Thursday, October 11, 2012

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Las Brachas), Santa Cruz

After lunch, the crew sailed off to Las Brachas Beach while we changed into our bathing suits, tried on wet suits and tested snorkel equipment (for those who intended to go snorkeling).
We anchored off shore and the dinghy took us – again 8 at a time – to shore for a wet landing –meaning that you have to step into some or a lot of water to get to shore. If you come off on the correct side of the dinghy, you’ll have water up to your knee. If you come off on the wrong side or if there is a big wave, you’ll either get wet to your neck or completely drenched. We all managed to come out knee deep. We walked over to a lagoon to see some flamingos but Omar said that with the unpredictability of the weather for the last decade, it’s hard to keep the right balance of food for them (they eat shrimps).
If you ever wondered why flamingos are pink, it’s because of the colour of shrimps and algae that they eat. We couldn’t go into the bushes because it’s the turtle nesting area and we can’t or shouldn’t disturb them. We saw some crabs with the most glorious shades of red and orange.

We also saw some land iguanas but they were so black (camouflaged to blend in with the black lava rocks) that you had to look really hard to see them. We snorkeled for a bit – in shallow water where you could stand if you get tired – but there wasn’t much to see except some tiny fish. I didn’t go out too far because although I can swim, I am not that confident in deep water so I told Omar that tomorrow when we are in deep water and we’ll be snorkeling off the side of the dinghy, I’ll wear a life jacket just to be sure that I will enjoy the experience. Robin is not a swimmer so he will not be going into the water - either close to shore - and definitely not off the side of a dinghy in deep water.
We got back to the yacht and had a quick shower than another snack of some fritters made of plantains, corn or potatoes. The plantain ones reminded me of small fried pieces of foo foo. After walking and swimming, I was hungry but decided that two were good otherwise I would spoil my dinner. We had a briefing with Omar –life vests, emergency evacuation procedures, do’s and don’ts on the islands. Omar asked me to go to my cabin and bring an emergency life vest (the cabin is right next to the dining room) and just as I stepped out into the dark (this was about 6:45pm), there was a huge pelican sitting on the railing just outside of the cabin door. The passageway is quite narrow and it was totally unexpected and quite startled me. I was sure glad that we were not moving or I might have heard “Woman Overboard” and the cruise had barely started. 

We had a cocktail and the crew was introduced to us. The captain’s name is Antonio; Lupo is the cook; Lenin is the bartender/server and all around person to assist you; the other crew members are Jorge and Alfredo.

For dinner, we were served steamed broccoli, risotto, baked chicken, a veggie salad and some steamed carrots and for dessert we had baked apples with cinnamon and chocolate sauce. It was all too good. And the best part? We were doing all this while enjoying a beautiful Galapagos sunset. We had another briefing of what we’ll be doing tomorrow and then the captain turned on the lights at the back of the yacht where we saw a few huge pelicans and some sharks – all looking for food at the bottom of the yacht. Apparently, the sharks do not attack - or have never attacked anyone in these waters but I don’t know what I would do if I was snorkeling and was suddenly staring down a shark. I’ll let you know if that happens.
All in all, what started out to be a frustratingly slow day of waiting and waiting some more, turned out to be a wonderful end. Most of the people are Australians (some from Tasmania which is one place I'd like to go to), us 2 Canadians, 2 Americans – Wayne from Colorado Springs and Sue from Boston and they are quite nice and friendly. There is one other former Canadian – Jordon and Emma from Britain.
In the train up to Machu Picchu, there was an American couple sitting behind us and the wife was giving a moment-to-moment commentary of just about everything – such as: Oh, there is a tree; There are some terraces; oh I think we are going backwards; oh I think that’s a bird of paradise flower (it was not) and so it went. It’s not that the husband wasn’t seeing the same thing but she was announcing this for almost the whole 3.5 hours. We finally got off the train and wouldn’t you know it, they were staying in the same hotel as us. Today it was the same with another American couple in the plane. She felt it was her duty to announce every cloud in the sky and she read aloud the Ecuador tour book that she was travelling with. Then her friend in front of her asked her how to fill out a Galapagos Entry form and she gave her friend incorrect information. She then had to go back and change her own form, announcing loudly that it was stupid how the forms had Spanish first and then English and not the other way around.
This group of people seems quite nice and I think we’ll get along splendidly for 5 or 10 days depending on who is doing 5 or 10. It’s now 9:12pm (time change of one hour behind) but my body says it’s 10:00pm and with a slight fever today, I am feeling the tiredness. Robin also has a bit of a cold so he is already in bed. We have a 6:30am start for breakfast and then a dry landing tomorrow at 7 where we are expected have another full day.

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