“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.
“Surely customs won’t find this turtle I’m hiding in my bag.”
Yeah, I was sick. So damn sick I could barely stand it. Started with a head cold, but after a hamburger (I think), I felt like I wanted to die. The flight to Galápagos was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life – as we rose, my ears would not pop and I thought my head was going to explode. I wondered…who would clean up my brains…and would everyone be mad at me for making a mess? Would they charge me to clean it up? Seven trips to the bathroom at the back of the plane (I called it the walkway of shame) and a short trip to expel my lunch on the asphalt at the Baltra Airport later, I was in Galápagos!
Now the thing you gotta know about Galápagos is that foreigners pay $100 bucks to get in – locals only $6. You get this nifty certificate saying you just spent a bunch of cash because your white (It says something to that affect), and for future reference, the toilets don’t have toilet paper in the stall – you have to know to grab it before you go in there. So anyways, half delirious and scared of making a VERY lasting impression on my future 7 shipmates, I eventually made it to the boat where we got acquainted and took off to the beach.
A sea lion swimming playfully next to our boat.
You’re gonna have to wait for the pics, but they are cool. When I have more time, I will also put a better description up. I left some of my lunch on the island too, as food for the turtles (mostly watermelon) and then when we got back, I fed the fish on the side of the boat. At that point, I was really communing with nature and I think they really appreciated it. Not there 3 hours and I had given back a plethora of food. Fish are cute when they are grateful.
So anyways, the captain of the ship thereafter gave me some antibiotics and put some stuff in my ears and mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to eat for 24 hours. What’s ANOTHER 24 hours between friends, you know? So yeah, it worked. The next day, only threw up once, and TODAY, once more – but only because we all go sea sick from the choppy waves.
But as of right now, I am in great shape. All fixed up, repaired, 95% better. The trick is though – when you get on shore after 3 days at sea, the floor still rocks for about 3 hours after. I have really enjoyed the trip so far (besides all the being deathly ill stuff). You guys are gonna love the pics I post and I’ve seen a ton of really cool animals. We see all the turtles and stuff tomorrow, but I’ve seen the seals, sea lions, a ton of birds, sharks, tuna (which we ate shortly thereafter), goats, iguanas, lizards, etc…
Everyone really took care of me while I was sick and the crew was really attentive. I got special meals made for me (rice and butter) and it made it easier. What’s really funny though is that none of the crew speaks English. The guide speaks just enough to explain what we are seeing and what were gonna do (right ‘der ees de sheet of de pelícano), and I spend a lot of my time translating for everyone back and fourth.
We asked this pelican for directions, but he wasn’t much help
I also get to ask questions about the islands to the guide and actually get detailed responses that make sense (how lucky, eh?), which is pretty cool. The food is pretty good and with three more days, I’m energized and ready to go!
So now, supposedly I am ready for the “chicas” thanks to the fish soup we had on the boat. I didn’t have the heart to tell the crew that I lost my soup in the toilet on the way over here, but hopefully my body was able to extract the strength in contained therein before I threw it up.
Here’s to not being sick anymore – Cheers!