En route to Santa Isabel Island, Galapagos. Falling winds and unco-operative currents see us enjoying a leisurely sail to our next port of call, the less populated Isla Isabela [2500 people live there].Some of our friends on Santa Cruz, who we hosted last night for a kava session complete with lively Fijian music, gave us a brief history of Isabela. They informed us that the current inhabitants there were descendants of the first settlers [who were actually prisoners from the Ecuadorean mainland]. As a penal colony the island people developed their own unique approach to life and became fiercely independent. We were told to expect a more stoic reception if any at all and a people that we might not find to be as friendly as those at Puerta Ayora. Let's wait and make our own judgment on that as we know Pacific island people can melt even the most hardened heart!
Crew update: There was a wide variety of things to do, people to meet and opportunities to learn more about the culture and natural history of Santa Cruz during the five days the Pacific Voyagers were anchored in Bahia Academia. With water taxis that only charged .60/ride we had no trouble in making the 5 minute ride to shore. Puerto Ayora was not a city, but a very interesting large town with friendly people that never hassled us about buying souvenirs. This was a far cry from Cabo San Lucas where there was a constant harrangue from vendors. Prices on goods and souvenirs were reasonable often reflecting the art and culture of mainland Ecuador. Restaurants served very tastey local foods different from that found in Mexico. Fresh fruit and vegetables featured prominently on menus.
The crew of the Uto ni Yalo were divided in their on-shore preferences. Some took advantage of the opportunities to absorb themselves in the natural history of the island. They visited the Darwin Research Station, beaches, highlands and even the fish market where tame sea lions, gulls and pelicans competed for fish scraps left over after fishermen had filleted their catches. Marine iguanas, land iguanas, tortoises and a variety of birds comprised the majority of the fauna seen. The Blue footed Booby, as much as any other animal, seems to have captured the interest and imagination of people who visit. An animal with oversized very blue webbed feet looks like it should be starring in a Disney cartoon or has it already?
Others enjoyed more physical activities like surfing, swimming, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, hiking, bike riding or simply walking. The more competitive ones played touch rugby and the island's brand of volleyball played with a soccer ball and teams of three.
Perhps the single most enjoyable activity for the crew was meeting people, both locals and tourists. Our crew have a real knack for finding interesting people many of whom are invited back to the drua for a tour. In the five days we were anchored we must have entertained well over 100 people of all ages representing many nations. We were pleasantly surprised to discover how interested everyone was in the druas and how they operated. Even the Galapagos Rangers and Natural History Guides were visitors.
We suspect people become fascinated with the design of the "canoe", called here "catamaran". Once on board there are commonly asked questions that our crew never fail to answer with patience. " Where do you sleep?" "Where is the toilet?" "Where do you come from?" "Where is Fiji?" "Where is your food prepared?" This is a very importnt aspect of our commitment - that of sharing our dreams of a healthy Pacific Ocean traversed by sailing vessels that do not rely upon fossil fuels.
On a scale from 1-10 for meeting people with 10 being the best Mausio, Seru, Jim and Salome would rate a solid 9.5! Moala, Iva, Jone, Skipper and Ben are not far behind! With that in mind we think the Uto ni Yalo will make an excellent nautical ambassador for Fiji being able to carry goodwill and best wishes from the people of Fiji wherever she sails. What better way to spread the gospel of traditional sailing to all our islands and then expand our horizons to include other nations on the Pacific rim?
We arrived at Santa Isabela early this morning and used the pod to assist us in maneuvering through a circuitous passage with at least one right angle to it. The passage was punctuated by large swells and waves that surfers would consider a challenge to ride. The town of Villamil is small compared to Puerto Ayora. Water taxis charge $1/ride and each Pacific Voyager was required to pay a $5 landing fee. The wildlife is close at hand with Galapagos penguins just a small islet away and marine iguanas all over! We are anchored close to an islet that harbours pelicans, terns, boobies and frigates.
Some of us are scheduled to make a trek up Sierra Negra a 5000 foot volcano that also contains fumeroles and other volcanic features. Sierra means mountain and negra means black referring to the hardened black lava that is found everywhere on this mountainous island. The town is small with a few restaurants, post office, shops and government buildings.
We have not found any appreciable difference between the people here and on Santa Cruz. Just goes to show you that it's like how we treat people from the start that makes an impression on them and they in turn respond with the same hospitality and goodnaturedness. [Is that really a word?].....
It's almost hard to believe that we are in the Galapagos. We not only appreciate the uniqueness of nature's gem, but we are grateful for this opportunity to experience things that many in Fiji may never be able to. We have our families and friends deeply entrenched in our thoughts and prayers and remember Viti kei Rotuma............
tabu soro.................more about our seismic experiences tomorrow.