Seeing the world, one country at the time

Anchors Away!

Galapagos Day 2

Our second day on Galapagos heralded the launch of an unforgettable four-day cruise among its islands. At eight we woke up, not knowing that it was actually seven, due to the one-hour difference between the mainland and the islands. At the bank for an emergency refill of funds just in case, we saw our sea lion again, making us more excited to be sailing that day. A one-dollar taxi truck took us to the bus terminal for the long ride to the dock where we got the boat across the canal to Baltra. We were retracing our steps from the day before. Galapagos is organized so that most tourists can arrive at the airport and get transported to their cruise boat without ever having to step foot in town. As I awaited the bus, I looked in the water under the harbor and spied all sorts of wonderful fish, reminding me that if you take the time, you can see all sorts of things you normally miss. The problem is, we are usually rushing through life.

Once at the airport, we found our guide, Juan Carlos, with half of our group. The rest would come on the next plane. Galapagos only has two arrivals and two departures per day, so it’s all pretty easy to organize. Juan Carlos, or JC, let us go ahead to the boat when we had waited long enough. A bus took us to the boat pier, where we were welcomed by a chatty sea lion. There were a bunch of them waiting in bus stop area. We got a dinghy out to our boat. While we waited for the others, we got settled into our rooms and retired to the top deck to lounge in the sun while chatting with Jim and Stephanie, a very nice couple from Texas. She is a nurse and he works in real estate. He was on this trip to celebrate his 50th birthday and fulfill his dream of seeing iguanas up close.

When the others arrived we had our briefings with Juan Carlos. He went over safety, the boat facilities, our schedule, etc. In between briefings we sat on deck in the sun. Our first stop was Bachas, a beach off of Baltra Island. It was a wet landing as the dinghy brought us to shore and we waded to the beach. Immediately I saw male and female iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks. Jim was so excited, as that is why they came to Galapagos.

Further along the beach JC pointed out the imperceptible remains of barges left there by the American Navy during the Cold War. We wouldn’t have seen them ourselves, mistaking them for rocks. The beach changes so dramatically with the tides that at times the iron remains is waist-high, though now they stuck up just a few inches, so we had to watch where we trod. The bits are very sharp and you can impale your foot on one, or at least badly stub a toe.

Our tour continued through the dunes to a lagoon where our gasps followed our eyes to a bright pink flamingo and a heron feeding. They didn’t even flinch when we came close, unlike flamingos in Bolivia, where they run away if you get closer than 300 meters. We also saw the abandoned nests of the sea turtles that had been there. Here we were only five meters away.

Upon our return to our landing spot we dove into the glass-clear water, splashed around and got to know each other. Lars, always wanting to be in the water, chose to swim back to the boat, a fair distance away. Back on board we hung out and talked. I wanted to read, but everyone was so friendly and talkative that I preferred to be with them. They all had interesting stories and have significant international experience. We were incredibly lucky to land in such a good group. Besides Stephanie and Jim there were several Brits: Roger and Jenny, environmental consultants, and Karen and Will (she grew up in Holland and lived in Wassenaar like me). Barbara and Rick from the US, who seem to long for the expat life after having lived abroad for thirty years, and finally, Lynn and Michelle were from Canada. Michelle is married to someone in the Canadian embassy in Quito and Lynn was visiting them.

The evening ended with a deluxe dinner followed by more conversation and a great video on Galapagos. JC showed us an amazing video he took of a volcano that erupted on October 23rd. His footage was incredible! To add to the evening, we also went out on deck and watched a sea lion, lit up by the boat’s lights, hunting sea snakes and fish. It just grabbed them out of the water as they slithered past on the surface, oblivious to their predator below. Pelicans also hunted for fish by our light. It was a surreal experience to be able to observe them in their nocturnal habitat and to see the prey and predator relationship at such close proximity. When we finally got to bed I was feeling dizzy from the rocking of the boat. That is the one disadvantage of life on the water. I managed to sleep, but my dreams were really strange and my sleep was light. I didn’t look forward to three nights like that.