After one week, the work are really kicking in on the project. Fortunately, there are still room for exploring the surrounding nature, and the one we work in, is interesting too.
21. February. After what I decide is the last shower of the morning, I leave the sorry bunch for a nice stroll in the hills. I saw what I think is a Lycopodiaceae, maybe a Huperzia sp. on the horse-back ride the other day, and want to confirm that - and take a picture or two...
I find the tree after half an hours walk. It is only 32C, but due to the humidity: It feel rather warm. It is a Lycopodiaceae, or rather two, way up in a tree. I only find one species in one tree, and the other one in two. They grow in the thick layer of mosses, lichens and among Peperomias. One of them seem to have two forms: One hanging, one short, "flowering"; spore barring.
I hit further up hill until the clouds gathers again. I try the little track my horse was so eager to follow, and as expected; it leaves down to the hacienda. On the way, I pass a small forest and a gorge with some real slimy clay in. A fast shower while the photos are down-loaded, and then I join the rest, down town.
A mango shake and sandwich with Kit and Farina, then out to the marine base. Apparently, it is closed, but a friendly guy with two stars on his shoulders and a real bad English try to show me the base, but I escapes into the wild part.
The first part is the houses of the officers, then a cemetery. Then the nature takes over; bush land, beach with lava. Lava Gulls, Marine Iguanas and interesting plants. I even get close to a group of Blue-footed Boobies.
Meat up with Kit, Farina, Katarina and Kirsten for a Kicker Rock burger. It takes for ever to make, but it is the only restaurant which are open in the late afternoon. We meat the rest of the crew, and head home. Geovanny are waiting for us, and we have a short meeting about the work of next week.
We start with controlling the very invasive Guayabo and planting cuttings. Then weeding at the school or at a local farmers fields. Replanting Miconias in the basic soil on the hills, visit by the local kids and probably a lot of machete weeding.
22. I start the day giving the kitchen a good clean. In a climate like this, ants and cockroaches thrive on spilled food, and although I like nature, I want to avoid them inside the house. People are fairly good at doing their own dishes, but the general cleaning are left undone.
Even though it is raining, we head down hill to an area covered in Guayabo. These, one to five meter bushes, have stems up to fifteen centimetres, and have to be cut down, to give the endemic plants a chance. It is a hard work with machetes, and it does not really help, when the sun brakes through from time to time, the machete needs filing and the glows are extreme slippery.
After three hours, we have cleared an area equals several football fields, but the whole field is way larger. Guess I'll be going back here in the future. I'm a bit shocked about Gin-Gin not being able to tell a live tree from a dead! Then again: She haven't seen a coconut, newer heard of Deep Purple, never sat on a bicycle and think a Coca Cola and three smokes equals breakfast. It must be tough to leave the New York apartment for the first time.
We return to the hacienda for a siesta and for some lunch. At two, we have recovered - well kind of, and start planting seedlings and cuttings in black plastic bags. I have recommended a more loose and airy soil, and at least; it is easier to fill in the bags. The rain is back, and we huddle under the new porch.
We stops at four, and while the rest drives down to the Port, Katarina and I stay put. I did not bring my camera today, due to the rain, and sorting out the photos are real easy; a few creatures of the night. Then I write some sort of application for the Charles Darwin Research Station. I have heard they are having some difficulties with seeds and cuttings, and I might be able to contribute with some knowledge and experience.
23. The first task for the day is carrying some water pipes up hill to the field of the haciendas, where we are going to dig them down. Due to the heavy rain this night, we are not going to do the "Thursday, community wiper pipe digging", but just machete clean a path for it. There are several small creeks in the area today, but it did rain heavily this night.
After lunch, we head down to a farmer, who have asked for help. On the way, we passes a gorge which now hosts a sizable river. While some machete-weeds some of his fields from invasive weed such as blackberries, other dig holes for yucca, put them in and fill the holes again. It starts to rain again, but we finish the job. We get paid in bananas.
On the way back to the haciendas, we meet Geovanny and a student that are going to help out with - something. Geovanny tells about the problems the much rainwater have caused down Port. Some roads have been washed away, some have gotten indoor swimming pools and wells have started to spring in new places. The porous lava is not only good at swallowing water, it gives it back just as well.
After all have showered, we head down Port. I try to find a descent food store while some try the area behind the marine base. I fails, but find a internet shop where my FTP up-load works - but deadly slowly. Sit there, waiting for an hour and a half, but then the connection fails.
Find some food, and meet up with the rest for a farewell dinner at Rosita's. Soup, fish dish and fresh juice for four dollars! We head on to a bar, but after one beer, everybody are ready to head back.
24. We start the day with a walk up to the highest point on the Hacienda; Tuna, which I call Mount Morra, due to its overgrown state of blackberries. Some parts have been cleaned, and while standing on the top, there is a fantastic view around.
Deep below us, the swamp or moor displays a fantastic green and flat area, which I will have to explore one day. To the north, the sea line and Kicker Rock can be seen, and south of us, the islands highest point is raising. After a few shots, we start clearing small areas, dig a hole and plant a little Miconia seedling from our nursery.
When we are out of them, we start clearing new parts of the huge lava boulder we are on. I crawl underneath the dense cover, and cut all the vines at the ground with my gardener's scissors. Then, the others can easily cut it into sizable lumps, and throw them down hill.
I sincerely look like I have been fighting with a group of cats- and lost, when I get out. We walk back to the hacienda for the lunch brake, and the afternoon are spent weeding in our vegetable garden. We finish off the working day, painting some signs for the different parts of the hacienda.
Then most leave for their last evening in town while Katrina pack her gear, and I roast some coffee beans. After tomorrow morning, we will only be three here - for a week or so. I'm planning to give the kitchen cupboards and frites a good clean.
25. Unfortunately, I missing Kit and Ben's departure by half a minute, which was sad. Kirsten went along with them to Isabela, and Gin-Gin and Katarina are leaving this morning, just a bit later. That leaves Jorge and me to do the working along with Carlos.
We head up a new hill to clean an area for coffee plants. It is a real entanglenes of tall grass, backberries and invasive trees. I find some tree-ant's nests - when the ants lands on me. We succeed to clean quite an dissent area, although the heat is killing.
Back at the lunch break, Jorge starts cleaning the toilets while I give the kitchen cardboards, tables and other hiding spots a well needed clean. Then I polish the windows, sweep the floors and sort out "stuff" laying around. The amount of wellingtons are building up along with working glows and other left-behind stuff. In back of the house, I find a proud hen with her chicks, some still wet from the egg.
At two, we are driven (not in a car, but as cattle) down the road by Carlos to start fixing a fence. A rainwater pond have washed away some of the new road, and a big machine dogged a drench yesterday. Unfortunately, it put the bushes, rocks and soil on our fence. We cut it away and dig down the poles that have been removed.
Some of the tree used around here, like the poles, are 50 to 100 years old indigenous tree Matazarno; Piscidia carthagenensis. The best description of its consistence is: Iron! Not even termites can negotiate it. Nice for poles, but hellish to hammer cramps into. Digging down the poles are not easy either; here are plenty of lave rocks, and they are significantly larger then the hole I want to dig.
Geovanny and Paul comes bye with our new, American volunteer; Kristine. We finish up, and while Kristine and Paul milks the cow, I take a luxury shower. My cloths are completely soaked as if I have fallen to the river. Jorge heads down town with Geovanny and Paul, and I have a interesting chat with Kristine on the porch.
Due to the special evening, I start preparing a nice meal - made by "shaking the fritz". End up with fried garlic, pepper fruit, tomatoes and tuna, served with real good brown rice, a chicken sauce and fried plantains. I know it sounds odd, but it tasted good!
26. It have been raining quite heavy all night, and it only stops - kind of, at least - at ten. We all was woken up by the alarm Kirsten had set for yesterday. Kristine and Carlos weed some the 1500 seedlings in our nursery, while Jorge and I build a box for starting up cuttings. Used boards and a piece of an old tin-roof, filled with first walnut sized, then peaches sized lava gravel. Now I just need to know which plants Geovanny wants.
Then we go out to an old plantation, which looks more like a forest. Here Carlos points out some trees that will form lasting poles for the signs we painted the other day. We cut out two meter lengths with machete, and leave the canopy keep sitting entangled with the rest. It is an invasive plant after all.
A needed lunch break until one, where we carry the poles, signs and tools round the farm to mark different areas. Nursery, organic coffee plantation, Scalesia area, Miconia part and so on. We finish, take a needed shower, and share a taxi to Port.
Jorge and I find some internet connections while Kristine and Carlos go snorkelling. I finally get my first week's HighLights photos uploaded (well, except those I have to mail to a good friend to upload). I hand in a big bag of laundry (one dollar a kilo), test several internet cafes, have a chat with Geovanny and find some kind of meat, and then it is time to meet with the others.
Carlos have invited Kristine on supper, so Jorge and I drive home alone - or not. The taxi driver have to go bye his wife's shop to help her closing, and then she and her son joins us in the taxi. Just as we get inside the hacienda, it starts to pour down. The cat make a bad decision; jumps into our cupboard while I'm cooking, eating of our food, and get to spent the night outside.
Jorge heads to bed at half pass nine, but I manages to stay awake for just another half hour, thanks to the book I have started reading; Penny Vincentzi; Sheer Abandon - 875 pages! Should last for several rainy evenings, I guess.
27. Someone have set the alarm again, while using the gadget for Ipod music, and this time, I not only turn it off, I change the time to noon! I try to fall asleep again, but first the cat, then the rooster and cows are making a real effort to keep me awake - actually; they succeed!
It is, not surprisingly, pouring down, and I have to wait before I head towards Ochoa Beach on the northern coast of San Cristobal. I don't know what that seven to ten kilometres walk will offer, except a good view at Kicker Rock, and a soaked T-shirt. Guess the long walk back are the worse?
Well, plans changes. At half pass eight, people start walking bye in their nice cloth. Bit strange; we usually only see a single farmer, and not in his clean cloth! Then a taxi turns up with some local people. They ask for Geovanny, which mean they are in the right place, but the only other word I understand is "Tsunami". Anyway; I make some tea, and kick Spanish Jorge out on the porch to them.
It turns out there have been a earthquake in Chile, around 8,9 on the Richter scale. The water have left the port, and a tsunami is expected around nine. It could be a wave around five to six metres, and that will surely hit the Port hard! The Port area have been evacuated; sirens at five, closed until two in the afternoon.
Jorge and Kristine head up the hills to get a view of the coast, but I tell them to be back at two, to go down town, writing a e-mail for their parents. I stay put to host our guests - waiting for Geovanny. I get a bright idea, and get one of my guests to prepare some food: Food is always good! Quite frankly; I would have preferred to be down at the Port with my camera.
The kids return slightly disappointed from the hill: The sea looked as it use to. I leave them to our guests/refugees and try to find the road for Ochoa Beach, but with no intentions of reaching the water this morning! Here are only a few roads - actually only one, and somehow, I misses it.
I end up on a path that haven't been use for years, but I have a pretty good feeling of where I am. The trees are covered in lichens, and to my surprise, I passes a huge Opuntia and some small Jasmincereus' on the path. The sun comes through, and my choice of raincoat should have been sunscreen and hat. When I finally reach the right road, I just head home. Nice walk, but I got a distinct feeling of; I might have seen all this area or even island can offer me.
Our guests get told they can return home; there were no tsunami this time. The taxi does not return for us, and we are kind of stuck until Carlos passes bye. He calls a taxi which takes more than an hour to get here. We throw lava gravel after various things, and stack them on top of each other. Kristine get ten on top of each other!
Things seem calm in Port, and we get our mails send, bought some food and I get my clean laundry. Jorge have heard there will be another tsunami warning at five, and we grab a taxi just before. He is in a hurry to get back to Port, and we walk the last little bit on our gravel road.
I prepare a fast supper by leftovers from our guests, and spent a better part of the evening sorting and cleaning our two large friezes. Man; there were gross things in them! Feel strangely fresh this evening, might even stay awake to after ten! Kristine have to give in a t nine while Jorge have a lot of diary to write.
28. It have not rained all night, and it looks like a clear day too. I reveal my plans about finding the northern bay, and Kristine wants to tag along. Jorge have a bunch of mails he want to write and send, and we leave him at the hacienda, little to ten.
A nice, new sign, a few hundred meters down the main road leads to Ochoa Beach - one should think. After two hundred meters, the little gravel road leads into a farm. Nice people, who tells us how hard it is to find the beach, and at which tree we have to turn to the right, not to end up in Progresso - in fluent Spanish. And I having a hard time telling one tree from another.
Anyway, we head north, on a stretch of land that have been cleared some time ago, just not for trees, rocks and creeks. I try to explain some of the things we see, taxonomy in general and a few other subjects rarely heard in school for Kristine - she takes it nice. The path passes some deserted farms, old crops which have turned into trees and beautiful nature in general. One time, a huge caterpillar draw all my attention: It is wrinkling like a mad, and sized as of one of my large fingers!
Unfortunately, the road take some 90 degree turns from time to time, one time to go around a small lava mount. It kind of looses its northern direction, and start heading west - towards Progresso. Guess we have passed the tree? Kristine get overheated while I just sweat a bit, but after a brake, she feel fine again.
Our path make a turn from south to west, and ten meters through the bushes, we can see a nice gravel road going east and north. I figure it must lead to Progresso, and we redefine our gold. We been walking in the wild, and will be going to the beach - not the same beach, and now with taxi, but what does that matter?
We get a ride at the main road, and head for Mann Beach, just north of Port. Here are a really nice and almost vacant cove with white sand, good waves, Marine Iguanas and sea lions. Kristine somehow lours me into the water, and when I'm first in, I have to admit; is is great!
We swim and play with the waves for an hour or so, and then take a walk along the beach to find some photogene iguanas and seals. Kristine is running low on water, and we walk into town. We passes the office where Julio are alone, and continues to a nice cafe.
We had planed to find a swim suit for Kristine, but all the shops are closed until four or five. A fast visit to The Mockingbird, who have a nice, quiet internet, and then bye the normal one to see if Jorge is finish. He just lack five minutes, and we spent the time at the peer, watching sea lions, crabs and small Marine Iguanas.
When we passes our local school, a bunch of off-road bikes are filling the yard. I can't help my selves, and while the two others crashes in hammocks, I walk back. 20 real white people are riding around in circles on the concrete. I continues to the viewing point, and stop, to let them out on the road.
I smile at each of them, and they all looks right through me. Bit later, and old fart falls slowly over, and now he sees me. I just repay the respect from before. It is getting slightly cloudy, and the view have not really changed since I was here last. Back and install one more hammocks, and then some reading for me.
Jorge have prepared a Spanish Omelette for us: It is absolutely delightful! To repay his courtesy, I try some of the fried bananas I made in northern Ecuador some months ago. Up there, I could not get the right plantains, and here I have them. Unfortunately, my home made recipe don't work with plantains; bit embarrassing.
1. Marts. To day, we are cleaning the paths on the Mirador Hill, right next to the hacienda. It is becoming a arboretum with the local trees and bushes. The area is cleaned for invasive plants, and small, round areas are home for one little seedling with its own name sign. This will be part of the Conservation Project Galapagos new "school".
We work here all day, kindly interrupted by the usual long siesta. We work our way all the way to the top, and I can't help myselves: Every time I see an invasive plant, it is getting chopped down. It have not rained for two days, but just as we are about to stop, it starts gentle.
I share a taxi with Kristine, Jorge and Jose down Port. The other are going to the internet and shopping while I head for the office to make cuttings of the Talinum galapagensis that - as usual - are dyeing there. I'm pretty sure the soil are too dense, and the new cutting bed we made will be perfect, especially with some protecting from the rain.
I hear roomers of a new earth shake, this time in main Ecuador, but luckily, this one should only have been 5,5 on the Richter scale, and damages have been limited. I'm glad the group of volcanoes I'm staying at is calm right now. Excitement are good, but within limits! I visited a live volcano two months ago in Indonesia, that must be enough for now.
I head home alone to enjoy the loneliness and the calm by sitting on the porch picking coffee beans while the rain falls - and the tiny flies are heroic trying to drain my veins. Some are that fat; they can't fly away after a good meal; greedy little buggers. I only get a small red dot for a couple of hours, and it does not itch - on me. Some others have more severe reactions to them for days.
I experience a fantastic sunset; massive yellow, orange and red colours under a blue and green sky over Port. I can't help myself; I am looking forward for the dry season - just hoping it will be on time despite the El Nino year we are having. If I remember right, that is exactly what it won't!
I have done a bit of checking up on the Ochoa Beach/Playa Ochoa. It turns out it is a beach the snorkelers and divers use, when they visit Kicker Rock - by boat. The community have asked the Park Administration for permission to build a road, and the nice, new sign is just a political statement; not a actually indication of a road - yet.
Carlos, who was borne right around here, might know a path, but he have to take it, to find it. And he don't seem that keen on a 20 kilometre walk in the bushes. Not sure I do either, I doubt I will see any new plants nor animals before we reach the coastline, if then.
Kirsten returns from Isabela and Santa Cruz with a lot of good memories, even from the tsunami warning. She have seen some awesome things I just have to see too. Tortoises, turtles, Land Iguanas and much more.
2. It starts to rain heavily from midnight, and continues throughout the whole morning. The road is now a six meter wide river, the path to one of the toilets a lake and the green field behind the house are turned in to a patchwork between one meter deep rivers. I can hear a large river somewhere out back the house.
This rain is significantly worse than the one we experience the other day, and that was the worse they have had in Port for more than seventeen years. I hope they didn't get this one; if they did; the beach and roads are way out to sea now!
We stay put at the hacienda, picking coffee and relaxing. We were supposed to do the Tuesday water pipe digging, but no chance in this rain! Last Tuesday, we did a lot of pre-cleaning, and I guess it will have been grown over again, before we reach the end of that. No reason to do more at present time.
At one, there is a brake in the heavy rain, and I make a cross-country tour down to the river I can hear. Bit disappointing; it is only two meters wide, but all the fields/bushes I walked through was covered in ten to twenty centimetres of rainwater.
When I return, the others have started to re-direct the river that runs through the nursery. I have to admit; it is slightly annoying; it washed the black bags with seedlings away! I convince Carlos; it is better than it runs on the field than on the path we are using to the nursery. I fill the drench with draining rough lava.
Then we head down the road - mainly to see if it still is there, but also to find some fruits. The plums are good, and I find a large group of Galapagos tomatoes. They are only one centimetre, but taste nice. Further down the road, our neighbour offers us some cloned citrus plants in bags.
We head back and plant them along with some other fruit trees in our garden. The the rain returns, and we call it a day. I clean out after the cat under my bed - that little fur ball ought to keep out of my way, food, bed and lebensraum in general.
Geovanny and Paul turns up with our newest member of the family; McKenna from America. I'm still the only non-teenager, but I don't feel that old. While the rest drives down to Port, I stay put and do my best to scare her - I mean; get her familiar with the customs and surroundings. Turns out to be rather difficult. Not to inform her, but to scare her, I mean.
3. We start early, while the rain is still pouring down: A short walk down to the Angle family's farm. We clear a large area around the house while they watch form their windows. Here are a few new animals, among them a five centimetre millipede and a small mouse. We finish after four hours hard work.
The afternoon are passed by planting wild seedlings in plastic bags and sorting the previous planted. Unfortunately, way too many small plants have died. In some batches, it is almost all of them. It comes as no surprise to me; the soil that have been used would have been so much better for the production of clay pots.
While the others keep planting seedlings, I empty the massive bags and mix some way lighter soil for the future. Here are so much perfect, light lava, and I hope the soil I mix, will give 95% survival among the seedlings and especially the cuttings I'm going to make. They might need some watering in the dry period, but it is not like we lack helping hands around here!
We all share a taxi down Port, and after having tried four internet cafes, I know University of California wants to borrow some of my photos, an Indian project, pretty much alike the one I'm at now, would like to use me as consultant and I don't seem to have a change for uploading today.
I find some grocery and head home alone. I'm use to be alone, and it is nice form time to time. Do some sorting in my plant photos, finding a few more names and deleting some duplicates.
4. We start working on one of our hill sides. Here are a few Scalesia gordilloi trees that use to cover the entire hill. We clear the surrounding vegetation, and hope for seedlings, but at the same time, I make cuttings. These trees have gone almost extinct, but we have a great chance to multiply them here. Some of us are working in a area with mosquitoes, and these gives me a huge irritated area, but it only last for a couple of hours.
Some of the vegetation we cut down are native and even endemic plants, but they have been forced to grow way to thin for self support. I make sure to transform them into cuttings. At ten, we get visited by a group of American students. Geovanny tells about the project in general, and ask me to talk about the nursery part.
I start with the idea behind it: Replacing the invasive plants with native. The three ways we reproduces: Seeds, seedlings from the wild and latest; cuttings. Some about the soil: pH, air pockets and nutrition. Then I get to answer some more theoretically questions like: Can it be altered back, is it correctly that the conservation organisation say islands like San Cristobal can't be saved and what else can be done.
Then I wheels down some gravel for the nursery path and plant the cuttings I have made before. I have learnt in Denmark that they should dry for days, but we never done that in South Africa. I make some cuttings from our large Poison Apple tree too. I can be made by seedlings, but I recon we save a year by making them from cuttings. The sap is white and poison too - except if one are a Galapagos tortoise; it is one of their main food sources.
After lunch, we cut and paint some sticks for marking different paths in our area. Then we hammer some of them down along the Mirador Path. That finish off the working day, and the rest drives down Port. I don't need anything - except half my laundry, which apparently gone missing. I would have thought those women that did that all day have figured some system to avoid that, but no.
I am no longer that keen on the rain. If it haven't been a El Nino year, it would have rained once of twice a week. Now, we have had two days without in three weeks. That means our working cloth get soaked every day, and we have no chance drying it. It is muddy and develop a nasty personality over night. One month more, Geovanny say.
The good thing is; if you get fed up with it - in your spare time - it is only a four dollar taxi tour down to the Port, where it rains significantly less.
5. We start the day rather early with opening up small spots on the Mirador Hill. Then we dig a hole in them, and get a bunch of small trees from our nursery. It is a real flowerbed of purple, small flowers which unfortunately are invasive.
We hope the trees will reshape the hill eventually. Some trees have been planted here within the last year, and we add 70 more. It is a good mix of Poison Apple; Hippomane mancinella, Palo Santo; Bursera graveolens and Matazarno; Piscidia carthagenensis It is not raining, and I get real tanned on my arms.
We have a rather short lunch brake, and then a taxi brings us, Luis and our trash down Port. We passes the recycle station in the edge of town. It reminds me of a drive-through ZOO. Real nice nature, large trees and a machine in clearings from time to time.
After having delivered our rejects to the right places, we continues to a kindergarten that need a hand; machete-clearing their playground. We get it well cleaned, but it is a warm job. While the others take the machetes down to the office, Kirsten, Jorge and I go to the laundry. I try to explain to them; I would like to get the rest of my belongings, but even though she understand, she just draws on her shoulder. Not only have I paid 50 dollar for the cloths; I have paid for getting it washed!
Then Jorge head down to the internet and Kirsten and I go to my favourite smoothie bar. Two real large pineapple smoothies really hit the spot. Then we head out to Playa Mann to have a swim. A few sea lions are there along with a few locals.
The water is rather cold today, but the sun is strong. Just as we are ready to leave, an big manta - or devil ray start playing real near the beach. With a bit of patience, we get under two meters from it. I'm afraid I'm getting way too much sun, and we head back to Port.
We try to go shopping, but as usual, most shops are closed. Eventually, I find some T-shirts and Kirsten a sarong. The two other girls passes bye on the back of a taxi, but we fails to find them down town. I find a ATM and test its limits. A few loops around town pass the sea lions at the pier, and then we try one of the local restaurants.
A real tasty and big bawl of creamy soup, a fish dish with gravy and white rice and half a fried banana accompanied by a glass of fresh juice. All real tasty, but we have to pay five dollars - for both of us! While we sit there, Alex, the taxi driver, Geovanny and Paul, some of the students from yesterday, Carlos and few other known faces passes bye.
We get our laundry - well, most of it and a "new" T-shirt, it turns out, when we get home. We find the rest of the gang at the usual internet cafe. Jorge wants to try a lobster, and we leave him alone in Port. Back at the hacienda, the donkey and a horse are filling the night with strange sounds. After having compared sunburns, we head for bed.
6. I have loured the girls on a road trip while Jorge prefers to go for a walk by him selves. As no surprise Carlos and Jose tags along, and their friend Edgar joins in. It is raining here in the heights, and I'm squeezed in the back of the taxi with Mckenna, Kirstin and Kristine.
I've have to admit: I look like the fox in the henhouse on my own picture. We drive pass Lagoon El Junco; it is completely covered in clouds. We also passes the tortoise secretary; Galapaguera of Cerro Colorado, but this time; I will visit on the way back from the Playa Puerto Chino. Actually, I would do it on the way out, but I'm overruled.
While the others run ahead with surf boards and body board, I make a slow decent on the path. Here are still a few new plants and nice motives to be found. The large caterpillars are now huge! Right next to a little pool, 15-20 Sulphur Butterflies are sitting, sucking up minerals.
In-between two Opuntia stems, a Mockingbird have weaved their nest, but I finally tear my self out of the nature, and down to the perfect cove. It turns out we have it all to our self. I jump out to the others in the water, swim a bit and then catch some waves on both the surf- and the body board.
After a couple of hours, we find the shadow under a Poison Apple tree. Unfortunately we are not that alone: The fears horse flies are still here. While the rest gather strengths to take yet another dip, I get restless, and decides to walk to the Galapaguera.
I take it easy, photographing plants and animals on the way. When I finally get there, the gates are tied together. No problem; I got long legs. The visitor centre is completely vacant. Strange, but I came here to see giant tortoises, and they are right there; out between the bushes - somewhere.
It is kind of a pristine area (except from the rough path), hosting a vide variety of the native plants. There are even names and explanation on some. I almost forget to look for the giants, but I reach a feeding area where two large females and a male is resting. All tortoises here are the island's specific species: Geochelone chathamensis. It is one of the species with real high front.
I spent some time with them, crawling around them, waiting for the light being right, and their facial expression just right. The hard sun and the trees they prefers to rest under make it hard. Not leaving the path is real hard! One walk to the pool for a swim, and I get some great mirror pictures.
While I photo the giants, a Chatham Mockingbird hops around me. It can be loured by rattling with a dry leaf, and I get some great close-ups. I head on, on the 900 metres path, and the next giant I meet - is not that big. It is sleeping right next to the path. I get some great close-ups, and then it wakes-up, while I leave.
Strangely enough, these giants that have lived a life without predators are pretty easily scared. Sometimes, their safety distance is four metres, and they disappear in their shell with a hissing sound. I usually find it easy to get real close to frighten animals, but these are difficult.
Here, they are living in a paradise. Pools, plenty of food and a great kindergarten for their children. I reach it, and through the windows, I can see the incubator. Next to it, some cages hold different litters, which are real dark. I get back to the information centre, where our taxi driver, an armed guard and a caretaker have emerged. None speak English, and I decide to take another round.
The trio at the first pool are still there, and I get some more pictures. The sleeping one is still sleeping, but I discover one new in a mud pool. It is some off the path, but I got a real good zoom: It even goes around corners! A half sized is eating Poison Apples while a Lava Lizard is watching.
The rest turns up, and take a fast tour round the area. We head back to the crater lake; EL Junco, but I can only show Kristine and Mckenna a nice cloud, covering the bowl. Some strange sounds turns out to be Magnificent Frigate birds, bathing. The look giant, when they emerges from the fog, right in front of us.
Back at the hacienda, I have to admit; I have gotten sun enough - for a week or more. Much more pleased with the 426 photos, which after the first weeding are cut down to 324. After re-framing and further selection, it is only 150. Spent the evening sorting and tacking them, and suddenly; it is midnight!
I have seen the most on this island, but there are always something new - and other islands Part 4