Sunday, October 19, 2014

San Cristobal - Kickers Rock and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Today we have an early start. I wake up as we are sailing toward Kicker’s Rock. This is a large rock spearing out of the water. From the south (our direction) it looks like a sleeping sea lion, hence its spanish name Leon Dormido.

Few people are up and ready for snorkeling at 6am. We go out on a panga with 7 people — Kevin and Andrea, Christy, Yang, Julianna, Annie, and me. The water is dark, and surprisingly, not as cold as I expected for an early morning swim. The rock goes down into the void and we cannot see the bottom. The vertical wall is covered with barnacles, small corals, and anemones and algae. There is are large schools of fish busy feeding in the water.

I see a shadow of turtle below, but after I turn around to signal that, I look and cannot find it again. False alarm? No. after few minutes two large turtles swim below us. 

Someone shouts shark, and I see a large gray shark, similar to the white tip shark but without these tips, swimming just below me. 

We snorkel into the a wide channel running through the rock. Here we can see a sandy bottom, maybe 8-10 meters deep (I can’t really say). Toward the end of channel Annie spots a pair of spotted eagle rays. They swim slowly, keeping their formation and ignoring us.  

We turn around the corner to return along the face of the smaller pinnacle. Once again the bottom disappears.

A sea lion passes next to us and stop to check what we are doing at this hour of the morning. 

We get back to the beginning of the channel. According to the plan we were support to end the snorkeling now. I was hesitating whether to suggest making another round, but then I see that the girls ahead of me already starting going through the channel. 

This time around, we exit the channel toward the bigger part of the rock. For a while there is not much to see.  I use the time to practice model photography.

When we turn the corner of the rock we encounter a current. It takes few determined kicks to get past the corner, and then the current weakens. The current brings fish, and we start to see more and more in the water. 

I see a shadow in the deep, and after glinting at it, it is clearly a shark. The shark circles below us, and diving down I manage to picture it just below me.

We now run into a huge school of fish. They are so thick that they look like a black cloud below us. 

Sadly, it is time to go, and the pangas collects us (by now more people joined the snorkeling) back to the ship.

After a quick breakfast it is time to finish packing all our staff. By the time I am done, we are back again in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the biggest town on the island and also the capital of the archipelago. 

The panga takes us to the pier. We will be going on a bus tour, while the crew transfer the luggage to the airport (for everyone but us). 

The interpretation center is on a hill just outside town. David sends us to go through it independently (some of the other groups visiting have their guide explain what they are seeing and add more). 

It is a relatively nice interpretation center that touches on the geology of the islands; natural history and unique wild life; the history of human exploration/exploitation of the islands. The last hall deals with the complexity of current day situation, the drive to get sustainable resources for the population and tourists while preserving the unique nature here.

Most of the facts explained here came up in the books I read during the trip. Nonetheless, I think this is a good presentation. Probably better at the beginning of a trip rather than at the end.

On the way back from the interpretation center there is a small beach. It is overrun with sea lions. We spend a bit of time here until our bus shows up.

Andrew and a sleepy sea lion

Few minute drive into the town, and the bus stops next to the pier. David ask Ilan and me to exit the bus. This is a rather sudden departure, we wave goodbye, and thats it.

On the pier our luggage waits. We take all of it to the hotel, which is just few meters away. Although it is early morning, our room is available. It is a huge room with colonial atmosphere.

I am in desperate need of laundry, and according to Lonely Planet there is a laundry place along one of the streets next to the church. I pick up my laundry bag and we go searching for the place. The town is relatively small, and we reach our target street and starting going toward the church. The streets seem deserted, and we suspect it might be since it is Sunday. We pass the church and do not find the laundry.

Tracing our steps back we return to the hotel. We use the internet to search for laundry in the town, and it sends us to another street. We get there and do not find anything. At this point, we give up and head back to the hotel. Two blocks away from the hotel, we see in a side street a big sign Lavanderia. For 1.5$ per Kg of laundry, they will be happy to provide service. They want us to return tomorrow, but with Ilan’s spanish we manage to convey that we need it today. The laundry lady tells us to return at 6pm.

Mission accomplished, we are now free to spend time on the town.  The Lonely Planet recommends a place for ceviche, again just around the corner. We come over and sit down, but are ignored. After few minutes we realize that they are closing for the day (its almost noon). We have some light snack in the next door cafe (nothing to write about).

We then spend some time walking along the promenade and photographing the abundant wildlife here. Few years ago the promenade was built out of sustainable materials and included a park for kids, benches for viewing the ocean, and terraces. The only problem is that the large sea lion population here finds all of these as very attractive.

"This bench seems nice!"


Sea side playground is off limits to humans

The town is literally sea-lion infested. I am not sure if this a  permanent state, or only when the sea lions raise their pups. 


Showing off the mustache

Aside from sea lions, we see many birds, sallys, and turtles. 

At the end of the promenade there is a beach which is the outlet of a small stream. 

This area seems to be a boat graveyard, with boats in different stages of decay. 

Between the boats are small groups of sea lions. The contrast is impressive.

On the nearby stretch of beach we get to see some sea lion actions. The dominant male is on his way to assert his authority.

After a rest back in the hotel, we return to catch the sunset. 

Just as we are about to walk away (to get to the Lavanderia at 6pm), we see a group of children playing in the water. A nice image to close the day with.

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