III. New people, new sights, new challenges  
Oct. 7:  We had breakfast at 7 a.m. and were off the boat by 8 a.m. to visit the Interpretation Center on the way into town. It is a lovely little museum covering the history of the islands. The plants are all marked and there is a small outdoor theater for presentations as well as nice restrooms. After about a half hour we walked on into the little town which has a waterfront, some tourists shops, a few local-type fast food places and a small park. We bid those departing good by and they were loaded onto a bus and taken to the airport. Their luggage had gone before them in the truck.

On the walk into town, Ivan, our guide, caught up with us and paid us a very nice compliment. He said, “I hope that when my wife and I are your age we will be just like you. I watch the two of you helping each other, being there for each other and that is my dream for me and my wife.”

We appreciated that he took the time to tell us this because sometimes he seemed uncaring and calloused. Perhaps it was just that he did not know enough English to be compassionate or caring because at times I thought he was a bit brusque.

About 11, Erick, our able-bodied seaman, waiter and jack of all trades bartender, came to gather the four of us and take us back to the boat in the panga. Getting in and out of the panga was the most difficult thing for me on this trip as I have no sense of balance at all. It was a wonder that I managed not to fall during those eight days. Of course, there was always a hand to help me.

Eleven new people came aboard. We are truly international again as the US, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands are represented. Everyone is fluent in English except the Spanish couple, but I think they understand more than they want us to know.

After lunch we steamed to Isla Lobos so named because a very large sea lion colony is there. The babies are so adorable, climbing all over the rocks calling their mommies. It was a dry landing and the pathway began very easy with mostly sand, but it quickly turned into a trial for me as we had to scramble over very large lava rocks and boulders. Even though I had my staff I would never have made it without Jim’s help! It was the hardest thing I’d done so far and that includes the muddy steep trail to see the Cock of the Rock in the Mindo area. I was exhausted when we reached the end of the trail and was very, very glad to see that the pangas would pick us up there so that we did not have to walk back! Getting into the panga from the rocks with the sea being rather rough was a trial but somehow I made it.

Back at the Fragata some of the others went snorkeling off the platform at the back of the boat but we decided to get quick showers before everyone else so that we would have a bit of hot water – good decision!

Jim decided this morning to continue to give his arm a break from wearing the Relief Band since we were going to be ashore for part of the day. He carried it in his pocket, just in case he needed it. Back on the boat he continued without it, eating lunch and even managing when we moved the Fragata to another area! The sea has been unusually calm but for him this is amazing!

We steamed for 12 hours beginning about 6:30 p.m. to Genovesa Island.

Oct. 8: Our 12-hour steam was amazingly smooth as we were going with the current and wind so it did not hit us as hard as I thought it might. We both woke up several times during the night but were able to get back to sleep unlike the other times we steamed at night. The rough times were when we were against the wind and currents.

Breakfast at 7 a.m. and into the pangas by 7:45 to visit Genovesa Island. The pangas took us close up to the sides of the cliffs so we could see the fur seals that were resting there.

Getting from the panga to the steps that lead to the top of this island was a big stretch for me as there was quite a swell and the panga was moving more than usual. But I made it with help. There was a handrail along part of the steps but some of these steps were quite steep.

These steps are named after his Royal Highness Prince Philip who visited the island in the 1960's. The climb up the stairs is fairly easy for those with good balance, and a handrail helps make the journey more manageable.

The top of the island was covered in leafless scrub. Many nests were on the ground as well as in these bushes. The gulls and Nazca Boobies nest on the ground while the Red-footed Boobies and Frigatebirds nest in the bushes. There were chicks of varying ages all around, but it wasn’t noisy at all which surprised me. I thought all the chicks would be noisily begging for food.

Continuing along the trail we saw very small iguanas keeping warm in a pile and a huge number of Eliot’s Storm Petrels flying. They nest in the cliffs rather than on top of the 200 foot high island. There were also Warbler Finches and Mockingbirds. In the distance where walking was restricted we spotted a Short-eared Owl. They are diurnal and feed on the Storm Petrels so this was the reason the petrels were on high alert. It was a wonderful walk from the standpoint of what we saw as well as the fact that the trail was so level and rockless that I did not even need my staff! Coming back down the stairs to the pangas was another story however! Karel was right in front of me and graciously offered me his hand when I needed it as Jim was at the back of the line filming.

Back at the Fragata we had some time on board. Jim told me he had made the Prince Phillip’s Step trip without the Relief Band. He wore it during the night as we were steaming but decided to try the trip ashore without it. He thinks that by wearing it constantly as he has done, that he has built up a bit of tolerance to the movement of the boat. He does not feel like “dancing a jig” but the band has made it possible for him to participate and enjoy the trip and able to eat meals. Today he was even able to read a little in one of the field guides! This band has been one of the best investments we have ever made.

At 1:30 p.m. we had a wet landing going ashore at Darwin Bay. The sea was calm so we didn’t get wet but the coral beach gave us all a case of the “ouches.” The beach has only been there 78 years, according to Ivan. An earthquake occurred and caused a collapse on one side of the island and a lifting up on the other side. There were nesting gulls, boobies and frigate birds in the mangrove bushes near the beach. Sea lions littered the shore as usual and I never get enough of the mothers and babies.

We took a trail that began as a sandy path and quickly turned into lava boulders – so what else is new? On this hike, we saw the Cactus Finch as well as a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Looking back at the boats in the bay as we hiked was wonderful. The water was clear blue, the sky was a different blue with puffy white clouds and the white boats completed this idyllic picture.

Tomorrow is our last full day and I never thought I’d be sad to leave. It has been a hard trip for us in some ways but a very interesting and rewarding one as well.

Click thumbnails for larger versions

Sea lions speaking out

Beach bums and the Fragata (left)

Hood Mockingbird

Red-footed Booby

(Below, Red-footed Booby from previous trip. Dodge)


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