Sunday, March 21, 2010

Santa Cruz Tortoises and Tortuga Beach


Rainbow Between Isabela and Santa Cruz

I like waking up before the sun comes up; of course that happens rarely in my life, and often I plan it but it does not happen. Our alarm trilled at 5:00 and we were either confused when the bus came to take us to the dock, or time suddenly took a leap, and we almost missed our transport. The town was quiet, or perhaps the roosters were already awake, but otherwise it was still and calm and secretive in Puerto Villamil. We encountered a queue at the harbour, where each of us had to have all our bags inspected and paid our five dollars for visiting the island. Our names were not on the passenger list (surprise!) so for a while I wondered if we were to stay an extra day (as originally planned) on Isabela, which was a pleasant prospect. The sun crept out as we waited, and then suddenly our names were on some sort of list and we were crowded into a launch for the two hour sprint to Santa Cruz. It was a far more pleasant experience this time, somehow almost peaceful, as the sun rose higher and higher. I could keep my eyes open and watch the sea and the islands as we passed them. Puerto Ayora looked inviting in the morning light, and for a moment or two I was hopeful that Freddy would come through for us.

Passing Boobie Rock

Frigates Soaring

Sun Rising

The hotel we were booked in (as opposed to the one he tried to get us to accept upon our arrival) was pleasant and clean and spacious and welcoming, and we did get breakfast; so far so good. Until Freddy and I began to talk. I thought I was calm and reasonable with him, and believed for a short time that he would try to 'make good' and perhaps add another island to our itinerary, such as Bartolome, or Santa Fe or Plazas, since we had missed our day on Isabela and I was not interested in another day in Santa Cruz. He informed me that we could not add another island to our tour and that it was the tour agency in Quito that had messed up. We were not to do anything today at all until we visited Tortuga Beach, where we could swim in a lagoon. I insisted that we DO something, but then Freddy said we could not change the itinerary! But the itinerary HAS been changed, I exclaimed! We missed our day in Isabela! So why not add another island instead of having us do nothing in Santa Cruz? And then he informed us we were going to Seymour tomorrow instead of Floreana, and Floreana the next day, so the itinerary was changed anyway, so why could he change the itinerary arbitrarily but not add another island? He became insistent that we would have to put up with the changes. But of course we have not got what we paid for! We did not go to the Flamingo pools in Isabela or the Tintoreras snorkeling or the wall of Tears or the Tortoise breeding farm or the Concha Perla snorkeling!!!!! Nothing was happening as was promised! Of course we have paid for the trip and we are not getting what we paid for! It went around and around and finally (he said that we had paid for a cheap tour and we get what we pay for!) I banged on the table and he retreated and told me I was being rude, which I was. It appears there is nothing we can do, we are at his mercy, and will have to make the best of things. If it was just me, I would be fine. Being responsible for choosing the tour and it being a disappointment is harder to bear. I feel so sad that Rebecca is not experiencing the Galapagos as I had hoped. Not only is Freddy difficult to deal with, he does not speak English, so she feels left our of all conversations and quite out of her element. Added to that she is sore from our marathon yesterday and has blisters on her feet and bruises all over her body from her fall on the lava and is in no mood for compromise. I keep reminding myself that this trip is for Rebecca and that having a good experience for her is paramount. I am trying to let go of the disappointment and simply enjoy the moment but it is the guilt visavis Rebecca that interferes with that. She is truly at her limit and I do not know how to make it all better.

At first, Freddy had decided to forget about us doing anything today, since we were supposed to be in Isabela....but after I 'lost it' with him, he sent us off with Wenseslao to the Darwin Centre. Wenselao was a very serious man, who first said he was a volunteer, but later admitted to working for Freddy guiding tourists. He was serious and slow in his explanations, but perhaps that was because he spoke no English and I was translating for him. We walked through the information centre and talked about each exhibit and visited Lonesome George and his female companions. Rebecca was enthusiastic about what she saw, and I was appreciative of her excitement. Having seen the exhibit several times, I am not particularly interested in the dispays, but I enjoyed watching Rebecca and her excitement.

Warbler Finch

Lonesome George


Relaxing Turtle

Land Tortoises

Lava Lizard

Land Iguana


Graveyard Near Darwin Centre

It was hot and humid. That is always the case at the Darwin Center; somehow it is located in a hot and sunny place, and each time I visit it feels stultifying and stale.Thankfully we were in hotel room by 1 PM, but then lunch was anther disappointment. Freddy is either saving money or making an extra profit by feeding us inferior food at low prices. I wonder what Christian, the manager of Ecomontes, is paying for each meal. The meals are spectacularly awful. Today's soup had the foot of a cow in the middle of it, it tasted edible, but it was hard to stomach with the hoof staring at me. I have eaten so well in Ecuador these past months (and am bigger for it!), it astonishes me that food can be so awful. We gave much of our food to Wenseslao, who appeared to appreciate our generosity.

We walked a long long way to Tortuga Beach for the afternoon, and enjoyed the water in the lagoon and did a little bit of snorkeling and wandering around looking at birds and iguanas. After our long long walk in the hot sun, we decided to do ANYTHING to get back by sea, and flagged down a boat and paid WHATEVER we were asked for ($15) to get back to Puerto Ayora. We ran into Deborah and Werner on our walk down 'Charles Darwin' Avenue. They were on the way to their luxury cruise, while we returned to our hotel (perfectly adequate) and our increasingly inedible food. I am sure that Rebecca is wishing every moment that we were on the luxury boat eating good food and being treated with respect.

Female Lava Lizard

Medium Ground Finch

Tortuga Bay Lagoon

Ground Finch


Tortuga Bay


Striated Heron

Finch Again

Marine Iguana

American Oyster Catcher


Wenselao, who evidently does in fact work for Freddy and is his agent, brought us to the 'Kioskos', a street in Puerto Ayora with outdoor restaurants on each side, popular with tourists and locals alike. We saw our friends from Isabela on a table in the middle and wished very much to join them, but were ushered inside to our three dollar meal, which of course was inedible. When we left all our portions, Wenseslao pulled out a plastic bag which he shoveled all the food in, claiming it was for his dog at home. Whew! Food fit for dogs was clearly fit for us! That was it! We were going to eat on our own from now on!

Tortuga Bay

Both Rebecca and I are trying to hold it together and enjoy the moments despite the frustrations!!!

Soaring Pelican

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