I am sad because this trip has shattered my illusions about the Galapagos. Somehow after so many visits, I still felt in awe of this place, and was excited about sharing such an incredible site with Rebecca. Instead, we have seen so much of the ugliness of this place, from Freddy's wheeling and dealing to the garbage in the bay and in the city, to the dreariness of the towns on Floreana and Santa Cruz. The boats keep you insulated from the ugliness. All you see while on a cruise are the well maintained paths through pristine islands, where the animals greet you and the sun shines and the guides inform you about evolution and El Niño and geological events from millions of years ago. I understand why Eric chooses the same boat year after year; the experience is always the same, and always good for all the students and alumni.
I was hoping that Freddy would come through for us today. He picked us up at 8:00 and brought us to the harbour for our trip to Santa Fe Island. We were prepared with snorkel gear and towels and cameras and lots of sunscreen. I am not sure if this was planned, but when we got to the dock, we were informed that our boat left at 9. Rebecca immediately became suspicious, but we waited anyway. We saw that the harbourmaster (or he was a 'business man'?)was arranging the boats and passengers. We saw our guide from our Floreana trip, who seemed to be trying to tell us something that we did not understand. Freddy sat with his buddies and had a huge breakfast of fish and rice and beans. It was clear by 9 that there was not to be a boat to Santa Fe; I am not sure it was planned this way, but it also made sense that if not more than the two of us wanted to go, the boat would not leave. We saw the Floreana group take off, and then suddenly it was suggested that we take a baytour instead of our planned trip to Santa Fe. Rebecca was not keen, but when I saw our Swiss friends that we had met on our Seymour trip coming along with us, I thought we would have fun. We piled into a very small boat for a harbour cruise and snorkel. I was a little worried when 12 people became part of the cruise and wondered if the boat would survive.
Waiting for a Boat to Santa Fe
Harbourmaster Controls Which Boats Go Out with Which Passengers
We motored out to a small island far out in the bay, which had caused a boat to capsize last week. We had read about it in the paper the day we arrived in the Galapagos; it had hit the rocks and all 16 passengers and 8 crew had been rescued. Apparently there was some concern about the leak of diesel fuel, but I saw nothing seeping out. The boat had hit some rocks in the night. The sea was too wild to snorkel there, so we moved to another snorkeling area to the south of the harbour. The water was clear and the fish lovely and finally Rebecca seemed to be enjoying herself. She had not felt comfortable going with the harbour cruise; the boat was too small and the driver spoke no English and perhaps she was simply tired of the struggle with Freddy. We saw lots of bluefooted boobies and pelicans, and other water birds. "Love Canal' was colourful and 'Dog Beach' was full of marine iguanas. We stopped at 'Las Grietas', a pool of cool water in the rocks, which was tough to get to, through lava fields and sharp stones and Rebecca did not feel like trudging on the path. I was worried about her and missed the swimming, but wandered by the Finch bay Hotel and the mangrove swamps nearby hoping for photo opportunities. I actually enjoyed the bay cruise, and loved the snorkeling (I always like that best!) but Rebecca found it marginally tolerable. The best part was Gaby, Richard and their grandson David. Gaby and Richard have been sailing around the world for five years on a 44 foot sailboat. David has joined them for a school year. They are off to the Marquesas tomorrow, and had all sorts of exciting stories to tell about their adventure. I decided that I want to do precisely that. We will sell our house, buy a boat, and start sailing around the world. I have not run that by Eric yet.
Freddy convinced Gaby and Richard and David to come with us tov the Highlands after lunch, to see turtles and lava tunnels. But when the taxi arrived and expected Richard and David to sit on the flatbed of the truck, they decided not to join us. We liked our afternoon in the Highlands and crawling through the lava tunnels, but on our way, I had the taxi driver stop by the Ministry of Tourism to ask about Freddy. I had no last name, but asked the taxidriver, who said he did not know his 'apellido', but everyone called him Freddy 'Zapatos Locos'. When I mentioned his name, the woman at the Ministry of Tourism immediately knew him and informed me that he was a 'pirata' and illegal and had no right to run tours.
After Crawling Through the Lava Tunnel
No surprise, I suppose, after our experience with him! We returned later to write up a 'denuncia', and heard more about Freddy and his illegal operation. He has no license to go to the airport and pick people up or organize tours or deal with tourists. We arranged for our taxi driver to check with us at 7 to see if we needed a ride to the airport in the morning, my concern being that if Freddy learned that we had visited the Tourism office, he would not be happy with us. I believe he may have met poor 'Johnny' at the hotel, because suddenly Freddy was at our door yelling at me about what I had done. I called him a thief, he called me a thief, it was an incredibly ugly scene. I had dreamt last night that he tried to kill us! I wonder if that was a warning. Anyway, he scared me so much I was shaking
I was afraid to leave the hotel. Eric via telephone, Rebecca, and the hotel clerk reassured me that he would not try to kill us....so we went out for the evening to 'The Rock' where the mojitos have lots of rum and the food is good and a group of Otavaleño musicians came to entertain us. I never really relaxed at all, but enjoyed the interlude. Needless to say, we organized our own ride to the airport in the morning since Freddy said he would have nothing more to do with us. We are both eager to leave this place after our intense and crazy and disappointing six days. Whew what an adventure!