Isabela

IMG_0616Friday morning and at 8-30 we weighed anchor for the forty mile sail to Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos  Blue skies but very light wind on the port quarter called for the iron donkey and with a bit of help from the genoa we motor sailed at 8kts before finding Villamil bay, a tricky crowded anchorage protected by a volcanic rock reef. The pilot advised that anchoring may be a problem but the 50kg Spade anchor bit first time and the idyllic surrounding were only marred by the swell which made the boat continually roll.

Our first venture ashore was for an evening meal and we were a bit taken aback when the water taxi advised us the last boat left at 9pm and even more surprised, some were even mortified that the restaurants could not serve any alcohol for the next three days as there was a general election on Sunday.

Saturday was a day for chilling, wandering around the town and beach. The main road through town is a sandy dirt track that throws up a dust cloud every time a vehicle passes but they have thought about traffic calming and the Isabela version of a sleeping policeman is in the shape of a doubled up length of 75mm diameter rope laid across the road.

IMG_0580There are few roads on Isabela, the countryside is a more rugged and a lot of the areas are inaccessible, the best way to see the sights of the island is with a guided tour so a group of 10 of us met at 7am for the 12 hour tour that involved a 2 1/2 hour boat ride each way.  Part way to our first destination and the boat was stopped to deploy fishing lines to catch our lunch and it was a highlight for me to land a Snapper. This was only the second fish I had ever landed, the first being over fifty years ago in the Grand Union Canal using a bamboo cane,  hairy string, a cork and safety pin for a hook.

The coastline was dramatic and with the summit of Cerro Azul covered in cloud its green slopes  were broken by streams of lava rocks all the way down  to the sea that were home to Iguanas bathing in the sun. Blue footed Boobys and Frigate birds were now a common site as all eyes were on the lookout for penguins and wingless cormorants, a species only found on this coastline.

True to form our quarry appeared and at our furthest destination with the uninhabited island of Fernandina visible to the north-west we pulled into a small lagoon for a bit of snorkelling while the boat crew prepared Cervice, a dish comprising the raw fish we had caught marinaded in lemon, lime, orange and with fresh onion and tomato.

DSC_0104From here we were heading back along the coast, stopping for a close up view of penguins and fur sea lions. Our last stop was in a spectacular area called Los Tunneles which looked like a Disney film set with lava rock forming tunnels and bridges. Boobys, turtles and sea lions were all within touching distance and our boat skipper skilfully manoeuvred around the rocks before a final snorkelling  session and sight of a tiny seahorse to round off the wildlife count.

Our final few miles back saw a beautiful sunset, a fitting end to a spectacular day.

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