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San Cristobal and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno - Observations and Suggestions

By S/V Catamaran Bonobo — last modified Apr 07, 2015 12:32 PM
The following information could be useful to fellow sailors uncertain as to where to land in the Galapagos.

Published: 2015-04-02 23:00:00
Countries: Galapagos

This follows on from my earlier report posted on the same subject last month.

April 3, 2015

After spending 20 days on the spot, we do not regret our decision to stop here for a “one port only” stop.

“If” I had to do it again ... I would take an “autografo” for 5 ports to be able to visit Isabella, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Santiago with my own boat, as travel and hotels from island to island is expensive for two people and exceed by far the extra cost of 300 or 400 dollars one has to pay for the “autografo”.

Why did we not choose Isabella as our one-port stop?

There is NO ATM machine on Isabella and we were running out of cash and diesel.

All official expenses have to be paid in “cash” on the islands, paying with a Credit Card is not an option. Shops rarely take credit cards and they will add an extra % for using one - up to 14 %! Bring plenty of one-dollar and five-dollars bills to pay taxis and small purchases. They love the one-dollar coins here!

Shore Services in Puerto Moreno, Isla San Cristobal

 

  • 3 ATM machines with a maximum withdrawl amount of 600 dollars per 24h percard.
  • A large number of well furnished hardware (ferreteria) stores. I counted 5 large ones, where one find almost everything. Specific “recreational marine” equipment is not available, but all you need to fix a fishing trawler or cargo ship is available.
  • A few pharmacies-drugstores, hospitals, doctors, dentists, all the needed medical facilities for emergencies and most medical problems. The dive decompression chamber is on Santa Cruz!
  • Numerous laundry shops of all sizes, at least 10! Expect a 24h delay for your items. Excellent and professional service (they service the dozens of large live-aboard vessels). One to two dollars a kilo dried and nicely folded.
  • Countless restaurants and bars. We tried each day a different one and suggest the following:
  • For a traditional lunch called “Almuertoz” including a soup of the day, a main dish of chicken or fish with a drink (fruit juice limonade) count 5 dollars per person at “Rosita restaurant”; Nice place on Main Street where the guides take the tours and where the “higher officials”, naval officers, agents, etc ... go to lunch. You will be in international company.
  • R: Restaurant “La Sazon Esmeraldena” (Hole in the wall Close to “Panaderia Fragata”), where one has a more “local” feeling and eats at a common table with locals. The “Almuertoz” at Esmeraldena has a bit more consistence and authenticity to it and cost only 4 dollars per person.
  • For dinner, do not miss the evening meal at “Parrilladas San Jose” ! Open only in the evening, the grill and “plancha“ fish, seafood and meats are unforgettable and unbeatable pricewise! A Must while at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
  • On the waterfront, to the end of the walking-zone, on the left when looking to the sea, there is an excellent pizza place (Calypso Pizza) with in and outside seating where they serve good burgers to.
  • There are many, many other places, BBQ’s, chicken rotisseries, cheviche bars, etc ... Too much to mention and none are “bad”.
  • A fair amount of bakeries with excellent “European style” fresh on the spot, baked bread. We recommend the following:
  • “Panaderia Fragata” for their French baguette, bread and desserts.
  • And “”Panaderia y Pasteleria “Sabor Cuencano”” for their large number of flavoured breads, viennoiserie and fine “gourmet” desserts. Prices are 0,25 cents for bread. One to a couple dollars for the desserts.
  • Butchers: Fresh local meat and imported frozen meats. (Chicken, beef, pork) Try the local chicken on your BBQ ! Not comparable with the industrial type degenerated Monsanto beasts available in the US!! There are four butchers in the market area, two inside the market and two just on the opposite street. We strongly recommend “ Tercena Angelito “ across the street of the market. Angelito will serve you generous portions of meats; he will ground beef and cut your chicken in pieces. He can deep-freeze on request and will happily trade some chicken or give a good discount to your bill for good quality fishing gear! He looks for the colourful “calamari” type bait / lure... Butchers also sell the local fish / catch of the day!!! Prices are Two to Four dollars per pound.
  • Local market: Every day but the best day is on Saturday. Mostly local grown products with sometimes-imported fruits and veggies from Mainland Ecuador.
  • Supermarkets, Mini-Market’s and convenience stores: Plentiful all over town with a few larger ones, in the near vicinity of the market. A few shops are selling only drinks in larger quantities. Water can be bought in 4 and 5 litres bottles or large 20 litres bottles.  Potatoes are nearly impossible to buy, as they are not local. Alcohol, except (excellent) beer, is scarce and expensive.
  • Internet: Problematic but available. Do not hope to be able to download the latest motion picture! Multiple bars offer free (painfully slow) Wi-Fi to their customers. For a better connection, there are real Internet connection places with rental PC’s and possibility to plug in your own laptop to the wall for a ADSL-phone type plug connection. Expect to pay two dollars per hour. One can buy a 3G - 4G Data connection SIM cards for I-phone or latest model IPad air at the main CNT office (Ecuadorian national phone company) they sell special priced SIM cards for tourists. Ask your agent. We paid 28 dollars for a data SIM card and had enough to surf the Internet for the whole stay. This system will work better than any Internet place and will work on your vessel in the harbour ... (other providers, such as “Claro”, are used by too many people and do not work well! )

 

Activities and Excursions

Countless dive shops and offices will sell and organize excursions, two tank dives and snorkelling in the rest of the archipelago.

Visit the island: San Cristobal has one main road, brand-new and in excellent condition. One can take an organised tour with a bus to visit the island; we chose to take a taxi by the hour (10 dollars per hour) this can be arranged by your agent (or yourself if you speak enough Spanish). Agent Bolivar Pesantes organised this for us for 70 dollars for the two of us for 7 hours. It is cheaper and more “personalised” with a stop at an excellent restaurant in the “highlands”, visit the crater lake, a couple of beaches (the sea lions nursery), the turtle’s laboratory and research centre and much more. Don’t miss the nature walk to the Galapagos discovery centre and the 3 outlook towers. Snorkel with the sea lions at one of the beaches or the magical cove at the Darwin statue!!!

Getting Around

Taxis: Plenty of taxis in town; they are white pickups with a round sticker on the doors or yellow cars. 1 dollar for a one way from and to the market, or 10 dollars per hour and the driver will drive you where you need to go, advise you, he knows everything, and wait for you.

Water taxis: (launches) are from 07h in the morning to 22h at night. Call them on channel 14 (Water taxi, water taxi, parra velero “your vessel name” por favor ) Price is 1 dollar per person per ride.

Agents

We used Mr Bolivar Pesantes for our entry, but also have spoken to “ Pablo” who invited us to his house for a succulent lobster dinner. I can only recommend both of them! Bolivar might be better to obtain an “Autografo” in advance via E-mail and “smooth” out the visit of the authorities. “Pablo” should be used for arrivals without previous plans (one port stay). He will arrange short-term visits for emergency reasons with the harbour master. “Pablo” organizes “Lobster dinners” at his home. If invited (participation of 25 dollars for the costs) don’t miss out this opportunity to enter into an Ecuadorian family and taste his mother's cuisine!!! Pablo has a large collection of logbooks where every vessel (many hundreds since 1985) who visit his house and have dinner has to write his impression and glue a picture, business card or make a drawing - Impressive!!

The famous 72h of the international maritime law

This is an international law and regulation by the United Nations; every vessel has the right to ask for an emergency - safe haven, stop. It has to be granted if the problem is “real”. Even if, as in the Galapagos, and especially on Isabella, this “right” of safe haven is denied by a local overzealous bureaocrat ... It is up to the harbourmaster to decide the reality of the emergency and to evaluate the time he will allow.

We, during our stay here at Puerto Moreno in March 2015, have witnessed 3 situations where these “72 hours” were granted by the harbourmaster and naval authority. One vessel needed food and water and was granted free entry for 12 h. One vessel needed diesel and water and was given two days at no cost. One vessel, singlehanded skipper, needed urgent medical attention at the hospital and was granted the time needed for his recovery! All did have to take an agent (“Pablo”) to make the official request. It goes without saying, this cannot be an “excuse” to go touring and visiting without paying the entry fees! DO NOT try to use this strategy for a free entry; the Coastguard and other officials are not stupid and will not be fooled by a “fake” engine problem!, and trying to use such a scam could seriously enforce the actual rules and jeopardise the chance of safe haven for the people who really need it!

Safety and Cleanliness

San Cristobal is extremely safe, no theft, no vandalism, no tagging walls, no violence. We never locked the boat nor were afraid to leave a bag unattended at the market. Children play on the street; it is by far the cleanest place we have seen since the Azores!!!! People here are neither poor nor envious. They are just happy. Public bathrooms are exemplary! Officials, Navy personnel, Coast guards, police, are everywhere, not to control you, they just work and live here.

The only street bums are the sea lions, who squat on every public bench!

Prices

Food (cheap) costs the same for everyone. But, some prices are divided in to “Local” and “Tourist” rates by the government making some things more expensive for tourists than for local people.

Phone SIM cards and data cards are a different price for tourists and locals. Your CNT SIM card will say “TOURIST” on it.

Diesel is 3 times more expensive for visiting yachts than for the local fishermen. But still much cheaper than in the Caribbean or Polynesia!

The water taxi is 50 cents for the fishermen who return to their vessels and one dollar for you.

Just accept it. People on San Cristobal are exemplary friendly; they will go out of their way to help you. Unlike some who pretend, they are not only out for your money. BUT! Only a very, very few speak a small amount of English. YOU are the visitor, it is up to YOU to learn a minimum of Spanish and have a dictionary on hand. If you respect these people and let them see you make an effort to learn to know them, you will see, doors will open and change your world!

Marc & Nadine Verstraete van de Weyer
S/V Catamaran Bonobo

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