Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snorkling, Surfing & Staying out of Jail

Hola!  You would love this wonderful place, and there is so much to explore. We visited la playa de Loberia which is close by and snorkeled yesterday afternoon after David had the morning surfing session with Rob (from the vessel, Freedom). His young beautiful wife went with us, and we swam with four huge turtles for about an hour. It was so awesome. The seals do own this place and are really fun to watch. They were all around us at the beach, especially the pups (about 10 of them), and they seemed to just ignore us as they rolled in the little shore waves, chased fish inside the rocks, and slept in between playtime. We saw a huge marine iguana on the trail leading to the beach; it blended so well with the lava rocks along the ocean, it was hard to spot him at first, even though he was HUGE!  Wish I had some pictures to share but I forgot the camera; Kelita will send me her photos, and I will pass them on to you.

We had dinner with Ed and Cornelia on A Cappella last night, catching up on lots of sea stories and enjoying their enthusiasm regardless of endless problems. This morning David, Rob, and I went out to the point and surfed. It was crystal clear and as we anchored Worm, a "flock" of beautiful orange-brown rays swam by, with a large manta beneath them. I caught about four waves and then I went snorkling and found another turtle to follow. David had some great rides on glassy, easy-going surf shared only with Rob for about two hours, and we feel renewed!

While David surfed at my insistence, I spent all yesterday morning with Bolivar trying to work out the problems with our extended visa. Luckily, Kelita, who speaks fluent Spanish, was by my side, helping to translate our needs and frustrations, and communicating thoroughly with Bolivar, our agent, and his wonderful wife, Grace, who did everything they could to plead our case. No one wanted to help us, so now we are renegades, and I quite like the challenge! Of course, at first I was very upset by the injustice, but now I am ready to fight if anyone wants to arrest us. It ends up that the stamp issued by the officials in Guayaquil gave us 30 days from the time it was issued, which was Feb. 27, instead of the extension beginning the day our visa would have expired, March 14. Why would anyone pay $60 pp for a 30 day visa extension which would expire two weeks after the original visa expiration date? I specified in a letter explaining in Spanish that we needed at least one month after March 14 in order to explore the Galapagos. Anyway, it appears that we arrived in the Galapagos without a legal visa and that if the authorities (policia) really cared, they could fine us $200 pp and send us out of the country. This government is absolutely nuts and, as renegades, I will not be allowed to come back to Ecuador without problems because we will not be able to get an official stamp leaving the country, but, OH WELL! Bolivar and Grace felt that if they pursued it further, they might truly get us into trouble, so we quit trying. We will be fine, because the Port Captain and other officials who checked us in do not care at all about our visa. We have paid big time for an autografo, giving us permission to anchor off of three islands, and we have national park entry cards, giving us the right to explore the phenomenal flora and fauna.

After enjoying a few more sights and surfing a few more days, we will leave for Isla Isabella, the most beautiful of the islands, and Sidewinder will stay there for the remainder of our time. Toward the end of our stay, we will take a ferry to the more developed Isla of Santa Cruz with Rob and Kelita, visit the Darwin Center, check out other sights, and reprovision with fresh food for our South Pacific adventure. There is much to do on Isabella, and we hope to stay there about two weeks. The port captain there will issue our international zarpe [clearance form] and send us on our way to the Marquesas. We have proactively done everything possible that we needed to do to be  legal visitors in this country, and I know that all will work out fine. It certainly made us aware that we should have double-checked what the officials issued to us. Not speaking the language is certainly a disadvantage! It has made me empathetic to immigrants who do not speak our language well, and I truly hope that there is much more possibility of justice in our own country. It is difficult to say, since we are not the targeted poor who must deal with this kind of shit. I certainly am grateful for what we do have, and I believe there are at least people who do stand up for justice and work very hard to uphold this basic human right! I will not miss this government, but I miss my Ecuadorian friends already.

This part of Ecuador, the Galapagos, is amazing, and we are so happy to be here on our wonderful Sidewinder. The seals play endlessly around the boat and everywhere else, and the water is so darn clear and refreshing, it is hard to stay out of it. We look forward to more days of fun in the sun, swimming, exploring, and being with the animals who don't seem to mind at all that you are in their territory, as long as you appreciate them. Getting so close to the wild ones gives me a sense of being just a tiny being in a vast world of living creatures, and this experience is definitely intensifying my appreciation for the miracle we call life. We will send wildlife pictures soon as we continue on. Love to all!

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