The Boat People

While I was as weak as a newborn kitten for the first few days after my illness, I soon made a full recovery and island life settled into its familiar routine.

Lucia is absent from school, which makes it all very peaceful.

The supply teacher, Jenny, doesn’t speak English and doesn’t seem to like teaching too much. As long as the children learn something she is happy.

She is very grateful for everything I do and also keen for us not to work too hard or too long, always giving me a wink when she lets the children go ten minutes early.

(She also rolled her eyes and said ‘Thank God it’s the weekend’ when we finished on Friday, my sort of person – shame she’s not here all the time)

Pippa and I still find lots of time to laze at the beach and, truthfully, I struggle to do much with my weekday afternoons beyond eating, reading and listening to music.

Half the time even going into the ocean is too much effort and Pippa complains about how slowly I walk around the island, probably because it’s more of a shuffle.

I try to tell her I walk too quickly at home – because, I’ve realised, I was constantly stressed and insanely tightly wound – but she doesn’t believe me.

Still, last night I started teaching English one-on-one to a man called Jesus, one of Pam’s pupils who doesn’t speak a word and needs some extra classes.

It’s going to be an uphill battle but I can’t complain, it’s not like I do much else. I’m going to teach him one evening a week which handily incorporates coffee.

We had a lovely weekend this weekend, although I seemed to spend most of Saturday hanging out in a salon run by a woman called Adrianne, who gossips. A lot.

She did my nails ready for tomorrow’s cruise but mostly it was just fun watching all the women, who are hilarious, coming and going and hearing all their news.

On Sunday we ventured up to the Aguas’ farm in the highlands and had a gorgeous lunch on a balcony overlooking the ocean with all their chickens, pigs and hens running around.

We just about summoned the energy to pick them some guavas too.

Tomorrow we’re away on a four day cruise around the other islands; Floreana, Isabela, Santa Cruz and Santa Fe, which will be brilliant. I can’t wait.

But first, a quick word about a strange group of island invaders.

Pippa and I keep meeting ‘Boat People’ and they are a funny breed, let me tell you.

They used to ask us if we were fellow ‘yachties’ but I think it’s obvious we’re not.

Being creatures of habit we always tend to hang around in the same café, Casa Blanca (they do a mean strawberry milkshake and sell chocolate cake by the slab)

But it’s also a firm favourite with the Boat People.

Let me explain.

When you meet a Boat Person the conversation goes like this:

“So how come you’re in Galapagos?”

“I’m sailing to Australia.”

“Oh, so you’ve come from the Caribbean?”

“That’s right,”

“Done the Panama canal?”

“That’s right,”

“And when you leave here you’re sailing to the Marquesas?”

“Er, yes, that’s right,”

“And that’s going to take you, what, four to seven weeks?”

“Er, yes, well, it depends …

“On the size and speed of your boat?”

“Wow, er, yes…

“Cool.”

Neither Pippa nor I had heard of the Marquesas – a cluster of islands in French Polynesia – before we came to Galapagos, but we’ve met so many Boat People now, we’re practically experts.

We know about satellite phones and GPS and shift patterns and how bloody annoying it is to be stuck for seven weeks in a three-man crew.

We know that when you’re out in the Pacific that long – staring at nothing but ocean – your mind starts playing tricks. We know you hear dogs barking and birds singing but any issues you have, well, the “boat sorts them out”.

We also know what fish you can catch, which vegetables will last you and the best way to keep fit on board (lots and lots of sit ups – preferably while listening to the Beatles)

Still, the Boat People are lovely and easily identifiable – they’re all deeply tanned and wearing brown deck shoes and cheeky slogan t-shirts, including my personal favourite: ‘BOATS… What The?!’ which I witnessed at Casa Blanca only yesterday.

Occasionally we strike gold with a Boat Person and our favourite so far was Steve the hairdresser, who was sailing from the UK to Australia with his Dad and loving every minute.

Bless, he cut the hair of everyone on San Cristobal during his stay.

We enjoyed a few cocktails with Steve but it’s still weird when you say goodbye to a Boat Person and know they won’t be seeing another soul for almost two months.

(I know one ‘Boat Family’ – parents and three kids aged seven to 13 from Canada – will be using this time to finish their home schooling. They’ve been sailing around the world for 18 months now. I’m amazed they’re still speaking)

Still, I am grateful to have been absorbed, albeit temporarily, into this brave and free-spirited little community.

I didn’t really know their world existed before but now I do, I’m mildly envious.

I’ve started to quite like the idea of being cast adrift on the ocean for two months.

Think how much reading, writing and general guilt-free lazing you could do.

Actually, that’s a very good point.

Anyone need a stowaway?

I’m very good at sit ups.

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