April 24, 2006
Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador and beyond
Isla Isabela to the Marquesas
Before we had the anchor secured, Ralph our neighbor in the anchorage in Santa Cruz, was in his dinghy and over to invite us to join a group headed to Cosa Rosa Lava Tunnels early the next morning. The tour was arranged by Henry who owns Club Nautico which is located at the town dock and where the cruisers hang out. It was on our list of "things to do" while here and we thought it would be more fun going with some people that we already knew, so we were in.
Henry picked us all up the next morning at 9:30 rounding the group to 15. The launch pounded through the swells for 45 minutes to the general area of the tunnels and then made a hair raising entry between the reefs and breakwater into the lagoon .It area was a labyrinth of columns and caves and arches made by the sea water cutting through the lava rock to a depth of about twenty feet.
We off loaded the dingy from the launch and Henry took smaller groups to tour the back waters where large sea turtles were as numerous as the horseflies. They were everywhere and were complimented by the famous blue footed boobie birds and sea lions. When not in the dingy, we snorkeled from off the launch. The waters closest to the shore provided the greatest clarity and a greater abundance of marine life.
That night Henry and his wife offered a special barbeque for those of us on the excursion and new arrivals in the anchorage. For $5.00 you had your choice of pollo, carne, or pescado (chicken, beef, or fish) with three side items. We opted for the pescado and had delicious Wahoo steaks, rice, and two vegetable salads. Not only was the food good but it also provided us a chance to get to know the people . We met a young couple from Turkey an S/V Yol. Most of the boats here will be heading for the Marquesas but a few will be returning to Ecuador.
Isla Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos but the population is only 2000 inhabitants. Its four volcanoes, Alcedo, Darwin, Wolf, and Sierra Negra, make it one of the most geologically active islands. Sierra Negra was a "must do" , so we decided to sign up with our neighbors, Scott and Sheryl on S/V Scallywag. Thomas the guide from Hotel Vicente was highly recommended..
The trip starts with a pickup ride (actually sitting in the back of a pickup truck on benches) at 8:00 in the morning. Approximately one hour later we were dropped off at a horse ranch. Now the fun starts. We are introduced to our horses and given a few instructions on how to handle them from our English speaking guide then we mount and are off. The horses know the way and after about 50 minutes of straddling a sweaty horse we are at the rim of the Sierra Negro and in awe. The volcano last erupted five months ago and you can see how the landscape was changed from a green underbrush to the black lava rock in this very high and wide basin. That day we could see steam rising from several hot spots. We dismounted and walked the rim via yet another trail for about 40 minutes. We had lunch under a shade tree on top of the mountain and then began our descent. The volcano was spectacular but of course viewing the volcano was not the highlight of the trip it was the horse back riding that most people go for. Rene was identified as the best rider in our group and from the pictures you can see that the horse flesh and the saddles left a great deal to be desired.
Soon our week was up and we went back into town in search of eggs, bread, and a few fresh veggies before heading for the Marquesas, a mere 2945 nautical miles to the west. This is usually the longest open water journey that any sailboat undertakes. For the first few days out of Isabela we were still close enough to the equator so there was very little wind. We floundered about in 5 knots or less and motored for a couple of four hour stretches when there was absolutely no wind. Sailboats are usually very limited in the amount of diesel that they carry so we also carry extra cans of diesel on board . The further south we traveled the more the trades take over and the wind picks up. A special radio net had been promulgated the week before we left since this was the height of the season and thirty or more boats were underway. Now that sounds like a lot of boats but remember we are stretched out over a distance of 3,000 miles, from New York to Los Angeles. Every morning at 1600 Zulu on channel 6224.0 khz the boats underway check in. This is not a normal net with newsy tidbits but rather a roll call. The net controller calls your name and you respond with your position in lat/long, a wind/wave account, and miles to go. The net starts with the cruisers closest to the Marquesas and works back. This gives the cruisers following in the wake a chance to hear a personal account of what the weather is like ahead.. We appreciate the efforts of the net controllers, you know those guys with the really powerful radios.
Our next entry will tell you what it is like to spend three or four weeks at sea in a small boat.
Extra pictures for your viewing pleasure, and again click on the arrow to start the slide show and the square to stop the slide show.