Saturday, December 03, 2005

14 - 18 July -- Galapagos

This was written in Quito a day or so after the Galapagos trip.

Well, my Galapagos journal didn't get too far off the ground. it's not that we didn't have time to write, but whenever I tried to read or write I'd get motion sickness -- not too bad, but enough to avoid those activities while I was on the ship -- and when we were on the islands we were too busy hiking around and looking at stuff to write about it.

Things started out a bit rocky. You load all of your luggage, cameras, etc. and yourself on little boats called "pangas" which take you to the ship which will then take you around to most of the isles. As my panga was unloading, we looked back towards the shore just in time to see a panga overturn! All of the people on the boat were rescued, but when they got to the ship, we found out that they'd lost most of their luggage. We turned the deck into a drying station -- clothes, cameras, binoculars, etc., and everyone donated clothing for our poor comrades. There was a mother and (grown) son whose luggage had been lost in Quito, so they had to buy new clothing there (a bit hard, since they are pretty tall), and now they've lost everything again. This is a bit selfish, but I'm so glad I didn't lose you, my little journal, at the bottom of the ocean!

I had a most fantastic time and I was happy with our accommodations, even though some members of our party were knocking it -- good grief, we weren't paying for first class. We got a pretty good deal for this, especially when you consider that the airfare to the Galapagos and back to Guayaquil is $375! (this is in the late 1980's, too.)

Highlights of Galapagos - seeing the sea lions and their pups lounge on the beaches and rocks. One very young (less than 1 month old) pup chased an iguana across the sand -- it was so funny! (This was at Rabida?) Earlier, the pup came up to our group and did cute sea lion things. We saw so many sea lions that some of us were sick of "cute" by the end of the trip. I also liked the marine iguanas (we didn't see too many land iguanas.) You would look at some rocks and all of a sudden you would see an iguana and then soon you'd realize that the entire rock was covered with iguanas! I didn't go snorkeling because I still had the cold from the beach trip, but those who went said that it was terrific -- the sea lions would play with you and you could see schools of technicolor fish.

One day we saw a herd (school?) (a LOT!) of dolphins. They were far away at first, but then they came quite close to the boat. The crew said that they love to play in the wake of the boat. I know I'm anthropomorphizing (sp?) but they really look like they're smiling and having fun. Of course, the sea lians and the marine iguanas seem to me to be smiling also.. We saw some teeny penguins -- I'm afraid that my photos will just show their white bellies against the rocks.

Birds: Pink flamingos -- they are really white, but turn pink by eating some sort of teeny pink shrimp-like crustacean. i really loved watching them fly, and they had the most magnificent landing with their long legs. it seemed like they just start walking on the water when they land. We say frigate birds with bright red throats, and of course there were the blue-footed boobies with the fluffiest white babies. Too much cute again! One woman in the other group stepped too close to a booby nesting on an egg and got scratched or bitten or something. Flightless cormorants, lots of finches, etc. This was truly sensory overload of nature.

I should have been writing each afternoon and evening. We'd to to one island inthe morning, have lunch about 1:00 on board and reach another island about 3:30 or 4:00 where we'd hike around until dusk. We ran into a few other groups -- in fact, one group accidently took our snorkeling gear and flip-flop shoes that were left near their gear. Fortunately, we got back to the landing site just as they were leaving and they and they haded everything back. The young man who ran their panga just loaded up everything that was in sight.

We spent a short afternoon in Puerta Ayorha (sp?) looking at giant (and some not so giant) tortoises. We walked into town past the T-shirt shops. I was looking for books but could only find T-shirts, post cards, etc. Coming back onto our ship that evening was very harrowing! At one moment the panga and the gangplank would be even, and then at the next moment, the panga would drop down ten feet! Then a big wave would swell up and w would be level with the gangplank again. You had to stand on teh edge of the panga until the guides said, "JUMP!" and then you'd hope that the boat and the plank would stay level until you got on the plank. When it was my turn, i jumped, but then the boat dropped and I had one leg on the plank and one in mid air! It's a wonder we didn't have any amputations.

We did a lot of hiking each day on everything from lava beds to sand mountains. Most of the time the temperature was perfect -- there were only a couple of times when the sun was too bright and it was too hot.


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