Hanga Roa, Easter Island, 07.04.2008
PUERTO AYORA: Galàpagos. The name smells of adventure and natural-historical explorations. And the islands are truly unique, as is the fauna and flora. But in Galàpagos, overpopulation, mass tourism and the introduction of foreign species are causing the largest crisis the islands have faced in several million years.
Galàpagos – paradise lost
MOONSCAPE: The Galàpagos consists of more or less active volcanoes. Moving around in this bizarre landscape is like walking on the moon. Here you can see the view from the volcano "Chico" in the island of Isabela, the largest one in the archipelago.
We set sail from Balboa knowing that we weren’t going to encounter a single moment of wind on our passage towards the Galàpagos. So we chose to motor all the way. Others that have tried to sail, have spent from 22 to 40 days on the leg. We had neither time nor possibility to spend that amount of time, as we were scheduled to rendezvous with Runes parents in Easter Island, for, erhm, Easter holidays. And we still had more than 200 litres of diesel on board, that we had purchased as far back in time and space as Las Palmas. This diesel was going off from condensation and parasites, so the choice was easy. We spent exactly seven days to Galàpagos, and were most happy as we dropped anchor in Bahia del Academia in the island of St. Cruz.

Then we had to get through the red tape required to clear in. Almost 500 dollars later, and under orders not to move anywhere unless we had a certified guide at 100-200 dollars a day with us, we were finally ready to explore the islands for a few days. By then, we had received so many weird instructions from the port captain and the “agent” that he ordered us to use for clearing in, that we had almost thrown the towel in. Apparently, Ecuador has a warning- registration- and surveillance system for yachts intending to visit the country, so advanced that yachties don’t know about it, and the navy has no clue as to how to use it. Subsequently, they use civilian agents, making a fat pile of cash doing the job that the military was supposed to do. Marvellous.

FISHING PORT: Many of those migrating to the Galàpagos from Ecuador make their living as fishermen. This creates a conflict between these and the marine predators. Recently, 53 sealions were found hacked to death in one of the islands in the archipelago.

# The Galàpagos islands are situated approximately 1,000 kilometers west of Ecuador in South America. They form part of the territory of Ecuador. The archipelago consists of 13 islands and 34 rocks and skerries. The islands are volcanic, and some of the volcanoes are still active. The highest peak is the volcano Wolf, with some 1707 meters above sea level. The vegetation is sparse.

# The Galàpagos islands are situated straight below the Equator, and the climate is tropical. The hottest season is from January to April. Tourism is the main industry in the islands. Around 60,000 people visit the islands annually.

# Around 18,000 people reside permanently on the islands, most of them Ecuadorians. For many years, also Norwegians lived in the Galàpagos, but most of the immigrants are now dead or have left.

# The person that made the islands famous, was Charles Darwin He visited the archipelago with the ship “Beagle” in 1835, and later on he introduced his thesis about evolution, that was based largely on his studies of the fauna and flora in the Galàpagos. The archipelago is a national park today, and is listed on UNESCOs world heritage list.

# The currency in use is US dollar. VISA is widely accepted by restaurants, shops and businesses, and there are several ATMs available, in several of the largest islands. .

(Sources: World info Zone, CIA World fact book)

LITTLE RASCAL: The islands are literally crawling with reptiles and little animals, differing in size from a couple of inches to a few feet. This little nipper was very agile, but obviously used to being photographed. He posed willingly for the photographer, before disappearing again.
FROM OUTSIDE: The house seen from the yard.
DIMENSIONS: The sheer dimensions of the volcano Negro, 1,300 meters above sea level , are enoroums. The circumference of the crater is 10 kilometers, and it is a four-day horseback trek. The last eruption happened as recently as a couple of years ago.
SLUM: Outside the tourist area, just a few hundred meters up the road, there are no more cobbled streets oe alick buildings. Overpopulation is a big problem, and many of te immigrants from the mainland are unemployed and live in poverty, waiting for an opportunity to present itself in the tourist business.
IN NORWEGIAN:An old Norwegian saying of hospitality quoted.
STRANGE ANIMALS: The fauna in Galàpagos is truly unique. These to specimen have probably been introduced from outside, and will most likely be put to sleep by the local hunters in a short while, ust like goats and dogs have. Sad, but this is life. Unless somebody would like to adopt them? Send us an email, and we will coordinate!
NORWAY, NORWAY: Thorvaldo Kastdalen is third generation immigrant from Norway, and he speaks Norwegian fluently. He is very proud of his heritage, and has turned his childhood home into a museum. Thorvaldo runs a farm, a plantation and a hotel in St. Cruz, one of the islands.
Galàpagos consists of 13 volcanic islands and 34 skerries and rocks, and has a unique fauna and flora. The animals in Galàpagos have lived in segregation from the rest of the world, and from man, for millions of years. Hence, they are tame and have developed in other directions than their relatives elsewhere. We went snorkeling, mountain trekking on the volcano negro, one of the highest points in the islands, and wandered about where we were allowed to. The usually barren lava terrain is impressively green many places, and both trees and plants thrive in the sulphrous soil.

During the Norwegian colonization in the 1920s and 30s, many Norwegians emigrated to Galàpagos seekingtheir fortune. Not many of them are left in the islands today. But one of them is Thorvaldo Kastdalen. He speaks fluently Norwegian, and has made his grandfathers farm, the “Vista del Mar”, into a museum. It reminds us of the Norwegian folk museum back home. Thorvaldo was kind enough to give us a tour around the museum, and many Norwegian artifacts met us as we wandered through the buildings. Thorvaldo has visited Norway, but is the only Norwegian-Galàpagosian in St. Cruz that speaks Norwegian and feels a strong familiarity with Norway.

Unfortunately, sex tourism, prostitution, overpopulation and mass tourism have made the UNESCO and other organisations raise the alarm, fearing that this little paradise 1,000 kilometers out to sea may completely disappear in the course of the coming decades. Unemployed Ecuadorians flood the islands, and the population is now up to almost 20,000 people. This in islands that weren’t permanently populated at all. Many are still on the dole, and live in slums, hoping to wet their beaks in the lucrative tourist-industry. In addition, natural phenomena like El Nino have made some marine species start migrating away from the Galàpagos. In a bid to ameliorate the situation, Ecuador has introduced an environmental fee for all tourists coming to the islands. The problem is that only 25 per cent of this money goes towards environmental issues, the rest is being squandered by an incompetent bureaucracy.

As the Underveis was at anchor in St. Cruz, both the ARC around the world and Blue Water rally came passing by, and the lagoon was crammed with sailing boats in all sizes, from all around the world. We enjoyed ourselves during our visit in the islands, knowing that as a yachtsman, one is far more environmental in ones travels, than people traveling by, say, airplane. But, ironically, as things have come to pass in the Galàpagos over the last decades, the best you can do in order to contribute to the preservation of this natural jewel, is simply not to go here.

LIKE HOME: The ocean strikes the archipelago hard, and for us it is just like home. Both wind and ocean can be very fierce here.
NEW SPECIES: The Snorkel animal, first seen in Galàpagos. Shallow, crystal clear waters make for unique snorkeling experiences.
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