Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Muchas Islas

So I haven't written a new blog in a while, I'll try to do an accurate job of updating what I've been doing. Halloween weekend some friends and I went on a sea kayaking and camping trip. Twelve of us rented a boat and left in the early afternoon. We rode to a beach where we paired up and kayaked along the coast to another beach. A couple little sea lions swam around us and followed for awhile. Gradually, Ingvild and I noticed that our kayak was filling up with water, and that we were tipping a little more than we liked as some larger waves hit us. We raised our paddles, the sign for the boat to come pick us up. Feeling good about sitting so still, we suddenly tipped completely and were briefly dunked. Once more at the surface, we caught each other's eyes and burst out laughing. Then a group of pelicans that had been floating in the water near us began flying our way, I was sure they were going to land on our heads, but they passed us by. Phew. We climbed into the boat and picked up the rest of the gang and watched the sunset on the water as we navigated to a different beach, Porta Grande, where we would camp. I ended up opting to sleep in the open air on the floor of the boat, there was almost a full moon and it was Halloween night. So beautiful! We also had been watching baby hammerhead sharks fishing in the waters around where we had anchored, so I wasn't too stoked about making a wet landing to get to the beach (wading in knee-deep water to shore from the boat). 
The next morning we began kayaking more after breakfast and arrived at Cerro Brujo (Witch Hill). This rock formation was a little spooky (appropriate) and had many caves, which we snorkeled through. This is the picture of The Cathedral on Facebook, if you've noticed. Next we rode to Leon Dormido and snorkeled through the channel; here we saw MANY (more than twenty?) Galapagos and white-tipped reef sharks, which were probably about ten feet below us. I also saw a few spotted eagle rays, very large and also close. Finally we snorkeled again at Isla Lobos (Sea Lion Island), where of course, we saw sea lions, marine iguanas, rays and lots of fish. 
The next day we left for our two week trip. First we rode to Isabela, where we stayed in nice hotels for three days. Here we took lots of little tours. The Wall of Tears was one interesting stop: a huge stone wall built during WWII by prisoners on the island. The idea was for them to build a huge room where they would be placed and closed off and left to die. Hence, the name. We saw lots of estuaries, red and white mangroves, another galapaguera (tortise hatchery), and the most beautiful beaches in all of the places I've seen in the Galapagos! The sand was the most fine, it seemed to stretch clear into the sun, and were so peaceful and empty. Another day we hiked five hours to Volcan Chico and saw the huge crater, I think it's the second largest in the world. Anyway, no Pompeii action and we all made it back safely. 
Once we left, we travelled to Santa Cruz, where we boarded our tour boat for the rest of the islands. My boat was the Eden, a beautiful ship which housed 16 of us for the next four days. We had all incredible meals on the boat, and then our guide would take us hiking and snorkeling each morning and afternoon. Thankfully I didn't get seasick or too sunburnt. We went to Bartolome, Seymour, Genovessa, and then back to Baltra. I saw so many gorgeous sunsets, rock formations, volcanic rock, iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs, red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies, lava gulls, birds of paradise, frigates, penguins, and rays, not to mention more new fish! We sadly said our goodbyes to the crew and arrived in Baltra, where we directly crossed the ferry (they could totally just build a bridge, but that's kinda the point in this culture) to Santa Cruz. Here we stayed in another hotel for one week. This is the most populated island, at about 16,000 inhabitants, and is also the most touristy. We took some tours here and snorkeled more, but immediately noticed how a fleet of four or five tour boats meet up at each site, depleting my feeling of satisfaction, due to the higher populations. (Ha! sorry I had to geek out on some tourism theory, there). We spent one day visiting Floreana, the least populated island, of about 150 people. This island is the most mysterious, as there have been many unsolved murders and cryptic stories. In the highlands we hiked around the 'pirate caves' where buccaneers used to hide out and hide their booty. (I found none) There are also the remnants of hollowed out rocks where a German family had lived after WWII. Very cool, and I tested out a rock ledge bed, deciding if I could live in a dollhouse for a whole summer, I could live in a cave on the side of a mountain, too. I visited two beaches while in Santa Cruz, but they couldn't compare with Isabela. The people are friendly, for the most part, but I find that folks here on San Cristobal are the most genial. Santa Cruz has more Westernized (and more expensive) restaurants, gift shops, and of course, night life. I had a lot of fun, but was very happy to return to my favorite island: San Cristobal. 
Now we're back and things are 'back to normal.' I am starting new service work tomorrow, helping teach English to kids in El Progresso (a small village in the highlands) and to make Christmas decorations out of recyclable materials. I am still helping teach English at the university. Tonight I taught them the words to the Beatles song, Baby You Can Drive My Car. They loved it, even more than the Willie Nelson song I played for them in the last class. 
Some unrelated business, my email account was hacked into, so I've created a new one. If you haven't already, please drop me a line: