Santa Cruz – Isla Floreana – Galapagos – Ecuador
23 February – 4 March 2020
The day of transfer from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz has a particular rain, which although warm comes down from a gray sky, more Po Valley than Galapaguegno, and softens the colors. The arrival in Santa Cruz, however, reveals some islands of blue, good luck given that, in the absence of a port or marina or any pier to support Ariel, we will have to live at anchor until the restart scheduled for March 4. Living in the harbor has enormous advantages for silence, peace and the mitigated heat of the constant wind, but it has disadvantages related to the descent to land, obliged with the water taxi service, with the not always favorable wave motion, which often enters the bay triggering a uncomfortable and persistent rolling and the fact that for energy and production of fresh water we behave as in navigation.Fortunately, the waters of the bay are crystal clear and turquoise, full of plankton and a myriad of fish. Sea lions are less frequent because Santa Cruz is the capital, and tourism, everything, starts from here, therefore more humans and less lions, vice versa underwater manta rays, iguanas and sea turtles that parade alongside Ariel, accustomed to traffic persistence of water taxis and local boats.
Marco and Marianna stay with us until the 26th, then Maurizio and Beppe will arriveSunday 1st March. The stop is long and allows us to calmly plan the visit to the island and any excursions to other less inhabited archipelago. In the end, having the time to slow down is nice; the real slow holyday. The rhythm of San Cristobal, and the balance that had bewitched us here has been lost due to the invasion, although controlled, but it is always an invasion, of a constantly increasing tourism, which has generated and continues to generate the flourishing of agencies that offer all kinds of tours on land or at sea, and the usual spread of small souvenir shops. What a mind imagines when naming Galapagos is much more similar to what we breathed in San Cristobal than in the capital, but it is enough to go inland or towards the unexplored coast to find the strong embrace of nature.A route recommended by the inevitable Lonely Planet involves renting a bicycle, loading it on the Toyota taxi pick up, and being taken north, on the only mountain on the island, in one of the only two roads, to reach Los Gemelos, two craters non-volcanic now carpeted with millenary vegetation, luxuriant and intricate with native varieties to assimilate a natural botanical garden. Before reaching the summit, we stop at “El Chato”, a private ranch owned by a Belgian who moved to the Galapagos 45 years ago, now a naturist, now a painter, and now a sculptor, but above all a lover of land turtles, so much so that he absolute freedom more than a hundred. It is suggestive to walk around the estate, meeting them free and not “managed” by the park.And now on our bike we go down to the valley for a 30 km ride in the middle of nowhere, while we savor the vagaries of the local climate; from almost inside the clouds, in the rain, and in the sun of the equator, burning, when you get to the sea. The island can be explored in this way, a little by bike, a lot on foot and even by taxi, to be taken to the Galapaguera, a wild beach where iguanas, crabs, herons, pelicans and other birds divide corners and infinity.pelicans and other birds divide angles and infinity.pelicans and other birds divide angles and infinity.
In Puerto Ayora, capital of Santa Cruz, there is the famous laboratory dedicated to Charles Darwin, and headquarters of the Galapagos park, the repopulation area of the giant land tortoise, hence the name “Galàpagos”, meaning saddle in Spanish , which resembles a part of the carapace; for nesting sea turtles and suspicious iguanas, but also a botanical garden that collects all the plant species of the islands in one path.
We discover along the way from the words of Peter, an indigenous restaurateur, that is, born in Santa Cruz, but with Swiss blood, that everything that is park is well regulated and works, while everything that is extra park, or entrusted to Ecuadorian politics, is actually entrusted to chance and the corruption of the moment. In fact, the downside is that on the other side of the earthly paradise, these islands seem to be the hub for much of the cocaine in South America. I find it hard to believe it, even for a purely logistical question, and I want to forget it, so that the syncopated step of the iguana and the sweet gaze of the sea lions remain in my heart. The work of the men of the Galapagos park is great; from a devastating starting point, namely the risk of extinction of some species of turtles;The story of the Solitaire George is famous – for the curious, a tour on the web will help you better understand that, the only long-necked specimen of the Floreana island remained, which they tried to mate with other females of different species, but at least to guarantee the genetic continuation, everything was useless because hybrid species (there are 11 different throughout the archipelago) do not always create the fertilization of the egg. So it is that Lonely George died in 2012 at 150 years of age, and is now embalmed in a temperature-controlled display case, in the image of a perennial icon. Recommended by Peter and fascinated by a thriller story of the 30s that saw the disappearance of some people who came from Europe to experience absolute freedom on the Floreana island, without ever finding a responsible person,but that to this day, as soon as the subject is addressed with the guides or with the locals, in a sort of veiled embarrassment, everyone aims to change the subject, as if the unsolved mystery, just talking about it, could awaken strange magical powers. (also in this case the curious can find refreshment on the web, where you can also access some clips of original videos, the story of the Baroness and the German Wittmeier). The fact is that to this day Floreana island is the only one where they live as 50 years ago, only 130 permanent people and periodically they rise to 160 plus 30 students of various biological disciplines who alternate for periods of research. The local boats that transport tourists are spartan fiberglass shells driven by powerful engines, where up to 25 people go up, in 2/3 hour journeys that become pure suffering and not pleasure.However, we appreciate the pleasant walk inside Floreana, and the food of an elderly gentleman, owner of one of the three taverns / houses, where we stop for lunch. Distant, unlikely, silent and unique places.
March 2 arrives quickly, and in the afternoon the dances of the World Arc begin, with Briefing skipper for the next leg towards the Marquesas, aperitif and award ceremony of leg 3 (from Las Perlas to Galàpagos) where for the third time, “again, again and again ”as Andrew says, Ariel is first! And dinner all together at the Il Giardino restaurant, obviously run by an Italian. The award ceremony does not include plaques or bottles of rum, too expensive in these places, but a poem, written by the poet of the World Arc, the skipper d Domini, who pleasantly remembers FAST (fast) with our PAST (Italian pasta). The 3rd day dedicated to the latest preparations and above all to customs procedures, made simple by the organization and on 4th March, Wednesday, at 12, local time, we set sail for the longest route,the crossing of part of the Pacific Ocean, the longest on the planet without encountering land, of 3,000 miles (almost 6,000 km), up to the Marquesas Islands.
A nice sailing start, with little wind, but enough to make Ariel run first with white sails and then with zero tails until the wind collapses, and now, towards the sunset a little darkened by heavy gray clouds, we proceed pushed by our faithful Oliver, after the loving care with the help of Jaume for the disposal of the used oil that we prefer to replace given the long route that awaits us.
See you soon from the Ariel team