Meeeeeemories, in the corrrrrner of my miiiiind.
“You know…”, I said as I leaned over Valérie´s shoulder, “they put these cages around the turtles because they kept leaping from the ground onto tourists”.
“Really??”, she replied with her Swiss accent.
Everyone nodded in agreement – but I couldn’t keep a straight face and we all broke out in laughter.
Yeah, those giant turtles are a very dangerous breed indeed. We all know the story, the rabbit and the turtle racing. Who won? That’s right: the turtle. I’m not quite sure if it was a giant turtle that was racing the rabbit – it could have been a small one – but regardless, you always have to watch your back when you are around them.
The Galápagos islands were awesome, simply put. My boat had enough space for 10 people and 6 crew members and although the quarters were cramped, we all had a great time. When you are stuck with that many people, you learn to work together and joke around a lot (I think I helped enough with the second part).
For instance, when you fill up your glass with water at dinner, you fill up everyone else´s too. We spent our time sailing from island to island (usually during the night) and taking trips to the parts of the islands on which we could walk in search of rare and exotic animals during the day. We snorkeled with sea lions, hunted land and sea iguanas with our deadly cameras, got drunk under the brilliant milky way splashed across the night sky, and learned quite a few new card games (“Okay Casey, now that I have explained this wacky card game to you in Spanish, please bestow your excellent understanding to the rest of the passengers in English so we may continue”). We walked on brown, black, white, olive and beige sand beaches, trekked through lava-red islands and meandered over incredibly charred black rocky beaches. The beaches were broken into territories for the sea lions, with one males territory populated with 5-30 female and baby sea lions, with a vigilant male patrolling the water directly ahead. As we walked by, he would jump out and yell at us (the only thing preventing me from taking advantage of one of his many fine mates), and you always had to be careful so as not to step on a marine iguana laying out in the beach (uuhhhh, excuse me Mr. Tourist – let´s get one thing straight. YOU walk around ME. Got it?).
We got a chance to see many of the wild animals introduced to the islands by the early settlers – all of which are posing very big problems for the indigenous animals, as they are altering the habitat greatly. Although many attempts are made to eradicate the goats, donkeys, cats and dogs, ants, and a host of other animals, some of the islands are just too big to make it feasible. Lot’s of sun block later, we were left pretty satisfied with the perspective of the islands presented to us.
The relative isolation of the trip was nice, as boats rarely see each other and only occasionally do you pass other tourists on the trails. It allowed us all to get very close to each other and I have to admit I am a bit sad that it is over. The most difficult part of traveling like this is that you make a lot of friends, and then you have to say goodbye very soon thereafter, knowing full well that you will probably never see them again in your life. Although the internet makes it easier, as you can always send an email to see how they are going, it’s still pretty tough.
One thing that I found incredible was the amazing diversity of languages spoken on the boat. I felt a little out of place, as I only know Spanish and English (Imagine that). This one Swiss girl I met knows five (count them, five) languages. English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese – fluently. As she was still kind of learning English, we mostly just spoke in Spanish, but she could speak French to the other people from Belgium (who mostly spoke Flemish with each other). There was also a Japanese girl on the trip who spoke Japanese. It has really motivated me (even more than I already was) to learn another few languages. As I was already planning to learn Chinese in Spanish, Valerie taught me about 25 Chinese characters. I think I am going to go there and just try to find a private tutor, instead of paying 8k to take a language course.
I´m positive that I can do it. I also met a couple from Madrid, Spain, and it was interesting to learn a different form of Spanish (Vosotros, and the lisp sound in place of the z or c sound).
The Belgian family and I flew back to Quito together and stayed in the same hostel last night. Me, Tom, Kim and my buddy Nelson went out playing pool and drinking last night and I think we may have celebrated a little too much. The good news is that I seem to not get hangovers here. Lucky me, eh?
So here I am, back in Quito, getting ready to take off to Santa Cruz, Bolivia tomorrow.
Nick is going to pick me up and we’re gonna cause some major trouble in the country over the next few months. I will have A LOT of pictures up on my site in a little bit, so check it out in a while.
For those of you that actually read this entire long-ass rambling post, congratulations. You get a big thumbs up. You da’ man (Or woMan). Lates.