I think I could write a book about the Galapagos. And if I stay unemployed for long enough, maybe I will. It could be so many things. Non-fiction travel tale? Or some kind of fiction perhaps? Torrid love triangles? Murder mystery? (A birder is killed on board our cruise - it would be a "Birder Mystery". Oh, I crack myself up!) Sci-fi examination of future evolutionary disasters? (Oh, wait, Vonnegut already did that...) So many options, so little time. For now I will have to satisfy myself with a few blog posts.
First, a note on getting to the Galapagos Islands. At the airport in Guayaquil they issue you a tourist card ($10, good for 3 months). Then they x-ray your bags. This is before you go through security, so the point of it escapes me. On the plane, just before landing they open all of the overhead compartments and spray the bags with a pesticide that they swear doesn't hurt humans. I get that they don't want us carrying any weird bugs or bacterias to the islands, but how affective is it to spray the oustide of our bags, but not anything we're carrying on our persons? Out of the plane we drag our feet over a soapy wet mat, and a man with a surgical mask sprays our hands with a suspicious pink liquid. After that we're deemed environmentally safe and are allowed to enter the airport.
We found our guide, and then promptly waited around for hour or so for another plane to arrive with the rest of our group. Once everyone was accounted for, we piled into a bus and drove for about 5 minutes down the hill to a little harbour. Our boat, The Guananamera, was waiting for us. There's room for 16 passengers and 7 crew. Only one of the crew speaks English (the naturalist), but that doesn't stop the rest from trying to talk to you. My guide book had warned that tour boat crews are often a little, what's the word...horny, and often proposition female travelers. After the first day I learned that if I sit alone on the outside deck I'm likely to find myself in a very awkward conversation where someone who doesn't speak English is trying to hit on me and won't go away. The fact that I don't understand doesn't dissuade them at all. They like to tell me I have very pretty eyes (Or maybe they were telling me I have devils eyes? My Spanish isn't so strong).
Awkward advances aside, our boat is great. The rooms are small, just room for a bunkbed, and everyone had private bathrooms where the toilet and the shower have no barrier between them. There's a common dining room, and the upper deck has a few tables and chairs. So it's pretty cozy, but it's clean and friendly and the food is pretty good.
The Galapagos is basically a huge national park, and they are so well organized, it's impressive. Every boat has a set itinerary of what islands they visit and when. They time it so that there is never more than one or maybe two groups at a location at a time. There are paths that you have to stay on and if you accidentally wander out of the acceptable zone you get yelled at immediately. It's a little annoying for us tourists who have spent an arm and a leg to get there. But it is great for conserving the land and not intruding (too much) on the wild life's habitat.
Our fist day on the boat they took us to Bachus Beach to see flamingos in a little lagoon. The beach was covered with black lava rock that were in turn covered with bright red crabs.
Our second day involved sailing to Santa Fe Island shortly after breakfast. It was a three hour ride on choppy water that had me in the bathroom for most of the time. I´ll spare you the grosser details, but lets just say it was the first time I´ve ever vomited from both my mouth and my nose. Repeatedly.
See sickness fades quickly, thankfully, and I was still able to enjoy a good snorkel and frolic on the beach with a shwack of sealions. Nathan also made some special new friends!