Saturday morning and Xavier was out for the count. He had been up at 5am to go to the weekly Saturday market to provision for the crossing next week, optimistically assuming the current lack of fuel crisis would somehow resolve itself. For our Atlantic crossing I had been the one to stock up on the fruit and vegetables, but back in Las Palmas that was simply a matter of going to the market, choosing the produce which then they would deliver to the pontoon. Here it was an exercise in all you could carry, so Xav went, and, overladen, lucked out catching a taxi to return to the dock. Francis wasn’t feeling great still, wiped out from the bug, so he chilled too, while I took the girls in for a trip to the Darwin Centre with RAFTKIN, SHAWNIGAN and BAJKE. I thought an educational trip may redeem Santa Cruz at least, which it did, and more besides.
The centre is a further 20 minute walk along from the end of the malecón and suddenly we were in a more natural environment. Catherine looked longingly at the scooters BAJKE kids Illian and Nile had brought along, but with so many kids (nine in total) there were plenty of distractions along the way. In fact, there were so much so that when we arrived at the centre itself, I wasn’t sure how much information the children would actually take in, because they were so excited to be together. I think they did. Isabelle quickly found that the blackberries, which make her beloved mora juice, are actually an alien species to the Galapagos and considered a pest as they grow so easily and out of control. As some of the kids had been told off by a passing park ranger for picking a few blackberries and eating them when we went for a walk round El Junco volcano (see chapter xxx) they now felt thoroughly vindicated! Darwin didn’t see anything underwater and there is so much to explore - I guess the price of a diving excursion even then was as prohibitive as it is now!
The children read together the blurb on each of the exhibits - not to onerous a task as the centre is small, a couple of rooms and a small movie room - and posed for photos in the (fake) empty shell, pretending to be tortoises. Outside in the cafe area there were postcard billboards for more photos - choose between the Beagle’s captain or Charles Darwin. When Catherine had a go in the latter, the effect was uncanny! Also there was a tower that gave a magnificent vista over the bay and pointed out various sights - we were amused to read that one of the things to spot are the “veleros” or cruisers anchoring in their private yachts, many of whom are on journeys sailing right round the world - hey kids, we are part of the Galapagos experience!
After that there were further educational stops on a wooden walkway, like the one in through the flamingo lagoon in Isabela, that led to a giant tortoise sanctuary. As the kids raced through, RAFTKIN’s Tracy and I barely had time to register about the projects sponsored by the centre, and the mission of one of the scientists to rescue from nests and incubate vulnerable sparrow eggs. Not exactly in keeping with Darwin’s survival of the fittest, observed Tracy, but maybe his evolutionary theory was not necessarily meant to dictate conservation efforts going forward.
Watching a large male tortoise climb on top of a female tortoise and start humping her with a number of large grunts was an education in itself for the kids. The female in San Cristobal had scarpered, this time we could see clearly why a female’s shell may well crack in the process. And on that note, we headed home.