something productive. Today’s to-do-list mainly consists of doing some jobs up the mast. I’ll hoist Alex up on some lines while he does the work that needs doing, if he’s nice, I might even let him back down again….

Blue-footed boobies diving in unison into the water

Blue-footed boobies diving in unison into the water

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Greater flamingo seen during a hike we did just outside of town

Greater flamingo seen during a hike we did just outside of town

Tiny baby tortoises at the breeding centre in Isable

Tiny baby tortoises at the breeding centre in Isable

 The wall of tears - the final destination of our bike ride. The wall was built by prisoners in the penal colony during the mid 1900s. It's been left as a reminder of the horrible suffering endured in the past. Many of the people now in Isabela are descendants from the penal colony.


The wall of tears – the final destination of our bike ride. The wall was built by prisoners in the penal colony during the mid 1900s. It’s been left as a reminder of the horrible suffering endured in the past. Many of the people now in Isabela are descendants from the penal colony.

We’re still here

  We’re back in Santa Cruz and a great deal has happened since my last blog post. I completed my diving course back in San Cristobal and I’m now a fully qualified PADI Open Water diver, woohoo! Although I must admit, it wasn’t without complications and my confidence as a diver isn’t quite at the level it should be. The course itself turned out to be very interesting indeed! The instructor ended up being a bit of a cowboy and didn’t teach me all of the skills I should have learned. Out of those I did learn, most were only repeated once and I never got chance to practice and really get a grip with those skills I struggled with. Another unfortunate event happened after the last dive of the course when the instructor decided to make an advance on me whilst we were waiting for the taxi to pick us up. Of course the first person I told was Alex and he made sure I was never alone with him again. I suspect it was pretty obvious to my instructor the reason Alex was sat right next to me during my theory lessons the next day. Overall it was quite amusing really, if a bit awkward, but I learnt a lot in the end. The Galapagos Islands really are an amazing place to dive and I got to see some amazing wildlife including sting rays, golden rays, green turtles, sand eels, moray eels, giant puffer fish and at one point I had a sea lion pup playing with my fins – pretty amazing! Also, later on in Santa Cruz we bumped into some friends of ours. Apolline (the French girl I mentioned in some of my previous posts) and Marc (who is the captain of a boat called Pilas, who Christian [the Italian guy who came with us through the canal] was on). Incidentally, due to various office politics, Apolline and Christian switched boats so now she is with Marc on Pilas and Christian moved to the French boat. Aaaanyway…. Apolline is also a diving instructor so she took me for a dive at the anchorage so I could practice some of the skills I felt less confident with – it helped a great deal. There is also a random boat out there somewhere in the world with pictures of flowers, fish, stars and Apollines phone number sketched into the growth on their hull. Before we left for Santa Cruz we spent some time being proper tourists in San Cristobal and took a taxi to see some of the sites. El Junco

The lagoon at El Junco - the largest fresh water reservoir in the archipelago

The lagoon at El Junco – the largest fresh water reservoir in the archipelago

Stunning view of a lake at El Junco

Stunning view of a lake at El Junco

Greater frigate bird (female) - seen during our walk at El Junco

Greater frigate bird (female) – seen during our walk at El Junco

Male small ground finch - seen during our walk at El Junco

Male small ground finch – seen during our walk at El Junco

Female small ground finch - seen during our walk at El Junco

Female small ground finch – seen during our walk at El Junco

El Ceibo

The largest Ceibo tree in the world located in San Cristobal with an amazing tree house built in it. THe tree house come fully equipped with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom (with working toilet and shower) and a balcony.

The largest Ceibo tree in the world located in San Cristobal with an amazing tree house built in it. The tree house come fully equipped with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom (with working toilet and shower) and a balcony.

Oh - and you're very own emergence exit in the form of a fireman's pole

Oh – and you’re very own emergence exit in the form of a fireman’s pole

A good view of the tree from below, you can see Alex climbing it and the tree house up high

A good view of the tree from below, you can see Alex climbing it and the tree house up high

A trek near Playa Mann

A view overlooking the coast of San Cristobal during our trek from Playa Mann

A view overlooking the coast of San Cristobal during our trek from Playa Mann

View of the beach and lighthouse from the beach at dusk

View of the beach and lighthouse at dusk

The sail back to Santa Cruz

I was trying to play around with some long exposure shots during the sail - I quite like how this one turned out

I was trying to play around with some long exposure shots during the sail – I quite like how this one turned out, despite the messy cockpit

Back in Santa Cruz we spent a lot of time with Apolline, Marc and the rest of their crew, as well as making some local friends. As Marc and his crew can all speak Spanish it was easy for them to make friends here and therefore, easy for us to poach them 🙂 Although now they have left the Galapagos Islands, communication with the locals is a little harder. Pilas set sail for the Marquesas Islands a few days ago and although we are heading for Pitcairn and the Gambia Islands before Marquesas, Marc is keen to take his time so I hope we’ll see them again in a few months.

Pilas and her crew leaving for Marquesas

Pilas and her crew leaving for Marquesas

The trials of being 32 years old are taking their toll on Alex already and a few weeks ago he badly injured his neck simply by turning over in bed and he could barely move for two days. In an effort to compensate for the reduced movement in his neck, he overused the muscles in his back and sure enough a week later he was paralysed once again. On the plus side – I’ve become very strong over the past few weeks as it’s been my job to do all the rowing in the dinghy, most of the manual labour on the boat, carrying bags and lifting all the heavy things which Alex would normally do. I’ve even become a seasoned mechanic and did a lot of work on the main engine whilst Alex was incapacitated, which seems to have more-or-less fixed the leak problem. I say ‘more-or-less’ because it still leaks a little, but the leak has now reduced from a continuous dribble of liquid leaking about a pint of oil every 6 hours to just 1 or 2 drops per minute. We also have a spare attachment so if the leak gets worse again we have something else we can replace it with. In fact, the entire engine has had a bit of an overhaul recently with an oil change, new throttle cable, new belt and a serviced fuel filter so it should (hopefully) now be much happier. Unfortunately, the mechanic supplies in the Galapagos are very limited and we’ve had to come up with some innovative solutions to get what we need. This is less than ideal because jobs are taking much more time than they normally would, cost more money and in some cases, not fully fixing the problem. Still, we’ve done all we can and hopefully the engine will run smoothly from now on. Alex’s back and neck now seem to be 95% better, largely thanks to the skills of a Thai masseuse whose services were expensive, but were worth every penny given that Alex is no longer paralyzed! The timing has worked out well because I’ll soon be starting some volunteering with the Charles Darwin Research Station and Alex can occupy himself once again with boat work, although he’s banned from doing anything too strenuous for a while! I met Gustavo, a scientist at the research station, to discuss how I might be able to help them. He coordinates a really interesting project doing population monitoring of three native or endemic bird species (Galapagos penguin, flightless cormorant and waved albatross), and the project has many parallels to ones I’ve been involved with in the past. He uses capture-mark-recapture techniques where he marks the species with PIT tags (similar to the tags used in your pet cats and dogs) to individually identify them. He also takes measurements such as weight, sex, breeding condition, heart rate, body measurements and takes blood samples for genetic testing and parasite monitoring. He is mainly looking to see how the population changes over time and also between different islands where some are pristine with little human influence and others are affected by the introduction of pest species. This should give some really useful information on how pest species are affecting the local wildlife, and over time, the effects of climate change. This in turn can be used to advise on intervention measures which will best enable the native wildlife to thrive. He has some surplus data from his project where he has collected records of all the vertebrate species encountered on the surveys. It is this data that he wants me to have a look at and do some statistical analysis on. If it all goes well, he is keen to share more data with me so we can analyse the effects of other variables. This is a really good project for me because I’m one of those strange people who really enjoys statistics. I find the project incredibly interesting, I think it’s nice to do something which I’m actually good at and also be part of a worthwhile cause. I can do the work from anywhere so I can continue to volunteer even after I leave Galapagos. Also, Gustavo is happy to list me as one of the authors of the papers he publishes as a result of the work – which is very very cool! I hope I get chance to do some field work with them before I leave as well, but if not, I’ve got a foot through the door and maybe it will lead to more opportunities in the future. One final thing to note, unfortunately my beautiful hot pink IPhone is no more. It went in the water during a dubious dinghy ride to shore a few weeks ago when a wave caught us by surprise and flipped us over. Apologies if anyone has tried to contact me via WhatsApp as I won’t have received those messages. If anyone wants to get in touch please email me or send a Facebook message and I’ll pick it up when I’m next online. I think that covers just about everything… other than crabs (in the kitchen sink), an octopus in the toilet and a collision with a dive boat…

A smidgen of panic…

The excitement and adventure of the Galapagos Islands still hasn’t stopped! I organised my scuba course the day after we arrived in San Cristobal and I’m now half way through. I spent the first day watching the approved PADI videos and yesterday was spent in a shallow stretch of sea learning various skills needed for the certification. Luckily for me the instructor I am using has no other students at the moment so my lessons are one-to-one. I’m quite surprised that there aren’t more people wanting to learn to dive here as the Galapagos Islands must be one of the most idyllic places on the planet to learn, especially for wildlife enthusiasts! I guess many already-qualified divers would come here and go on tours instead, which is what many people appeared to be doing.

Yesterday was my second day of the course and my first ever dive! Most people spend their first dive in a swimming pool to learn skills such as clearing your mask of water, finding and clearing your regulator underwater, what to do if your equipment goes wrong, buoyancy control, etc. My instructor asked if I wanted to go to the sea instead of the pool as it’s much more interesting and a beautiful place to learn, so of course I said yes. I found the sensation of breathing under water very strange at first and extremely unnatural. My instructor could tell I was uncomfortable so spent a bit of time showing me round the sea bottom to get me used to my new environment before proceeding to the skills section. That was a very special experience; in less than 5 minutes we had already seen sea lion pups playing just above our heads, I saw a large sting ray, sand eels, urchins, a plethora of fish and lots of other marine life. After which I practiced the skill of emptying of my mask of water, which I found pretty scary as it involves taking off your mask and closing your eyes in the process. I (like most people probably) am very used to air being freely available whenever and wherever I need it. Things are very different under water and air is only available from a number of small hoses, so the idea of being blind in this unfamiliar environment absolutely terrified me. It took a while but eventually I built up the confidence to do the task in hand, and whilst it wasn’t exactly pleasant, I managed it without any hitches and it did wonders for building my confidence. We completed the majority of the other skills later in the afternoon and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

It was just after sunset when we surfaced (probably about 6.30pm) and as we were gathering up all the equipment in the remaining daylight, my instructor got a phone call and it was pretty obvious he had been given some shocking news. It turns out that during the last hour an earthquake had hit mainland Ecuador where many of his family lived. When he told me I was totally stunned and expressed my concerns for his family. He seemed very calm about the whole thing so I pressed for a bit more information. Even though the phone signal in Ecuador was down, he had managed to get in touch with someone who knew that all his family were safe. He also explained that although this was quite a big earthquake, they are very common in that part of the world and earth tremors probably occur about 20 times per year. It was another half an hour before we got back to the dive shop and I was ready to leave. Another staff member at the dive centre expressed concerns that the earthquake could cause a tsunami which could potentially hit the Galapagos Islands. However, he also stated that given the location of the earthquake that it was very unlikely to cause problems here and that everyone would be notified if there was any danger ahead. It occurred to me that Alex had been working on the boat engine all day and with little communication with the outside world, would probably have no idea what was happening. However, he had also asked me to buy some bread and water on my way back to Bob and as no one seemed particularly worried about a tsunami, I decided to go shopping.

I merrily bought some bread and whilst doing so, I had a chat with one of the locals about the tsunami warning. Again his response didn’t seem urgent. He said it may be a problem but that we didn’t know yet and if it turned into something more serious the police and coast guards would let us know. He explained that we would likely hear loudspeaker announcements and that police cars would be patrolling with their lights and sirens on to make people aware. Everything still seemed calm so I strolled on to another shop to buy some water. Little did I know that at the same time Alex was just hearing the news for himself, from a yacht who hastily pulled up anchor and screamed at people as he was leaving about the tsunami warning and to turn to channel 16 on the radio for more information.

After my shopping I walked down the pier to the water taxi and started to feel slightly more uneasy about things. I could hear a loud speaker in the distance (although I couldn’t understand what it was saying) and I could see the lights of a police car in the distance. In very bad Spanish I asked the water taxi driver for an update. He was clearly uneasy and appeared concerned, I think he said that the tsunami was now a problem and would hit the Galapagos shortly. He took me back to Bob where Alex was shouting “WE NEED TO GO! WE NEED TO GO! A TSUNAMI IS ABOUT TO HIT US IN 15 MINUTES!”. He was in the process of doing the fastest engine rebuild in the history of the world! Having spent all day taking the damn thing apart to fix a leak, he put it together again in just 10 short minutes. We pegged it out of the harbour and headed for deeper waters as fast as we dare push the engine.

We had very few updates from the port captain about what to expect and in the end we experienced nothing more than a few large swells. Perhaps my original blasé attitude towards this tsunami warning would have saved us from unnecessary panic and a rapid journey to sea – still, better safe than sorry. We’ve not been to shore yet but as far as I can tell from the boat, everything appears normal and no damage seems to have been done. We’ll head to shore soon and see what information we can find out, hopefully everything will be as it should.

 

 

 

Panic!

It’s 0010 hours on April 17th and we’ve just re-anchored in Wreck Bay, San Cristobal. It’s been a fun evening! There I was minding my own business, tidying up Bob’s cabin (I know – shock/horror!) when I heard someone honking their horn in a rather urgent manner. The owner of the horn was a Frenchman who was also shouting at anyone who would listen. ‘What an inconsiderate &*%$’, I thought, until I made the effort to listen to what he was actually saying. “Tsunami alert! Listen to channel 16!”

VFH channel 16 is the international radio channel for calling, distress and emergencies. I flicked on the radio and my ears were immediately accosted by reams of urgent-sounding Spanish, intermittently interrupted by some other cruiser saying in very poor Spanish, “is posseeblay to repeatay in English por favor?” I’d heard enough myself to convince me to abandon the plan of having a nice relaxing evening watching a film and instead vamos rapido to deep water. It transpired that there had been a 7.7 magnitude earthquake in mainland Ecuador and that it had created a series of tsunamis which were rapidly approaching us here in the Galapagos Islands. Further details were not forthcoming, except what I could glean from one very eloquent young lady on the radio: “this thing is due to hit us in 15 minutes. We are leaving port at speed!” I planned to do the same, but there were two niggling problems preventing me from doing so. Firstly, Sarah was not on board. She’s taking her open water diving course at the moment and was still on land. There was no way I was leaving without her. Second, there wasn’t a gnat’s fart of breeze out there and the heat exchanger for the engine was sitting neatly in the galley sink. I’d spend the whole day removing it so that I could get access to an oil hose which is leaking badly. It went back on in less than 10 minutes. Just as I was finishing that, Sarah fortuitously arrived on a water taxi and we were ready to make our escape. 120 feet of anchor chain came up in 3 or 4 minutes (by hand; the windlass would have been too slow) and we pegged it for open sea. The depth about 3 miles from land is 50 meters. The depth 4.5 miles out is 100 meters, and the depth at 5 miles is 250 meters. This is the bit I wanted to aim for.

The journey out there took us an hour but it felt like 15 minutes. During that time Sarah took down the sun shade over the cockpit, the wind scoop over the forward hatch and made dinner. Meanwhile I kept an eye on the other escapees and battoned down the hatches in case this thing ended up being really big. We hove-to in about 200 meters of water, had some spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and waited it out along with a load of other boats. Meanwhile the Ecuadorian Coast Guard patrol boat did rounds with a spotlight trying to keep tabs on everyone. Information from the authorities was not regularly forthcoming but we did get intermittent reports over the radio. “The wave will arrive in 15 minutes. It is not a long way. It is a short way.” and such.

We experienced a few rocky moments on par with rogue swells but nothing more (they may just have been rogue swells), and the all-clear was given at 2235. A procession of boats made their way back to the harbour, herded by the Coast Guard boat who came in last. Very fortunately for us a light breeze picked up and we were able to set the genoa and make 5 knots on the way back in without having to push the engine too much. I’d managed to fit an aluminium baking tray underneath the engine during the day and by now there was a fair amount of oil sitting in it. I had also hose-clamped the engine coolant hoses onto the heat exchanger in a very, very sketchy manner and another onto the stern gland cooling water hose that was only half-on but doing the job, so any respite from having to run it any harder than necessary was a welcome treat. The anchor went down in Wreck Bay at 2345. That boxed wine from Panama tastes very good indeed 🙂

I love Galapagos

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.

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Blue footed boobie hunting for fish in the nearby waters

Blue footed boobie hunting for fish in the nearby waters

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.

My mum arriving in Santa Cruz airport

My mum arriving in Santa Cruz airport

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.

Tortuga Bay

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.

Sally light foot crab - this species gets it's name from dextrously jumping between the rocks

Sally light foot crab – this species gets it’s name from dextrously jumping between the rocks

Marine iguana - swims and forages in the sea and roams the rocks on land. It sneezes frequently to expel salt from their bodies

Marine iguana – swims and forages in the sea and roams the rocks on land. It sneezes frequently to expel salt from their bodies

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.

El Chato

El Chato

Me and my mum at Los Gemelos

Me and my mum at Los Gemelos

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Alex was overwhelmed and overcome with excitement at seeing his 200th giant tortoise of the day

Alex was overwhelmed and overcome with excitement at seeing his 200th giant tortoise of the day

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! 🙂