Hello Galapagos


The cutest little seal

The cutest little seal

We arrive at Santa Cruz in the Galapagos eight days after leaving Panama.

Aside from some repairs that Axel had to carry out on the water pump, engine, and water maker, the trip was a uneventful (read: peaceful, calm, happy).

We had many beautiful sunsets, a view of the milky way at night, and wonderfully smooth sailing. It was such a magical trip, that I actually feel a little sad when we come into sight of land…

So I needn’t have worried. Thanks to all of you who gave me encouraging words after my last blog post. Perhaps I sounded a bit frantic? Hehe.

Don’t worry. I’m learning to be more accepting of the situations we get ourselves into on the boat. Although, old habits of thought die hard…I’m always in danger of a relapse!

Five. No! Yes, Five.

As we arrive, Andre from the boat Ecapoe, who has been in the Galapagos with his wife Birgit and three kids for the last 3 months, drives up in his dinghy to say hello. The last time we saw him was in July in Santa Marta, and it is wonderful to see his smiling face.

Soon, the customs guys comes on board – very friendly, with bad english to compliment our bad spanish. In the course of his routine questionning, he asks:

“How many GPS devices do you have?”
“Five.” says Axel.
The customs official shakes his head.
“No,” he says, “How many GPS?”
“Five,” says Axel.
“No,” says the customs official.
“Yes,” says Axel
“Yes,” says Axel
“Yes, five”

The guy nods then, obviously very impressed by Axels copious GPS devices, and Axel wisely decides to keep his mouth shut when it occurs to him that we actually have nine GPS devices – that is, if you count our iPads and phones which we use for navigation as well.

“And how many VHF radios,” the customs official continues his questioning.
“Ah…four,” says Axel, a little sheepishly.
“Yes, four.”


Later, we are at the immigration office. They ask us to fill out forms with our name, address, passport information, and profession. For profession, I fill in “Software designer,” which is not exactly my job, but is the title I’ve taken to using since it is less confusing to most people than “User experience analyst,” which is what I actually do (um…did).

The immigration official takes our forms, and after a few minutes of tapping away at his computer, looks up at me and asks in Spanish “What is your profession?”
“Software designer,” I say.
He looks confused, and repeats “What is your profession?”
“Software designer,” I say, slowly enunciating the words.
He still looks confused, so I point to my form where I’d written it down.
He looks at it and shakes his head, not understanding.
“Con computadora” I say, and mime typing with my hands
“Ahhh! Secretaria!” he says
“No,” I say, shaking my head, “Soft-ware des-sign-er, ah…” I search my feeble Spanish for words to help describe what a software designer does, but end up feebly repeating “con computadora.”
“Ah!!” he says then, and nods knowingly “Asistenta!”
At which point Axel and I look at each other a little helplessly, before eventually responding with a shrug, “Si.”

Oh, nature. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…

I didn’t realize before, just now animal-free my normal environment is. I mean, we’ll get a few sparrows, some pigeons, maybe a rat or two if we’re lucky. And of course, there are cats, dogs, and other pets walking around on leashes or kept in the house.

Here in the Galapagos, we travel to town with the water Taxi, and have to step sideways around sea lions sunning themselves on the dock. In the morning, near the Charles Darwin Research station, we have to be careful not to step on any Iguanas, whose still forms fade into the concrete. Bright red crabs scuttle about on the rocks, and if you look, you will see a beautiful array of birds, including Herons, Pelicans, Warblers, Finches, and the wonderfully named Boobies.

I hear that on Bartoleme Island you can go snorkling with Penguins, and up in the highlands, you can commune with the giant tortoises.

If you are on facebook you should have seen Axel’s videos of our dives. If not, here are the videos Axel made:

I feel spoilt for having the chance to dive in the Galapagos. Perhaps I’ll never want to dive anywhere else again…there are turtles and turtles and turtles! And seals, and sharks, and a hundred thousand fish…a far cry from Santa Marta, where dynamite fishing has robbed the waters of the last remnants of coral reef.

Talk to one of the many biologists you will find dotted across the landscape here, however, and you get a sense of the constant battle between the conservationists and those out to make money off the wildlife. You hear stories of illegal over-fishing of sea cucumbers, sharks and other native fish, even in protected areas, and of certain individuals who’ve made a lot of money helping foreign fisher boats evade authorities…

Meanwhile, on the boat…

Some time during the trip here from Panama, I finally managed to settle into the boat life.

That isn’t to say that I am a “cruiser.” Not quite. I still think wistfully of the time we will arrive in New Zealand (Imagine! We will have a biig kitchen with SPACE, and a nice non-malfunctioning fridge, whose crisper I will keep stocked full of fresh berries and perishable leafy greens, and we might even have a dishwasher, and, oh oh oh, and every day I’ll take a steaming HOT SHOWER…)

But still, I am finally adjusted to life on Gudrun. I no longer swear profusely every time I have to get something out of the back lockers, I’ve stopped worrying obsessively that our anchor will drag in the night, and perhaps the most importantly, I’ve learnt to be more centered and self-contained, so that I don’t become consumed by loneliness each time we say goodbye to friends or move from one place to another, or so easily pushed into a strange depression when something unexpected happens, which is almost every week…

This week, our unexpected event involved the fridge, which simply stopped working.

Yes, the fridge stopped working. Which means that we have eaten the last of the Parmesan, and that I had to throw out the delicious chorizio we’ve been using to accent to our meals, and that there is a very real possibility that we’ll have to leave for our 3-4 week crossing to the Marquesas without a working fridge on the boat.

A year ago, I would be freaking out…”No yoghurt?” I’d think to myself, on the verge of throwing myself on the floor and writhing about in agony, “No cold drinks? No bacon? No CHEEESE!?” My lower lip would be trembling. “I can’t…it’s not possible…I need cheese or, or, I’ll DIE!!”

But, that was then, and this is now. I now realize in my infinite wisdom (could it be I am growing up a little?), that I probably won’t die if I can’t eat cheese for a month. In fact, I might do just fine.

And next?

Our time in the Galapagos is winding down. Ecapoe left for the Marquesas yesterday, and we miss them dearly. Over the next few days I’ll start thinking about provisioning – stocking up on fruit, veges, eggs, and beer, which is all that we are missing right now if you don’t count the cheese.

We plan on leaving next Tuesday for the Marquesas. We *have* to leave actually, since the authorities here have strict limits on how long boats are allowed to stay. Once we arrive on the other side, we will spend some weeks exploring the islands, as well as the Tuamotu Archipelago, and then make our way to Papeete in Tahiti. As usual, Axel will update his blog every day at 12pm our time. Here is the link: http://www.gudrunv.com/

Wish us luck!


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