April 24th – Plaza Island to Santa Cruz Island
El dia ultima. Que lastima. Our last day of diving, and last day on the Aggressor II Albatross. The crew has been great, especially the panga (dinghy) drivers. They were always watching for us, always concerned with our welfare, and always quick to pick us up. They have been real life savers in rough seas with strong current.
Early dive today: 0700 at Gordon Rocks. They’re 3 naked, jagged stumps of rock upthrust from the ocean near Plaza Island. We dove between 2, explored pinnacles between them and then followed a sheer wall until time to ascend. Had to stay deep (70-80′) to avoid current and surge but was a very pleasant dive. Still no hammerheads! Dove early to beat the increase in current that occurs as the day progresses.
A visit to Plaza Island to see land iguanas followed the dive. Returning to the boat, Eloise’s buddy, Tom informed us that on the last trip here, the guys of the group set a precedent by mooning the group as they returned from Plaza, and this year it was the girl’s turn to do the honors. Not ones to let our responsibilities go wanting, Eloise and I determined that we would uphold the honor of the women of the group this year. We made sure to arrive back at the boat on the first panga, and readied ourselves on the upper deck of the Aggressor. As soon as the second panga came within hailing distance, we bared our rears in salute! Little did we expect to be immortalized on film, both still and video! We actually were both wearing thong swimming suits, but it was not possible to tell and I contend that we upheld tradition valiantly.
Last dive of the trip was with sea lions in 15-20 feet of water along the Plaza coast. We just dropped off the pangas and lay on the bottom briefly, and here they came! Sea lions have to be the most curious and playful creatures alive! They swam all around us, sometimes pulling our fins and snorkels. Sometimes they just hang upside down in the water, almost nose to nose with us and studying us with their great sorrowful eyes. Some delight in approaching on a collision course with us and just before swerving to avoid a head on, blowing bubbles in our mask!
Back to the boat for lunch and equipment cleaning, then to tour the Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island at Puerto Ayora. There we met some of the great, old, wizened giant Galapagos turtles.
About this time I noticed, as did others, that my neck and chest were burning. Last dive with the sea lions recalled no jellies in the water, but lots of hydroid. We decided that some one must have squished some hydroid and spread its toxin in the water! The burn lasted several hours.
After the Darwin Center, we walked to the center of town to await pick-up by the pangas. Mailed cards to Jon and to work. Bought a great silver cross for $10.00/30,000 sucres. Everyone is amazed by Evelyn’s shopping prowess. She makes me look miserly. She must have purchased 30 camasitas and has carried a big rain stick with her since Lima.
Back on the boat for packing and tonight will be our last on board. We were met by the crew in whites, making a very classy show! Also cocktails of rum, bananas, and coca. Mmmmm. Then slides taken during our trip by Jaime.
Back to town for dinner on our own. We ate at a little open air restaurant with gravel floors. All the locals were preoccupied with a televised soccer game between Ecuador and Peru who are bitter political arch-rivals.
There has always existed a great rivalry between the 2 countries because of Peru’s land acquisition proclivities along their shared border. Last years brief outbreak of armed hostility has heightened the soccer competition to a fever pitch. Ecuador won, 4-2, and with every Ecuadoran score or defensive success, the entire population of Puerto Ayoro rose to its feet and roared its approval. Every home had its television or radio in the front yard, surrounded by eager fans. Our group was a very small island of calm, and were content to receive a bare minimum of service during the game.
Back on the boat again, and early to bed. We will travel tonight to an morning anchorage at San Cristobal, where the airport is located and we will continue our adventure in mainland Ecuador.