The Pacific Diaries

Now That’s What I Call an Election

26 April 2005

Just after noon 26th April we cross the equator for the first time.

Celebration mandatory. La Novia is already over run with small pirates in anticipation. These are proper Pirates, dressed for the part and very fierce too. A mermaid with strange blue hair and a winsome smile has appeared on the boat and I have succumbed to serious pressure to dress up too.

No greater love for his children hath a man than to lay down his dignity…

Several tots of Cuban rum were offered up to Neptune to guide us safely across the Pacific.

And so to the Galapagos, with our arrival dominated by concerns about the political fallout from the coup in Ecuador that we have heard of by email. Details are sketchy at first and it sounds like the kind of ‘Snap Election’ in Latin America where only 3 Generals get to vote.

We want to approach the islands in daylight for the fun of the view as much as anything so we are trying to time our arrival at Academy Bay to about 9.00 to 10am. We reckon that gives us something like 3 hours to lose on this rate of progress. Tempting looking fishing spot on a seamount only 5 miles off track, so we plan to drop sail and troll around it for a while in the hope of something for the freezer, always assuming that no unfriendly locals are already there. So far, only Marlin since Panama and the freezer is running low. Ridiculous. Small lures, wire traces and even Rapalas change nothing. We catch 3 Marlin in less than 3 hours and the freezer is still empty.

More news about the coup. Panic over. It turns out to be a popular uprising in response to the President issuing a Free Pardon to the previous President who had been impeached for having looted the country.

The people of Ecuador somehow got the idea that the two of them were splitting the cash, took to the streets and chased them both off to Brazil. The Vice President has promised everyone that it wouldn’t occur to him to profit from his office once he has taken over the gravy train.  Of course it wouldn’t. Shame on you for even thinking of  such a thing. Welcome to Latin America!

Out in the Galapagos, no one can even remember the Vice President’s name.

Far from the Galapagos’ Madding Crowd

30 April 2005

Last time we wrote we were setting off from Panama in search of Darwin’s footprints in the Galapagos, with the daunting distances of the Pacific stretching out before us.

As for Darwin’s footprints, they take a little more finding today than they did 30 years ago.  Part of the Galapagos is submerged in tourism. The main island, Santa Cruz, where trips are organized, has become terribly commercialised. Arrival was the highlight of Santa Cruz, sailing through the approaches to Academy bay in the morning light with dolphins frolicking in our bow wave and curious sea lions popping their heads out of the water around us.

We didn’t really find what we had hoped for until we sailed to the largest and remotest of the islands, Isabella. The day trip boats don’t go there because it’s a long rough trip and the wildlife can all be found closer to home.

As a result, little has changed.  You can still recognise the Galapagos in the literature of yesteryear. Eco - yottie heaven. No officials, ( none sober enough to bother you
anyway), a wonderful beach bar where Jasp & Dreambird hosted a memorable children’s birthday party and totally unafraid wildlife that has never been harmed by Man all around you.

There were sea lions and penguins swimming around the boat. I got a bit of a shock while diving under the boat to cut away some cord from a long line which had become tangled in the prop when a large dark shape rocketed in from behind me and brushed past me at warp speed. After a minor shark/ heart attack moment, I realised it was a playful sea lion. We swam with a giant turtle and saw lots of timid white tip sharks. The climate is surprisingly cool for an island dead on the Equator. The Humbolt Current sweeps through the islands bringing a huge volume of cold water from the Antartic, allowing penguins and palm trees to live side by side.

We found some ponies to ride up the side of the second largest volcano crater in the world. The highlands of the Galapagos islands are amazingly green and lush and reminded us of England. Catherine admits that the ponies were the most uncomfortable things she has ever had the pleasure to ride, but the boys loved them and I endured the first half of the trip stoically, before selflessly deciding to run back so that Thomas could ride a pony of his own on the return trip. We took in the tortoises, buttered up the Boobies and ignored the Iguanas. I can’t help agreeing with Catherine that an Iguana with a diamond necklace would be a stylish pet, at least on the rare occasions when it wasn’t shedding part of its skin. They are a bit like Labradors - always molting.

I’m hoping that she may agree to fake diamonds if I give her time.