02.10.2012 - 03.10.2012
1. Spending large sums of money can feel good!
It was sweet sorrow leaving Isabela Island in the Galapagos. We had such an amazing time there. But it was with relief that we emptied our back pockets and paid for flights rather than taking two 3+ hour boat rides to get to San Christobal Island on rough seas in a dodgey boat. Never have I been so glad to part with $600!!! The flight was only 20 minutes and we were the only passengers in a plane that seated about 30 people. The other cheaper airline had all its 8 seats booked. I'm not sure how the airline we went with will survive, hence it seems likely that soon there will be only one small carrier and the price will be higher still. Perhaps high season keeps them afloat the whole year???
2. Sealions smell - bad!
San Christobal is literally teaming with sea-lions. They are on the road, the footpath, under the playground and of course all over the beaches. They smell awful and can be quite noisey! The kids played around two sleeping sea-lions on the playground, and then Daisy stood on the apparatus above one of them and roared down at it. The sleeping creature sat up, looked at her and then scarpered to another quieter spot about 20 meteres away. Who knew Daisy was so ferocious!
3. Some things are far more awesome when you do them with your kids.
Brodin and my mission on San Christobal was to see a Blue-footed Boobie, a crazy bird with blue feet. They are apparently everywhere but we had failed to spot one yet so San Christobal was our last chance. A lovely Australian girl advised us to get a taxi out to Puerta Chino and climb around the rocks to see a colony of them, so off we traipsed. Sean was unenthusiastic as he had gone on a snorkel trip on Isabela and saw one then which he reported as being less than thrilling. We arrive at Puerta Chino and dodged seals all over the beach to clamber around the rocks. No sign of any birds other than a few frigate birds circling over head wondering if we are small enough for them to pluck for dinner. Sean gives up and I continue climbing around out to the point, with the kids hovering in between not sure whether to stop or go. And then I spot them. Perfectly positioned on the edge of the rock, with the sea behind them. I usher the kids and Sean over and we slowly and quietly sneak closer and closer. They watch us with bored stares. The kids are in complete awe. The wonder on the kids faces makes all these experiences so much richer than if we were doing them alone. Sean acknowledged this experience was far superior to seeing the bird the last time.
As we wandered back we spotted some frigate birds on the other side of the rock. Although without the zoom lens it was difficult for the kids to get a decent view.
Later, back in town Brodin said "I can't stop smiling". I asked him why and he said he thought it was bacause he got to see the blue-footed boobies.
4. Being cheeky pays off.
Being a coffee lover and a fair trade advocate I was really keen to visit a coffee plantation while in South America, and little did I know that the Galapagos Islands produce coffee. In fact, all three of the islands that we have visited have coffee plantations on them. I was planning on visiting one on the mainland at Macupucuna, out of Quito. When I discovered that coffee grew on Santa Cruz and Isabella I had enquired about whether it was possible to do a coffee tour and was told no. On San Cristobal, we planned to go to the Mockingbird Cafe for dinner which was recommended by the Australian girl we met. We mentioned this to our hosts at the hotel and they commented that the owner also managed the coffee plantation, Cafetal. So whilst sitting having dinner, I ask this gentleman if it would be possible to do a coffee tour. He thinks about it a moment and then suggests we return the next day at 3pm. He says he can show us a DVD and something else I don't understand. We arrive the following day with no idea what to expect or what this tour is going to cost. The cafe is closed but he takes us upstairs and shows us a promotional DVD for Cafetal coffee which was interesting. He then makes us an espresso coffee to drink before announcing "now we go to the plantation". He hails a taxi (taxi's on the islands are all white utes, as the roads are so bad they need 4WD, and they are everywhere as very few people have private cars, no seatbelts in the back and its ok to sit on the trailer). We learn the following through his limited English and our very poor Spanish.
The coffee is grown underneath the trees that were already growing there. The plantation began 120 years ago and has grown to cover 500 hectares with 300 hectares of coffee plants and 200 hectares of cedar and fruit trees amongst them. We saw orange trees, avocado trees, bananas, passionfruit and guava trees (which are not at all what we call guavas back home). Guavas have these long pods filled with large seeds surrounded by a white pith. The pith is juicy and sweet and is the part you eat).
The trees protect the coffee from the heat and the coffee keeps the ground moist for the trees. The plantation is in what they call "the highlands" which isn't really that high but is the highest part of the island. Strangely up there it is very wet and cool compared to the low areas and there is lichen growing on everything.
The coffee is 100% organic as no pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are allowed to be used anywhere on the island in an attempt to preserve the islands' flora, fauna and wildlife.
Coffee grows on trees which produce small red berries. Inside the berry is a little pale beige seed covered in a kind of gelatinous layer. This is the bean. Incidentally you can eat the outer berry and it is quite sweet and tasty but it leaves a slightly unpleasant lingering flavour. The berries are picked by hand over 2-4 months, twice per year, and then hand sorted to extract any over or under ripe berries. The beans are then shelled in a machine and then washed - a lot. Then they are dried and put in bags for transporting. The berries shells are kept and turned into compost to fertilise the coffee trees. It actually is a lot of work!
We return from our coffee tour and Nicolas tells us the taxi will cost $20. This is about half what we have paid peviously for similar taxi rides. Then we asked Nicloas what his fee is and he declined any payment at all!! This is a real shock in a place where it often feels like everybody is out to rip you off or at least make money out of you. We eventually slipped some money to his wife, but then the following day we popped in for lunch and to say goodbye before flying out and he insisted on giving us a bag of coffee, despite the fact we had already bought some from him. What an amazingly generous guy and an awesomely interesting experience. All because I was cheeky enough to ask the right person!!!
By the way if anyone is planning on a trip to the Galapagos Islands, Mockingbird Cafe on San Cristobal was the best food we had on any of the three islands and the owner Nicolas is lovely!!!!