Altitude sickness


Oh my…what is that…I can actually taste genuine Galapagos dirt in my mouth. One third crushed magma, two thirds fine dust and sand. It’s about a two kilometer hot dusty hike into Puerto Villamil from the dinghy dock and every time a taxi truck, motor-scooter, or even a bicycle passes a cloud of Galapagos’s finest billows up into our lungs as we shamble our way into town. There’s no avoiding it. As far as I’ve seen there’s only one paved road in all of Isabela. Every business we stumble past on the uneven dirt road sells jugos (juices), soda, a fine product called Pilsener, pinguinos (ice cream), and tours of the Island. They may call themselves a bar, or dive shop, or restaurant but they all pretty much sell the same stuff. Most have a Zona Wifi sign tacked up somewhere but truth in advertising is not a Galapagos strong suit. There’s not much “fi” in the “Wi” so getting these posts to you are a major accomplishment.

Lately we’ve been hanging at Rosada, the pink bar, all the way at the end of town which is filled with backpackers playing beach volleyball and doing tricks on a balance strap, and sometimes there’s even a bonfire and music. We’re told that the whole Island’s internet comes and goes, so don’t blame them. Dos mas cervesas, por favor.

We’d heard about a thing called the Wall of Tears so we grabbed a taxi which is actually a pickup truck, but first this requires running the gauntlet of sleeping sea lions and marine iguanas lying about the pier sunning themselves.


Luckily we found a taxi out front just pulling up and we piled in. It was great to get out of town with friends from Tehani-Li on a road that circled around the bay just off the beach. Apparently Equadoran prisoners were sent to Isabela and forced to lift one hundred-something pound basalt blocks and fit them onto the wall until they could no longer do it; what happened next you don’t want to know. The practice lasted for just ten years and served no purpose other than punishment. You don’t want to mess with these folks.

Someone had the bright idea that it might be fun to walk all the way home because we could visit some interesting sights along the way. We sailors can’t resist climbing things. When your life is spent at sea level anything that gains a little altitude with a view is fine by us.




Let’s just say that it was a long hot walk but happily, as we entered town, we knew that the pink Rosada bar with intramural beach volleyball would be just getting into full swing. Dos cervesas, por favor.


Later that night as we were having a restorative nightcap on Escape Velocity the stars were out in an amazing profusion. From out of the darkness, but close abeam, we heard a whispered,”my friend! my friend!” We turned on a cockpit light and revealed two guys in a yellow panga not six feet off EV with two twenty gallon blue plastic tanks. I never heard a thing. It seems they’d heard that the catamaran out in the anchorage needed forty gallons of diesel and here it is. Why yes, we could use a little fuel, we’d been denied fuel due to Galapagos’s end of month fuel shortage, better known as hoarding. It turns out that there are three kinds of fuel in the Galapagos; If you’re a native you can buy government subsidized fuel for one dollar something per US gallon. A yacht in transit, possessing a skipper with the patience of Job can apply for a one day permission slip from the Capitan de Puerto for fuel in the range of four dollars something per US gallon, and probably get laughed out of the office like I did. Or you can hire an agent and beg for six dollar per US gallon on the boat. Ok…there are four types of fuel in the Galapagos. You could casually mention to a random taxi driver that you’d like a little fuel for your catamaran. Five dollars per US gallon but you’ll end up doing the transaction in the dark…in Spanish…in cash.


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One Response to Altitude sickness

  1. Love this! Proving there’s more than one way to, well, you know! Miss you!

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