Peter has always been a great student. Unlike physics, chemistry and mathematics, which subjects he adored, geography was less interesting and even boring. He was not interesting to learn how many sheep there are in Argentina, how many tons of fish annually were exported from Italy or how much rice fields in China are worth. The only thing that attracted him from that area was the map imagining that one day he must visit the world. Dreaming about sailing on its own boat with two wheels and discovering new spaces is the reason for the existence of Meermowe’s Great Adventure, so you sail with us, be prepared to face the risks of traveling and discover the distant Galapagos.
We left Panama in a fantastic mood. While the light wind filled our sails, we resembled like Darwin’s exploratory expedition of the twenty-first century. Meeting with lizards’ iguanas, watching pink flamencos and steping into the world of huge korni turtle, were new adventures that flowed through our veins. In a wide arc, toward the Island of Chapera, we bypassed round about the shallow water that stretched in front of the Bay of Cacique. Passing Punta Lagarta and Mala, we sailed towards the Island Pedro Gonzales and Jan Jose. Our final destination was the island of Cristobal. The days were sunny, warm and humid. We were feeling the proximity to the Equator, from which we were separated only a few days. But, none of this did not prevent us that in the shade of the bimini enjoy divine tranquility, fascinating scenes of sunrise and sunset as well as a new understanding of incredible animal friendship in this endless of sea vastness. Along with the daily commitments we had on board, fishing was our main concern. Old stocks long ago ran out, so we have had great hopes in that discipline, which did not betrayed us. Each day was a new challenge. An unforgettable struggle with a blue tuna and a duel full of jumps with fish of rainbow’ colours called dorado, at witch occasion my nylon cutted one finger of the gloves as I helped Peter get it, are just part of the everyday fishermen’s stories of this part of the journey. I cannot, without mentioning Roger, a small sea dog that was triumphal overture. Our biggest challenge was the swordfish heavy 27 kilograms, we caught the day before arrival in Galapagos. This brilliant story began unexpectedly with sharp rattle sound of nylon, just when we decided to finish with fishing and turned into several hours of strategic duel with nature, full of excitement and suspense. It was a real adrenaline rush in which we, in spite of incredible risks, have put ourselfs and all our fishing knowledge, which we had, how could fish arrive on the table. Undeniably, it was our fishing adventure, but I have to be honest, even if we did not catch anything, this would be days to memory. Anyway, we came to Galapagos like a fisherman. It was enjoyment to watch fish tails as they smiled beneath the lid of the freezer.
Crossing over the Equator line is something that traditionally, in one way or another, is still marked in the maritime world. According to the old tradition to the show program and the ceremony, it full of insanity, on large merchant ships and tankers, great attention was paid to emphasize the importance of this event. For those, who this invisible line that divides the globe in half, cross for the first time meant the transformation of a young sailor into a professional crew, what was not so easy. While some celebrated the grace and helplessness of King Neptune, from the others bounded with chaines, with strong water jets their sins were paid off. Rich tables, it contributed to the celebration, while the crown of all was the “equatorial cocktail”, specially prepared for this occassion and nothing less than into the toilet bowl. There was that place for all the magical spices, which came to the mind, from beer, wine, coca-cola, whiskey and soup, then flour, pepper and salt until hot tabasco and everything that can “beautify” life. Huh, what a nice swallow …disaster, but you never say NO, because there was found someone who said: “Another one, please”. You have to admit, dear friends that after this peppermint story, it was wonderful to return again to reality and our common adventure, so instead of the toilet bowl to drink cold champagne from the champagne glasses, savoring the wonderful oreo cheesy cake that I prepared the day before crossing the Equator. Sins I will not to adjudicate because the happiness and pride that we were feeling that moment, counting geographic minutes and seconds on the plotter together with all of you, were strong enough to drive them out of the way, without chains and hose. While in the soul we celebrated the victory of another section of the way, Meermowe carried us further to the first contours of Cristobal Island.
The Galapagos Islands are described as one of the most spectacular places on the Earth’s globe. The time spent on them is considered to be a life changing experience, so our expectations were directed in that direction. The San Cristobal Island, whose name comes from the saint of St Christopher, also known as Chatman is the fifth largest in the group and the first island to which Darwin was disembark. In Puerto Baquerizo we sailed in just before lunch and anchored at a depth of approximately sixteen meters. For a short while, to our great surprise, we were surrounded by a multitude of playful sea lions. With their sweet snouts, they acted very friendly, while with the screamming and the clapping with the front limbs, they expressed welcome and therefore won us completely. We immediately realized that they adore boats and were not afraid of people. Sociability, importunity and graceful behavior, they were used to lubricate the eyes and achieve the goal. And they really have succeeded. With their intelligence and naive play, they quickly occupied the Meermowe as their territory, first only one, carefree lying down on the stairs, and then the entire family tree. Sounds like a chauffeur’s story about a sexy hitchhiker with her husband and five children hidden in the bushes. We had no idea really, how much we were naive when we thought that with swinging of the curious male this story ends. No, that was just the beginning of our daily headaches. But still, we enjoyed the party with which we were filled the time until the arrival of customs controls.
Solving the paperwork was going relatively fast. We already were familiar with the rigorous regulations, so it was all timely well prepared. Three inspection’ groups with five officers exchanged each other until we did not collected all the necessary paperwork to enter the country and finally got the green light to go ashore. Communication with the mainland takes place by a water taxi, which has operated all day and night in all directions. It took just waving with a hat, to order them via radio channels or yell in order to attract their attention. The rest of the day we decided to spend in the city and stretch our legs. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a little and very cute place. He was named after the first Ecuadorian president who visited Cristobal. Already at the taxi dock, we have noticed that we will not have a problem to find our way in this somewhat sleepy town, whose legend speaks of sailors, long journeys, accidents and deaths as well about the longstanding mystery of the “Galapagos affair”, linked to a series of unresolved disappearances on the Island of Floreana in Galapagos. In the Interpretation center, it still can be seen found and preserved objects used by the first families that settled there, what is shown in the film “Satan came to Eden”. Among them is the world’s most famous mailbox for letters that have been picked up and delivered by crew of the boats, who came to the island. Given that it was the only link with the outside world, perfectly functioned.
Near this small museum surrounded by lush vegetation, we had a chance to see, among other things, the unique Fregata bird, whose male, in a romantic mission inflates its red chest with the aim of winning his partner with his infinite attraction. We enjoyed in this natural creativity and spectacular view of the beach and the roofs
of the town. Puerto Baquerizo has two main streets and both stretch along the coast. Houses of pastel colors are mostly large, while style of construction is subtle and remind to Mexican hacienda. On the way back, we went toward Malecon, the main public meeting place, from where they were coming the sounds of hot salsa. The place abounds of cozy restaurants, bars and shops, while the Ecuadorian seafood “ceviche”, are being prepared for all tastes. Since we had seafood delights in abundance, we decided to only drink something cold.
In the end I have to mention our newly baked friends, lazy sea lions that are the real attraction of the city and without which Puerto Baquerizo would not be what it is. They are related to sacred cows in India and like scattered pearls are lying on the road, sidewalks and public benches with no worries that the police will punish them for the wrong parking. Toward whichever way we go, we were “feeling” them in the air. Another extraordinary afternoon, full of fun stayed behind us, but the biggest one was when we got to the boat and saw the whole tribe, from grandfather to the smallest bud, stretched out on the deck and cockpit. At the sound of the engine, they were reluctantly raised their heads, looking at us questionably. Before we got on the boat, the happy family has jumped into the sea leaving behind an unpleasant stench and a message “see you soon”. We did not suspect that we would have breakfast and early morning coffee to drink without our friends on board, so we have covered stairs and the entire backside with all available fenders in the hope to stop their climbing aboard. It was a new scenario with shabby rules of the game, but also with clever solutions that surpassed all expectations. The next morning it happened exactly what we have assumed. Helplessly standing in the cockpit, the pearls of Cristobal they surrounded us in full composition, without anybody absent. As we have agreed, taxi arrived sometime before seven o’clock. Whilst our “Beach Boys” were swaying on Meermowe, we were laughing with tears just how intelligent they were.
Flintstones have always been the favorite cartoons of all generations and I’m sure that there are no one who hasn’t, at least once, equalised itself with Fred, Wilma, Barni or Betty. Watching them, only a dead man it would not want to have an elephant instead of a vacuum cleaner, postman pelican, dinosaur for riding, a stubborn tiger as a pet as well as feel the taste of Cactus Cola and of course enjoy in Flinstones steak from a grill. Perhaps all this would remain only part of our fantasy that Peter and I have not found ourselves in that well known “yabba dabba doo” world that morning. Departing on El Junco Lagoon with the “Flintstones Jeep”, was part of a new adventure, big chasing through the time machine as well as super feeling that we all were part of one modern family of stone age. The way has led us through lush vegetation and agricultural fields. Passing El Progresso we briefly stopped beside the tomb in which were, along with the body of Manuel Cobos’, or popularly called as “Cobos Imperor”, deeply buried all his affairs about which they are still talking as about bad dream. His story begins in the middle of the 19th century, when he gets approval from the State of Ecuador to open the production of sugar cane in San Cristobal. In the absence of laborers, the authorities have released prisoners to freedom, provided they had to live on this island. By developing his own empire, Manuel has become a total absolutist. Apart from printing their own coinage, people had to buy exclusively in the stores that he owned and at the price he created by himself. His orchards with a new kind of fruit it was forbidden to touch the three years, whose mature fruits, the children could not resist. Despite parental prayer that he does not do it, theft he condemned by beatings without mercy. Lust and possessiveness he was manifested not only toward girls but also women. They were forced to come for a certain day, by an order that been sent over their fathers or husbands, bathed and for dinner. By sending to the abandoned cliff with a very small amount of bread, where was hard to survive, were punished any opposition to that. After a while, people rebelled and they killed him so that are his brutality and cruelty finally doomed. I just think that Manuel was a sailor, his ship should be, for sure, anchored several months on Equator how could he expels all sins and injustice, which he had done.
El Junco that means sedge, with which is covered it edge, is a little lake at the top of the island and is the only source of constant drinking water. We reached him by the numerous stairs that led through the Miconian tropical shrubs, characteristic of this area. Standing on the edge of a dead volcanic crater turned into a lagoon, we enjoyed the landscape, overlooking the top of Cerro San Joaquin and spectacular Punta Pitt. Due to its sweet water, El Junco is the place where can be watch the Chatham, Mocking and Frigate birds how they swim and clean their feathers from salt. A pleasant wind that we were feeling while we walked around the mountain trail, the mystical nature and the beautiful animal world, it created in us a strange peace, serenity and satisfaction. Simply, we were enchanted by that vicious circle.
Our journey has continued on towards La Galapagera Cerro Colorado, the Giant Turtle Growing Center. Our fantastic Flintstones Jeep once again turned a history page and chased down the street as through the Hanna-Barber studio, but fortunately not being driven with feet. Galapagos turtles are one of the largest and most difficult reptiles in the world. They’re so big that they can be ride. Although we were not been in situation to try this madness, I believe that it is not easy to hold on at her shell. For some of them nobody knows how old they are, who knows maybe there is any who met Darwin and his captain FitzRoy. Walking through the reserve, we had the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the complete program of breeding turtles, from collecting eggs in a dark box to growing up and moving into their natural environment. Slow metabolism and large water supplies allow them a yearly survival without meals and drinks. There is something they particularly enjoy, that is long-term sleeping so Peter obviously was jealous on them. As time went by, we had to say goodbye from these, on the one hand, the synonyms of slowness, laziness and inactivity as well on the other, symbols of wisdom, longevity and patience, and move on.
San Cristobal is not only described by sea lions, turtles, and impressive landscape but beautiful, relaxed and very friendly people, most of whom live from hospitality and fishing. And so, this afternoon, we had the opportunity to be guests at a private farm of one such family what is actually aroused in us a lot of interest. Winding, dusty road, full of holes, was like created for our cheerful Flinstons’ group while we were, as potatoes, bouncing on the seats. At the entrance through the gate, the host and his wonderful grandson were welcomed us with a smile and a shout “Hola”. We were thrilled with the flowering garden that it was surrounded us, while the shade has been a real oasis after of walking around the lake and through Galapaguera Center, under the worst heat. The farm tour was very interesting. Everything was on this estate, how the vegetables that we also eat, salads, carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes…. so, as well as tropical fruits of different shapes, colours and flavours. Even though they were piled disorderly without rows and well-structured field of fruit trees, everything was tailored and in a function. Accompanied by the host, we passed beside bananas and trees full of clusters of green platanas, in whose crown of the tree, we found refuge in hiding from the sun. While we enjoyed, on the one hand, in the fruits of naranjilla, small orange with sour taste, from the bush on the other hand pineapples were smiling at us. It is interesting that all these fruits, in spite of the hellish heat in which they grow, juicy, refreshing and full of vitamins and minerals. Enjoying the dates and papayas, without which that farm would not be what it is, its has fulfilled all our expectations, while the trees are home grown organic coffee, beside which we stood, were really beyond them. It was so pleasant that I had
unsuccessfully tried to befriend with ducks. What a cross-country race this should be involving Dino and Pipo. Maybe the chasing could bring them to the main role for the new premier of the film “Collectors of Feathers”. Upon his return, thanks to the hostess, we enjoyed a fantastic prepared and very delicious lunch. At the departure I bought a
package of homemade coffee I was adding to our collection. In the company of their dog germanshiper, on the way back, we visited El Corro waterfalls, near the farm. The water was cold but I could not resist, I had to get wet. The day slowly had come to the end, as did our tour. We said goodbye to these nice people who our stay among them done more valuable than just visiting the farm. Driving toward Baquerizo Moreno, we sweetened with the sweet fruits that we received as a gift. From the dock, with the first available taxi we drove to the ship. Fragrances that have greatly spread around Meermowe were not been from roast pork in the oven or of the cake. We were aware that we had to wash the boat urgently. Feeling the negative vibrations, our cute sea lions shortly disappeared and for us did not stay anything other than take the broom and clean the deck.
To be on the Galapagos and not peek into his underwater world, it is same as if you are coming to Paris and do not see the Eifel Tower. Going to Diving early in the morning was full of adventurous spirit, challenges, excitement, unusual encounters, and discovering new places. Beach Las Loberias, not far from Baquerizo Moreno, was a paradise for watching turtles, tropical underwater and swiming through the large and dense flocks of fish. The role of the host of the Gulf, has taken over Iguana, presenting this fascinating coastline and untouched nature as its home and the best place to enjoy. Because of their black color they have another name “dark devil”. They are very interesting, at the same time sweet and ugly and are a true illustration of the time in which dinosaurs walked the world. Returning to the city at the main pier we boarded the ship where we are, on the way to Kicker Rock, have got lunch. Was that because of hunger or well-prepared meals, I don’t know, but we melted in the taste of everything that was served. Kicker Rock or in Spanish Leon Dormido is an island with two steep cliffs that remind of the lion, which they almost vertically descend into the sea and merge in the depths. It is not only suitable for crawling bird colonies, but also for the wild underwater world. The ship stopped near of passage between the rocks how we could jump from its platform into the sea, and then he sailed around the cliff and had anchored in the calm waters on the other side. The sea current was quite strong, and the sea has been dark and cold. My husband did not want to jump first, but when it came his turn, he did it fast while his brain did not realized what he was done. At that moment he had a wish to be frozen in the flight and so remain in the air above the water or perhaps, before crash in the sea that someone gets him into a quilt, three blankets and several of hot thermos. It was such as in cartoon. When he emerged out on the surface, I did not even try to decipher comments of him because I knew in advance what the writer had wanted to say. I just smiled softly, simply jumped and was joined the group. Kicker Rock was the real pleasure for diving. Visibility was excellent, all the way to the sandy bottom of the canal, through which has been passing flock of the white sharks. With the individuals it could easely meet face to face, what has happened to our friend from another group, while he carefreely was swimming along the rock, in the same direction as the “Rodjer”. Not knowing for one other, they appeared on the end of the cliff each on his side then as a magnet attracted and closely collided. Both of them were confused and speechless, it scared one from other and fled in reverse, each on their own side. Was it vegetarian Moby? Who knows, it does not matter any more, important is that this funny horror will become impresiv tale to the end of the life. The time went by in the unbelievable feeling of the freedom of socialising with colorful fish of the reef and observation of the mystical cliff full of algae. Peter has already jumped into a dry and warm clothes when I climbed on the platform of the ship so how he was feeling cold, neither in madness, he did not want to pull off again on a beach Puerto Grande where did we stop on the way back. So, enjoying in the beautiful scenery, our visit to the white bay was ended with a long walk through sandy dunes. Returning to town, we stopped at the restaurant to drink a cold beer and juice then by the taxi, was back to the ship. That evening, on our great surprise, Meermowe has been completely lonely at anchor. At the beginning, for the change, it suited us, but after some time we felt very strange, so we went to sleep with the question: “Where are our friends, whom we missed? We left San Cristobal the next morning about ten o’clock in the direction of Isabella Island. By hiding behind the fenders, along with us was embarked one small and to us well-known adventurer so let this to be ours as well as your secret. We will pretend we do not even notice him, and if someone asks you for him, say you did not see it.