Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Galapagos, Exploring Floreana Part 2

The Galapagos, Exploring Floreana Part 2

The next morning we are up early (though not early enough to do calisthenics and stretching with Fernando). Darn. We see Claudio walking by with his big smile and a few dozen eggs and the other supplies for our breakfast. So now he is our chef. This guy can do anything. Fernando says he likes to race horses and had done competitive surfing. Our morning tour is going to include a visit to his farm.
Once more into the Chiva. There are a few of these Chivas around the island. But only a few. I think I saw 2 others. Not being operated.

All of the ground in the area around this little port town is lava rock. You can’t very easily dig into it. They must have had some heavy machinery to make the few roads, but once they were made, they are not going to degrade. What would degrade them? They are hard rock many feet deep and there are very few cars to drive on them. It doesn’t rain much and the water that does fall leaks through the rock and doesn’t appear to run on the surface much. We are also on the dry side of the island. Running along the side of the road that leads to our hotel is a plastic 6 inch pipe. Our water supply. It just runs along on the top of the rock. I think this explains why the cold shower water was so hot that day we arrived. The water was sitting in that pipe in the heat, probably all day, because there was no one in the cabins to use the water and get it flowing. It was never that hot again during our stay, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was actually cold.

The roads, and New Solar Electric street lights
Our Chiva ride today is a short one. In 10 or 15 minutes we pull up in front of another park sign telling us about a hike we can do up to the rim of a little volcano. There has been a lot of work done on this trail. A trail of wooden steps built to get the tourists up to the rim. It is about a forty minute walk up the steep trail to the top. There is a glorious view from the top and an even more glorious cold breeze blowing. From up there you can see the entire island laid out before you. Right below, and looking sort of west, is the rest of the volcano cone that we are standing on. Lots of green and trees down in the cone. Lots of estasia up here where we are. There are a number (ten to twenty) Frigate birds flying up over our heads. They are headed for that pond we saw yesterday. In fact, there is the pond, a couple of miles away across the valley before us.

I couldn't figure out why all of the Volcanos were named Zero Volcano.
Turns out that Cerro means "Hill"


Pablo tells us the story of the land. Floreana is one of the oldest islands. It was formed long ago and has been much weathered over the eons. It was once a single big volcano. That is what is now the entire central highlands, with that pond as the middle of the core. The core collapsed and formed a rocky stopper. The next eruption took the easy route and blew out the sides creating all of the little parasitic volcanos; the little cones that dot the island (including the one we are standing one). The central core sunk down and formed a place where the fresh water could pool, and so making the pond and the spring.

Looking across the collapsed old core. See all of the parasitic volcanos?

Frigate Bird. Female, Mature
Pretty Flower, White, Pink lines

Darwin Daisy (?)

Multi-Colored Lantana

This is looking over toward the uninhabited side of the island. Post Office Bay and the like. Note the many Dive Boats

After we hike back down we head out to a part of Claudio's farm. He shows us where he is growing a number of different varieties of banana and plantain. He talks a bit about the importance of doing low water farming. Funny to think of such a lush place as being spare of fresh water. He does things like clearing the old growth off of a banana plant and stack it around the remaining stocks to sequester the moisture. He also has several rain catch ponds that in the area. Plastic lined. We say many little single plant moisture catch basins. Little trash can lid size things that fit over a seedling and funnel water and dew from the area onto the plant until it is big enough to go on its own.

Claudio's Farm Hand road to work

One of the Papaya varieties

Claudio Explains things to us. In Spanish

I ask William a key Question

Man eating Monster. Stay back
In the same area, we see Papaya, Plantain, and a large field of Yucca. I thought the Yucca was just more jungle growth. But Claudio takes us out to it and shows us how it is harvested. Basically, you sit down on your manly thighs and you pull the little tree right out of the ground with your massive muscles. One bush gives like 5 or 6 tubers that look sort of like gigantic sweat potatoes. And you want to plant more Yucca? All you need is a piece of the stalk with a couple of branch buds on it. Plant that in the ground and wait a year and boom, more yucca. He says he plants at different times to have harvests throughout the year. Our guides offered to let us harvest our own Yucca, but we tourists were too concerned about showing Claudio up on his own farm, so we demurred.

Yucca, post-pull. All of that vegetation in the background is the yucca crop

Claudio (left) and Pablo explain Yucca-ness. Claudio has a Machete.
Now it is time for the Frigates. We go back to the pigs and the pond and….. wow. There are Frigate birds all over the place. Well, all over the sky. They don’t land. They especially don’t land in the water. They swoop around, see their chance, and then zip down and take a quick nip of the fresh water. Here is what we were told about Frigates, Frigatta in Espanol. What most people know is the big red pouch of the male Frigate. He pumps that thing up during mating season and uses it to impress the ladies. The biggest, reddest pouch wins the heart, don’t you know. Frigates are also a bit like cormorants in that they don’t have the oil gland that most water fowl have that lets them waterproof their feathers. It is important for Frigates to stay dry.  So they can’t do fishing by diving into the water. What do they do? Well, they have 3 main food gathering methods:

1) They skim small fish right off the surface of the sea. Not an easy thing and not their main meal.
2) In season, they eat immature Marine Iguana. Yum.
3) Their main meal, they follow other birds and harass them into dropping their fish, and then catch it in the air. For this they are called the Pirates of the Air.

You see? Pirates again.

Here is your Video:

The frigates have to come to the fresh water not only to drink, but also to get fresh water sprayed on them to wash the salt off their feathers that accumulates from their close calls with the ocean. If they don’t do that, the salt will accumulate and will get too heavy to fly. (I need to do some research on Frigates. I think they were named because the shape of their chests is reminiscent of a similar construct used to provide the sailing war vessel of the same name with it’s sailing qualities).

Wack Wack Wack Snack
Claudio now walks us across his lands and cuts some sugar cane for us. Damn he is good with a machete. Swap Swap, slice slice slice, here you go, sugar can sticks for everyone. We walk over where some pineapple are growing. We are near an old sheet metal covered shack and someone warns us of a wasp nest just overhead. Fernando laughs, walks over to the nest, raises his hand over his head, and smashes the nest and wasps and then smears his hand back and forth to make sure he gets everything. The way he does it you can just tell that this is an everyday thing for him. I am sure he and his brothers used to do it with their Dad when they were growing up on the island. He then takes us into a dwelling. Not sure what it was. His home? A place to serve tourists drinks? A resting place for workers? Inside on the wall are family pictures. Claudio, his brothers and sisters, His Mom and Dad. Stuff like that. We get him talking some more. And now the tale is more clear.

Claudio owns and runs the farm. He may own the water source, that is unclear. He probably owns the pirate caves and surrounding land. He definitely owns the Lava Lodge. He probably owns the kayaks and the Chiva and parts of other things. He is a big guy on the island. And he runs this tourist business that consists of renting out the lava lodge and providing eco-tours with quality experiences on the island. What an interesting guy. Did I mention he is always smiling?

There is another thing going on, there is another family on the island. They are also residents from way back. One of the first families on the island, from Germany. They own the other big hotel on the island and they have a murder mystery in their history. There is a film you can watch about that. The Galapagos Affair 

The general story is a fake baroness and her three lovers. A bath in the drinking water. A lot of bad blood. Some dead people. I will watch the movie and let you know.

There seems to be a lot of competition between the Cruzes and the Witmers. It seemed like there was not much love lost there. But once again, that may have been my poor Spanish filling in the gaps. I need to go watch that movie. Claudio is one of the stars, don’t you know.

We got to see the Widmer’s Hotel from the outside as we had our afternoon outing of snorkeling and kayaking on the black sand beach out in front of that hotel. My partner and I helped bring the boats over this time. A quick launch through the surf and a ten minute paddle over to the beach. A very nice black (mineral) sand beach. William took us snorkeling. I remembered that the smart way to get into the water on a sandy beach is to walk in carrying your flippers and put them on once you are floating beyond the breakers. We swam along the sea wall over to the area where we had first made landfall. Lot of fish in the water. More Turtles!! But we also saw some small sharks down with the fish and my partner was just thrilled to have an immature sea lion come over and buzz around her. It startled her at first, but she was quickly laughing and enjoying the visit. It was a really fun time. We went out again later by ourselves just to do more snorkeling and swimming. And it was deliciously cool.


Turtle !!

Sea Lion


Black Sand Beach From Water



Taking the boats back to the Lava Lodge

That night we had a barbecue. Once again, Claudio was our chef. We had calf from his farm along with many other grilled goodies. All in all a very wonderful day on this quirky little island. But now, we need to go pack. We get up VERY early in the morning to catch that same little speed boat to take us on the 2 hour run over to Isabella. Don’t forget to take your seasickness pills !!

Sunset from our Porch

Our Last Floreana Sunset

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