Pacific Ocean Passage Days 9, 10, 11&12

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 5,6,7 & 8

Day 9

May 6, 2016 –S06 26’28’’ W 105 43’06’’ Dist to Dest 1974 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 12-14kts, few clouds, air temp 27 C

One third of the way!

We are now time-traveling, going back in the past.

2012 nautical miles to destination- the year we left Canada and started this journey around the world.
2003 NM to destination- the year Maya was born. It was a rainy afternoon and she came out all purple and hairy- the most beautiful thing!
2001 NM to destination – terrorist attacks in USA.
2000 NM to destination – the year we left Bulgaria.
1997 NM to destination – the year Vik was born. Our son. We miss him so much…
1994 NM to destination – the year Ivo and I met.
1989 NM to destination – the year Bulgaria stopped being communist.
1976 NM to destination – the year Ivo and I were born.
1944 NM to destination – Second World War

We will keep counting nautical miles through, the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, the middle ages, the foundation of Bulgaria, all the way back to the beginning of time- our destination.

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Ivo is trying to hoist the spinnaker. We got it second hand from a loft of a marine shop in Martinique two years ago for 150 Euro. We tried to bargain down the price- it’s a second hand undersized spinnaker. A new spinnaker can cost a few thousand dollars and the guy at the loft knows that. He is laughing at our bargaining attempts. We won’t ever find a better price for a spinnaker. So we bought it.

It’s the second time Ivo is trying to hoist the spinnaker, which is very particular and can only be used in specific weather conditions: when the wind is behind you and is not too strong. In such conditions, it’s hard, sometimes even impossible to use the jib and mainsail. So that’s when you need the spinnaker. The spinnaker is made of very fine light material, it’s big and colorful (ours is yellow and blue and has one 15×20 cm patch), and looks like a parachute – catching a lot of wind. If the wind shifts from the side, the spinnaker will collapse, as it can only be filled from behind. If the wind is too strong- the spinnaker will explode, or burst and tear, as it is made of very thin fabric and cannot take a hard blow. But in light winds from behind, which are the prevailing trades in the Pacific when sailing west, the spinnaker is the ideal sail, especially for a catamaran.

Ivo has to figure out how to hoist it. The thing is in a sleeve and has to be pulled all the way up to the top of the mast, and two ropes are spreading it on the sides. It’s a three-people job. One pulling up, the other two cranking the side winches. But the whole operation is a big epic fail. The ropes are all messed up, the thing is twisting at the top inside the sleeve and will not open, Ivo is bitching, trying to blame Maya and me for everything. No one ever showed him how to hoist a spinnaker, so he has to figure it out by himself and this will take some time. So no spinnaker. Gloom.

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Day 10

May 7, 2016 –S 06 49’12’’ W108 00’ 40’’ Dist to Dest 1835 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 27 C

The wind is picking up a bit. We tried the spinnaker again. It took us half an hour to finally hoist it with lots of drama again. We are screaming at each other, accusing each other, offending each other not even caring if the neighbors will hear us. I truly hate this fucking sail. I am planning to secretly cut it in shreds with the scissors.

We lost another lure. No sushi on the menu for the first time since days. We celebrate this event with baked potatoes and sausages with Galapagos beers. Chocolate muffins and orange sunset for dessert.

Ivo and I are sitting on the trampoline staring at the western horizon and laughing at how much we hated each other a few minutes ago. Maya thinks we are crazy.

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Day 11

May 8, 2016 –S 07 06’ 56’’ W110 24’ 37’’, Dist to Dest 1691 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 27 C

Smooth sailing and another calm night. I slept all night in our cabin, while Ivo slept all night in the cockpit, checking the electronics and sails every now and then. He has moved out in the cockpit since the start of this passage and has furnished the long bench with pillows and blankets – made a cozy bunk for himself.

To imagine sailing at night- imagine driving a car (a convertible; slowly and on cruise control) in a vast, uneven, bumpy field, in complete silence and in complete darkness, with no headlights or any other lights. And the field is soft, reflecting the stars, smelling of seaweed.

In the afternoon we pull out a beautiful mahi-mahi or dorado or dolphin- all names used for the same golden-green-and-blue slender fish of white juicy flesh- our favorite. Maya, who didn’t like fish at all, is now eating grilled tuna and breaded dorado and loving it!

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Day 12

May 9, 2016 – S 07 27’ 37’’ W 113 00’ 20’’ Dist to Dest 1535 NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20kts, clear, air temp 26 C

Approaching the middle.

Maya is preparing a message in a bottle in the four languages she knows: English, French, Spanish and Bulgarian. The message is to be released in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and to be found on the shores of any English, French, Spanish or Bulgarian-speaking country. The release is scheduled for when we reach 1500 NM to destination, which is not at all the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but rather- the middle of the passage between Galapagos and Marquesas. Actually, when we reach the Marquesas we will be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a few more thousand nautical miles to go before we actually cross it. But for us, 1500 NM to destination represents The Middle right now and the message in a bottle will then be released, as it is the custom. Considering that oceanic currents pick up trash and debris from the east coast of Asia and west coast of the Americas to bring them in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean where they swirl eternally in a big garbage gyre, there is less chance our message in a bottle to ever reach any shore and more chance our message in a bottle to get stuck in a big garbage patch. There, in the huge vortex of trash- as big as a continent- swirling and swirling among fishing nets, Coca-Cola bottles, left flip-flops, milk crates, kids’ toys, and old fridges are probably millions upon millions of messages in bottles- a whole library of friendly notes and desperate calls for help- stuck forever, swirling and swirling, round and round, bumping into each other, never to be found, never to be read. I will name this gyre of millions of messages in bottles: The Pacific Ocean Message-in-a-Bottle Vortex.

We watch Werner Herzog’s Encounter’s at The End of The World. It’s an awesome surreal documentary about Antarctica- very intimate interviews with people who are stationed on the frozen continent for months to do all sorts of works- scientific and maintenance. Herzog is our favorite film director and we’ve seen most of his films- documentaries and fiction. He even has a film named Fata Morgana. We are also reading a great National Geographic-type of book about Antarctica, and now Maya is dreaming of going there some day. Maybe not with Fata Morgana. But Antarctica is definitely on Maya’s Bucket List.

It’s fascinating what kind of dreams people have, especially people who are living their dreams, like people sailing around the world for example. You would think that such people- those who have visited tropical islands, have tasted exotic coconut crabs, have met indigenous people and entered caves with them, who have observed anteaters in the jungles of Costa Rica- are all set and there is nothing more they would want from this life. But this is not the case. Such people- those who have traveled across Africa by train, those who have crossed Mexico by bicycles, those who have awoken in a rice field in India surrounded by hundreds of people squatting silently around their tent- have plans and dreams just like regular folks.

Our friend Rainheart for example, who has toured Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia on a motorbike (kids in Sofia stole his motorbike, so he has rather bad memories from Bulgaria) and is currently sailing around the world on a 40-foot catamaran S/V Runaway (that’s how we met him in Galapagos) is dreaming of –planning to – visit the moon. ASAP. This might sound insane to you but so are most of the things and places Rainharth has already done and visited! Just wait and watch! Watch towards the moon, and one of these days you might see a big smile shining down on you.
Dreams must be flamboyant.

We had to drink wine in order to have a bottle for the message.

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DAY 13
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage- Days 5, 6, 7 & 8

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Pacific Ocean Passage Day 1
Pacific Ocean Passage Day 2, 3 & 4

DAY 5

May 2, 2016 –S 04 29’24” W095 55’23’’ – Dist to Dest 2572NM, GPS heading 245, wind ESE 10-16 kts, clouds, air temp 26C

The wind is picking up and we are making better progress with 6kts speed, the jib and mainsail on a broad reach. We headed more south the first couple of days and now we are sailing west. The seawater temperature is rising. The nights no longer cool and humid.

We had a few hours of stronger winds- over 20 kts doing 7-8 kts speed with bumpy sea. During that faster sail we hooked a heavy fish. Panic on board. Ivo holding the fishing pole and fighting with the beast; Maya and I handling sails and boat. We furl the jib and drop the main, as the fish is about to take all the line soon, so we have to really stop the boat, even follow the fish if we can. All that work and stress for nothing. Fish got away together with the lure. It was a good lure. Probably it was a good fish too. Wind dropped to 14kts.

We are receiving messages via the IridiumGo Satellite- a few friends are sending us the weather forecast: Krisha a Bulgarian friend living on a boat in Australia, Mel a friend we met in the Caribbean who is now also in Australia and another friend- Boyko, who we’ve only met via Facebook. The weather forecast looks good. Mel is somehow tracking us using the MarineTraffic website and knows exactly where we are, even though we cannot reply to any of his messages and cannot send exact position or let anyone know how we are doing. Bummer.

The booby is gone. He slept on the solar panels, made a big mess pooping all over the place and left in the morning. We are sad that he left us so soon.

On the AIS we detect a ship heading northwest, about 8 NM away from us- too far to actually see it. It’s a big containership Hanjin Isabel. The AIS gives us information about the ship’s name, position, dimensions, GPS heading and destination, speed and time to nearest approach. We also have an alarm that sounds if the AIS detects any vessel within 2-mile radius- very useful at night. We contact them on the VHF radio and ask them if they can send an e-mail to our friends Mel and Krisha. The officer on the radio has a funny accent and is really polite. He says, most of the ship’s crew are from the Philippines, that they are heading to Singapore and will be back home in a couple of months. And no problem, he will send our message. I spell our friend’s e-mails and a couple of lines: “We are receiving your sat messages, but cannot reply. Keep sending weather up-dates.”

In the afternoon, our booby is back on board! We are happy.

The night is calm.

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DAY 6

May 3, 2016 – S05 11’10’’ W098 13’35’’ Dist to Dest 2428NM, GPS heading 255, wind ESE 14-18, few clouds, air temp 26 C

Last night we celebrated one sixed of the way. We have divided the distance in small portions. First, we have rounded the total to 3000 nautical miles and then divided it in 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 equal parts. 2500NM left is a sixed of the way. 2400NM is a fifth of the way. 2250NM is a quarter of the way. 2000NM is a third of the way and 1500 is half. Counting nautical miles while crossing the Pacific Ocean is like counting the days in jail, I suppose.

It’s a nice calm perfect sailing all day, 1 meter waves, smooth, 5-6 kts speed. Sunny. Good progress finally! Also – fish finally! A small tuna. Sushi for lunch.

We got messages from Mel and Krisha. They got our news from MV Hanjin Isabel. Weather forecast looks fine.

Maya is reading a book in Bulgarian. She did an excellent job in geometry today too.

I have discovered about 30 packets of Betty Crocker cake mix deep in our stores- four different flavors: chocolate, vanilla, lemon and strawberry. We must have them since two years at least. They are all expired and smell of mildew- some more than others. But we are determined to eat as many as possible. Now I make muffins sometimes twice a day. The chocolate and vanilla ones are pretty good, only slightly smelling of mildew. The lemon ones are worse but I mix in large pieces of chocolate for better results. Maya eats them holding her nose. The trick is not to smell them. Taste is OK. The strawberry ones are beyond the beyonds, completely uneatable. I guess the strawberry mix has more moisture in it and has created better conditions for mold. Good thing we only have 3 of these. So we disperse the pink powder stinking of mildewed strawberries in the sea. The inner plastic packets from the cake mix we keep with the rest of the garbage in a big black garbage bag which we store next to the water tanks, and the outer packets made of recycled cardboard we tear in 2-inch pieces and throw overboard. There is not enough space on board to accumulate all the garbage we produce for a month. Any paper, glass or metal packaging and containers can go overboard and will eventually biodegrade on the bottom of the ocean, except plastic. So anything organic, paper, glass bottles and tins we send to the bottom of the sea legally and with clear conscience, doing our best not to pollute. But sadly, the ocean is already full with plastic due to improper waste disposal and waste management. Even though our path is not crossing the pacific garbage patch or trash vortex, we often see fishing buoys, plastic bottles and jerry cans floating on the current. Trash and manufacturing products, including plastics are being dumped illegally in great quantities on land at marinas, ports, rivers, harbors, docks, and storm drains, or generated at sea from fishing boats, platforms and cargo ships. The trash floats on the sea surface to create high concentrations of marine debris accumulating in regions governed by ocean currents. Today there are five distinctive oceanic gyres- the largest one being the North Pacific Gyre.

Another calm and uneventful night. We move the watch one hour.

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DAY 7

May 4 2016, S 05 36’ 45’’ W 100 37’ 56’’, Dist to Dest 2282NM, GPS heading 260, wind ESE 16-20, sunny, air temp 27 C

It’s getting much hotter.

I am having lots of dreams at night.

In the morning, we found a few small squids and flying fishes on the trampoline, all dried up.

Ivo managed to hook and pull out a big tuna. No screaming this time. I made lots of sushi. Our booby bird is eating all the fish guts and skin directly from Maya’s hands. He is still with us, feeling confident, walking around the boat, leaving to fish and coming back after a few hours, and if we let him he will enter inside the boat. He is now acting rather cheeky.

The wind is getting stronger 20-24 kts, we are doing 7-8 kts with big waves. I wish the wind and waves drop down again.

Quarter of the way.

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DAY 8

May 5, 2016 –S 06 04’ 59’’ W 103 14’ 42’’, Dist to Dest 2123, GPS heading 260, wind SE 16-20, air temp 25 C

Choppy bumpy seas all night and morning.

Calm day with less wind.

I make bread in the morning and muffins in the afternoon. The boat smells like bakery, leaving a sweet, slightly mildew trail behind, and surely those following us will be wondering where this vanilla-chocolate smell is coming from in the middle of the ocean. We know there are other boats sailing west, so there must be someone not too far. The radar and AIS can detect boats up to 20-30 NM away, but there may be someone 40 or 60NM behind us. At this time of the year, from May to August, lots of sailboats are doing the passage west. Probably at least 20 boats are crossing the Pacific at the same time as us. But this ocean is so vast, the distances are so great and sailboats are so small and so slow, that even those who leave together get separated by the difference in speed after 1-2 days. Many cruisers keep in touch via SSB radio and now we have the affordable IridiumGo Satellite option to chat between boats. We don’t have an SSB radio and our IridiumGo is not sending messages, so our communication with land and other boats is restricted to receiving messages only. Ivo cannot figure out the problem. We feel pretty isolated and alone.

Our booby-bird is gone. We imagined he will sail with us the whole way. But he didn’t. Hope he will be OK and find another boat, as he is now too far away from land. We miss him.

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DAY 9
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage -Days 2, 3&4

Pacific Ocean Passage

Day 1

Cerro Azul

Cerro Azul

DAY 2

April 29, 2016 – S01 28’49’’ W091 25’ 40’’ Dist to Dest 2887NM, wind 6-8kts, clear sky, air temp 25C.

In the morning we can still see Cerro Azul behind us. The wind is too light and we are barely moving. All night we have been drifting with 1-2 knots. Sails are flapping. We furl the jib and leave only the mainsail up. Our progress is about 50 NM for 24 hours.

The sea is calm. A few booby birds are flying low looking for fish and one gentle storm petrel- the soul of a drowned sailor doomed to spend eternity flying over the sea – is fluttering on the water surface around the boat. These tiniest of seabirds have the elegance of flamenco dancers on water and I can spend hours watching them, their skinny legs barely touching the surface, skimming the sea for tiny planktons. It’s nice to see a living creature near us.

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DAY 3

April 30, 2016 – S02 44’ 06’’ W092 29’ 06’’ Dist to Dest 2811 NM, wind 1-2 kts, few clouds, air temp 27C.

Our speed is 1-2 kts, sails are flapping. We barely move. We had better progress last night with 4-5 kts and a bit more wind behind us. We are tired from flapping sails.

We have received a message on the satellite from our friend Scot on S/V Beach House. He is only 2 degrees south of us some 150 NM ahead and is sailing with 8 kts! We can’t answer back. Something is wrong with our IridiumGo and we cannot send any messages but at least we can receive messages and can download the weather forecast. No idea what is going on. This is strange. Ivo is trying to find out what the problem is and how to fix it.

I spotted a giant mantaray following the boat. At first I thought it was a shark- a big triangle fin sticking out of the water- but then I saw the whole creature- big and square as a table!

We are getting used to our new routine, which by the way is not much different from our routine when at anchor. Preparing breakfast, then school with Maya- she is doing one math test every day from the end of her math book- 23 more tests to go. We play cards, make food, sleep, talk, watch films in the evening with dinner. At night Ivo and I give 2-3 hour shifts, but mostly we sleep and check the electronics and chart plotter every now and then to see if something has changed or if there is another boat nearby. There are o other boats. We are alone.

Pacific Ocean Sunset

Pacific Ocean Sunset

DAY 4

May 1, 2016 –S03 29’08’’ W093 33’41’’ Dist to Dest 2738NM, ind 8-12 kts, few clouds, air temp 25C.

A booby bird landed on board! We are extremely happy to have a visitor. He is as big as a chicken but more slender and aerodynamic, grey, with duck feet and ugly face, mostly because of his bill- thick at the base, wide and long, getting thinner and pointy at the end like a grey carrot. A curious funny expression.

There are many species of boobies. There are blue-footed boobies, which have baby-blue feet as if they have stepped in a bucket of baby-blue paint, with snow-white bellies, brown wings and yellow eyes. There are red-footed boobies with bright red feet as if they have stepped in a bucket of bright red paint- with darker bodies (the brown version) or white bodies (the white version), their red feet contrasting marvelously with their blue bills and colorful faces- strikingly beautiful birds. Our friend Scot from S/V Beach House wrote that he has a red-footed booby resting on his deck since couple of days. Ours is neither blue-footed nor red-footed, but rather a colorless-footed, somber, uglier version of a more boring brown booby or some other uninteresting discolored kind of the same species. We like him all the same, even more, for being so ugly and in need of company and a place to rest. When a seabird finds you in the middle of the ocean and lands on your boat it’s a privilege. It kind of feels safer with a bird on board- because the bird thinks it’s safe and trusts the boat. It also feels like you are helping a fellow traveler – someone who needs a place to rest- an oasis in a vast blue desert of nothing but sea.

Our Booby-bird

Our Booby-bird

A whale passed directly under the boat. Another one took a slow breath in the distance. Wow! Seeing whales so close to the boat is a miracle and we are blessed to witness it. It’s also a bit scary- the story of Moby Dick always at the back of your mind.

Then we saw them. A small red one-person helicopter buzzing like an insect low above the sea- a spotter, and four speed boats racing under it. Further- a floating city- a big fishing boat with tall cranes reaching high up in the air- cranes capable of lifting heavy catch. They have no AIS. They don’t answer our VHF radio calls. We realize they are after the whales, hunting them in international waters, most probably illegally, unless there are tunas at the same time at the same place. The whales that we have just seen are probably fugitives from a horrible, illegal hunt. This is so sad. Our excitement and joy are drowned in painful mournful sadness. Damn you, whale-eating monsters!

Whale

Whale

DAY 5
To be continued…

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Pacific Ocean Passage – Day 1

Pacific Ocean Passage

Day 1

April 28, 2016. Position S 00 57’53” W 090 57’45” Isabela Island, Galapagos. Wind 5-8, swell 0, sunny, air temp 25C, distance to destination 2923NM.

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We are lifting anchor on sail, without engines. Mainsail up, bring the anchor, drift backwards to open the wind angle, open the jib, sail away. Pretty simple if there is enough space and enough wind. But the spot is tight, we are between many other anchored boats, and there is a shallow sandy patch not too far ahead. And no wind. The main is up and Ivo starts bringing in the anchor chain. Anchor out. No wind. We start drifting and the current is pushing us sideways towards the catamaran to our port S/V Free Spirit. I am freaking out, preparing a fender. The guy from Free Spirit is out looking at us puzzled, asking if our engines are broken as we pass by silently less than a meter away. I don’t know what to answer. The engines work fine, this is just Ivo’s stupid principle not to use them, including when dropping and lifting anchor. For me, these are the scariest moments of our life at sea, besides storms. I wish we are like normal people, motoring in and out of crowded anchorages and bays. I don’t think the risk is worth it. Ivo doesn’t think there is a risk…

Jib out. We are now picking up a bit of speed with very light wind and are heading directly for the shallow sand. S/V Free Spirit is now safely behind us, but I can still hear her skipper shouting in our direction: “It’s shallow there, you will run aground!” I am beyond freaked out, expecting the boat to bump on the bottom and get stuck any second now. We tack, just as I am about to faint, and we sail away from the dangerous shallows, passing too close in front of another boat, and then clear away, heading for the bay’s entrance and out to open sea.

The wind arrow on top of the mast is missing, after a frigate bird landed on it and broke it. Maybe the frigate bird chopped it off and stole it; maybe it flew away caring our wind arrow in its claws to his nest in the mangroves. In any case, Ivo couldn’t find it, even though he spent the whole afternoon the day before diving around the boat looking for it. Damn frigate bird! Hope he uses it as a Japanese sward to perform hara-kiri. This means we will be crossing the ocean without wind angle and direction indicator. We’ll have to rely on the good old ways- tying tale-tales (small light threads) on a few visible places on the shrouds. They will show us where the wind is coming from.

Frigate Bird

Frigate Bird

Thus, stressed, we begin the long journey across the biggest of oceans- the Pacific. We have been planning and preparing for this passage and we have been worrying (especially me) for many months now. We have been stocking up provisions since Puerto Rico- two years ago (some of which have already expired); we have been talking to more experienced sailors about strategies. We have been imagining how it will be. But some thinks you cannot imagine. Being in a tiny boat in the vastest of oceans, alone for over three weeks is one such thing.

A family of Galapagos sea lions are playing around the boat, escorting us. We will miss them so much. Maya said, on land they remind her of hobos- lazy, clumsy, dirty, rude and completely inappropriate. They sleep all day occupying the most comfortable benches in the park, stink terribly of rotten fish, poop in public places, make loud vomiting noises, fight for the best spots on the benches, act mean to each other and to random people, breastfeed their unruly kids on the steps at the pier, and always board- completely uninvited- people’s boats, especially at night. They will steel your fish, if you have any, they will bark at you, poop on your deck, sleep on your cushions, and runaway reluctantly leaving a trail of stink behind if you chase them (which is not easy to do), ready to return as soon as you are not watching. Yet, we never hated them for their trespassings.

In the water, they transform completely to become gentle, graceful, enchanted creatures possessing the agility of world famous aquatic acrobats. We love them.

That morning I realize that the hardest part about leaving Galapagos is not the fact that we won’t see land and civilization for many days- there will be no green trees, no brown earth, no red roofs, no yellow butterflies- only blue and black seas and skies. It’s not the uncertainty of what lies ahead- maybe storm will break our boat, maybe Fata Morgana will hit a sleeping whale or a lost container at night and will sink, along with her three helpless passengers. These are all things I have been worrying about for so long now that I am kind of used to, kind of accepted these ideas. I am ready for this passage, let’s get it over with. What is really making me sad right in this moment, when the sun is rising with purple light as the dark crater of Cerro Azul is shrinking behind us, is the fact that we won’t see the sea lions anymore… If I am crying, it is certainly for the sea lions.

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Day 2…
To be continued…

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