|These are the chronicles of the sailing ship Mustang Sally. Rae and Sharon Simpson are circumnavigating the planet aboard. Rae and Sharon departed White Rock, British Columbia, Canada - from Semiahmoo Marina on June 1, 2005.|
We sailed from Bahia del Caraquez, Ecuador for Wreck Bay, Galapagos Islands on June 17th, 2006. The 5 day passage was notable for the brisk sailing and the huge south Pacific swells we encountered. We arrived in the Galapagos on the morning of June 22nd. Pictured on the left Sharon and Catherine celebrate completion of the passage and our safe arrival.
The picture on the right shows our landfall approaching Isla Cristobal. The rock shown at the left below is called "Kicker Rock" and is a terrific scuba diving site. The rock is 600 feet high and is split in half with the dive site running right through the rock.
The Galapagos Islands were made famous by Charles Darwin, who used the unique plant and animal life to support his theories of evolution and natural selection. The Galapagos Islands were know to the Inca and the early Spanish explorers. The islands are very lightly populated. The first permanent settlements on the island were established at the start of the twentieth century.
The Islands were a natural provisioning stop in previous centuries for sailing ships. The lush animal and plant life could be easily harvested. The giant Galapagos turtles were particularly easy prey and tens of thousands were taken for sailor's dinners.
Although the Islands are on the equator, they are cooled by the Humboldt ocean current, which flows from the Antarctic, north up the coast of South America, then west around the Galapagos and into the Pacific. The islands were often cloudy, but it was always nice and warm, not sizzling hot, just very pleasant. The water was very clear and refreshingly brisk. Scuba diving was par excellent.
Our stay in the Islands involved a little, how shall we say - bending of the rules. The Ecuadorian's are very serious about the somewhat contrary goals of protecting the islands as a UN designated 'World Heritage Site' and exploiting the islands via tourism. The rigors of obtaining all the permits, visas and clearances has been known to take up to eight weeks for visiting boats. Not having that kind of patience, we ignored the permitting issue and just showed up.
When asked by Galapagos officialdom for our permits, we claimed we were on our way to the Marqueses and had equipment problems with the boat. "No problem they said, here is a ten day visa." Later when we visited another island, we were granted an extension. The Ecuadorian government tries to tightly control boats and tourism, but the reality is that the Galapagos are a long way from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito and many local officials want to encourage visitors.
We hung out with an old acquaintance, who became a new friend. Filipe, who sails the boat Renegade, was based in our home port of Semiahmoo. He is pictured on the left between Catherine and Sharon, our guide, Carlos on the left. We also ran into American amigos from the boat Bogtrotter. Pictured at the right, (left to right) Tim, Cindy, Sharon, Ann, Catherine and Rae . Together these bands of desperados shredded the Galapagos.
While on the subject of people, the Galapagonians are wonderful. Genuine, friendly and helpful they were always there with a smile and a helping hand. They would go miles out of their way to try and make you feel welcome and at home. Many are looking for business, but they do it in the most honest and up-front way that you can not help but like them. Sadly, the AIDS infection rate in the Islands small population is said to be over 25%. That is a little too friendly!
Both the islands we toured, Isla Cristobal and Isla Isabela are delightful. The eco-systems are diverse by altitude. Dry and desert like on the coasts, and increasingly lush as one travels uphill. One of the main attractions are the Galapagos - i.e. the giant land turtles that the islands are named after. Galapagos is a word for turtle in Spanish. Then there are the giant iguanas, amazing creatures. We also saw white tipped reef sharks, penguins and pink flamingos.
Catherine had never been around seals before and it was fun to play around the friendly seals. The seals were so friendly, one climbed up on Mustang Sally. We awoke one morning to a seal looking down the hatch at us in our bunk. Another time a seal made itself at home in our cockpit, curling up for a nap in the blankets we leave on deck. Sealing Sally's perimeter to the seals was a challenge.
Scuba diving at Kicker Rock was killer. Sixty foot visibility, sharks, rays and terrific support from the dive company After the dive, we snorkeled a lovely bay where the friendly sea lions come out to play. They nip at you like a playful dog might - so you have to be careful, but they mean no harm. One of our dive company had his hair bit, and our dive master was sporting scars from a few bites.
All the Galapagos animals seem fearless of man and one can get very close. The Galapagos are also a great place to relax, hang out and enjoy life. Terrific beaches, lots of simple hotels and hostels, low cost of living and eco-systems that blow your socks off.
Galapagos is a naturalist wonderland and the two weeks we spent there could easily have stretched to a month or two. But Polynesia beckoned with the challenge of crossing the big blue Pacific. The Galapagos Islands are a hauntingly beautiful and unique place on this earth. True nature lovers should not miss it. Click here for a Galapagos Adios.
We were thrilled with our three week inland trip to Peru. From May 22nd to June 10th 2006, we bused, flew, and taxied our way through Peru. That country is BIG. We sailed on a reed boat, we stood on a floating island. We hitch hiked and we walked. We hiked the mountains of Machu Pichu! We saw allot of Peru, but the country is so big and diverse that there is much more that could be seen. To see all of Peru could take many months. To know it all would take a lifetime.
Peru is a huge diverse country with treasures that rival any in this world. Peru's cultures span 4,000 years!
Contrast abound. Desert to rain forest, sea side to mountains, sophisticated to backwoods, Pagan to Christian. We traveled 5500 miles to touch Peru's treasures. Peru showed and taught us many things.
Things like the abrupt change from tropical green garden like Ecuador to
Peru's desert west coast. The picture on the right illustrates the
bleakness of the west coast. The coastal desert spans the entire
county from near the northern frontier to and beyond the southern border
High in the Andes, in southern Peru, Lake Titiqaqa is a fresh water sea. On its shores is the city of Puno - the birth place of the Inca. The lake near Puno is dotted with dozens of man made islands. The Inca people construct the Islands from reeds. We were astounded. We walked on the reed islands and sailed on Inca reed boats. Click here to check out the floating islands.
This is where Thor Hyderdal got his inspiration for building Ra I and
Ra II with which he proved that ancient peoples could have crossed
oceans in boats built of reeds. Many of Hyderdal's theories have
fallen out of favor, but he was a great twentieth scientist/adventurer.
Read his books!
landed on the South American continent at Bahia del Caraquez, Ecuador
on Monday May 15th 2006. It was a 7 day upwind and up-current
voyage from Panama City. As usual, weather predictions of light winds
and easy ocean current proved wrong. Nevertheless it was a pretty easy
passage. Made easier by our crew Catherine MacTaggert, pictured at
right with Sharon. She
helped sail the boat and lightened the load.
A fun part was the hazing ceremony for the equator crossing. Rae dressed up like King Neptune and converted everyone from slimy Polywogs to equator crossing Shellbacks. Ours was quite a mild ceremony compared to some of the old navy standards. Apparently, in the old days, beatings, keelhauling, and pelting the Polywogs with fruit was the norm. Fatalities were not uncommon. Uncivilized behavior unbecoming of the sophisticated crew crew on Mustangs Sally. We just covered the Polywogs with whipped cream and sea water. Poured some champagne in the sea for Neptune and drank the rest. We are all SHELLBACKS now.
Bahia del Caraquez is a resort town where the well to do of Ecuador come for vacations and long weekends. The town is pretty quiet now as this is off season. Rainy season is just over and now they have a month or three of cloudy weather between the wet and dry seasons. Kind of like southern California in the summer. Sea haze, sometimes burning off in the day. I am glad for the shady days after nearly a year in never ending sunshine. Temperatures are is still in high 20s - low 30s Celsius.
A gentleman from the United States by the name of Trip has built a little nirvana here. His nirvana has the intriguing name of Bahia Amestad. It is a beautiful yacht club and cruiser hang out. Trip invited us to consider his facilities home. He and his lovely wife Maji serve up the best food that we came across in South America. The facilities are exquisite.
The people of Bahia del Caraquez are, by and large, happy, friendly and helpful. The town is like small town Canada. Most locals are curious and grateful for the people who come in boats to spend time and money in their piece of paradise. Theft is almost unknown in Bahia del Caraquez and there is little need to worry about pilfering or thievery.
Downside? Well, one can't run the water maker as the water in
the bay is brown - river fed and shallow. But Trip provides low
cost 25 liter jugs. Swimming off the boat is OK, but the brown
water is not very inviting. The locals use the city beaches closer
to the ocean where the water is clearer. You need a pilot for the
shallow bar at the entrance. Very limited boating supplies.
Bahia del Caraquez is great!
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