Friday, March 23, 2012

Tortoises, Sea Turtles and Sharks

It's been a busy few days as we try to get in as much as we can before our twenty day stay in the Galapagos is over. Plus, we've had to get boat projects done before the next long passage so we've been juggling exploring and working.

On the working side, we managed to get propane and diesel – both turned into the typical "island challenge." The diesel got delivered in jugs to the boat late at night and the hunt for propane was equally complicated until a cab driver named Pedro (and his family) came to the rescue. Astarte was the propane filling station for us and a few other boats one afternoon. And we cleaned the bottom of the boat.

In between all those boat projects, we did get in some more exploring of the Galapagos. We took a cab to "muro de las lagrimas" or "wall of tears." This is just outside of town and is a wall of lava rock that is 100 meters (300 feet) long by 7 meters (21 feet) high. The wall was built between 1946 and 1959 when there was a penal colony on the island. The prisoners were forced to build their own enclosure. Many died in the process. The views were incredible. We then hiked back (about 7 miles) and got to see the famous "Galapagos" tortoises in the wild. The two we saw were not as large as those we saw at the breeding center – but it was fun to spot them in the wild. We also stopped to see the "tunel del Estero" (tunnel of Esero) which is a volcanic tunnel that is right on the water. The outer lava cooled as it hit the sea and the interior hot lava continued creating the core of the tunnel.

Today, we went to an area called Los Tuneles. We went with Captain "Gato" (which means cat in Spanish). He came highly recommended by our friends on "Stolen Kiss." The "tuneles" is an area about 45 minutes by fast boat from where we are anchored. On the way we saw giant manta rays leaping, a huge shark, lots and lots of sea turtles, some sea lions and various birds including the masked boobie and blue footed boobie.

Once we got to our destination it was exciting – like an e-ticket ride. Gato had to get his boat over a huge surf break to get to the area inside. The seas were quite big today – so it was more than exciting. He made sure we all were in life jackets and he waited...and waited...and waited. He counted waves and watched (like a cat). Then he went for it and it was masterful boat handling and quite scary. Once inside the surf, he wove his way through very narrow, shallow spaces between lava rocks. It was beautiful to see the formations of lava – lots of natural bridges, arches and
swim-throughs. The water was very clear. Then we tied up to the lava and got out for a walk around a lagoon area where there were lots of huge sea turtles gracefully swimming by. It was like being at an aquarium. Only these creatures weren't captive – they were free to come and go as they please. Then we got in the water in another area for a snorkel through caves, tunnels, overhangs and interesting rock formations. The water was chilly and not all that clear, but the caves with the light coming through were as beautiful.

After that snorkel, we headed out – and now Gato had to get out of the surf that he had worked so hard to get through. Same routine, life jackets and watching, watching and then going for it. Then we went to another snorkel area so we had to do the e-ticket ride one more time. In this area, we got in the water again for a snorkel and saw white tipped sharks and giant sea turtles – both within arms reach. The water was a bit murky and a few of our fellow snorkelers (there were six of us) weren't very graceful in the water so they tended to kick up some of the silt and algae on the bottom making it tough to see – especially the sharks. The turtles though, would swim right under you and a few were longer than us and very large around. It was a great trip.

So it's been a few boat projects and some Galapagos adventures – with only a few days left in this island paradise. The time flew.

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