Ecuador Day 7 – Galapagos Islands

I felt refreshed again when I woke up, and thought how nice the day can be when not partly covered by the cloud of alcohol from the night before. This trip, with its lack of booze, early nights, early starts, 3 square meals a day, activities, sun, and lots and lots of tea was detoxing me and doing me the world of good. I can’t remember the last time I had three healthy meals a day at set times. My body was thanking me for it.

Breakfast was fried egg, sausage, toast, fruit, and tea. Today, we were visiting areas around Isla San Salvador, and the first stop was Sombrero Chino, a tiny island which is actually a recent volcanic cone, less than 1sq km in size. We cruised around some rocks first, where a few penguins were chilling out. We landed on the beach, and there were sealions sliding themselves around on the sand and splashing in the sea. The views were spectacular here, the sea behind the dark rock an incredible turquoise. We saw a few Galapagos hawks here standing over a seal that had given birth recently, awaiting a chance to dig in to the placenta. We also saw lots of lava lizards, and some big marine iguanas sunning themselves, posing for our photos, though we had to shoo the Maltese bloke out of the way of the photos as he kept charging in front of everyone to get a snap. Idiot. After an hour we went back to the boat, and then we headed out again for snorkelling. This must have been a good spot, for the captain himself was on the dinghy in his tight blue denim snorkeling shorts. It was indeed as good as I’d hoped. All the usual suspects were in attendance, including another couple of white-tip sharks, and this time there was a nudibranch (doesn’t rock my boat) and, more impressively, a couple of marine iguanas feeding on things on the rocks under the water, before swimming up and hauling themselves back on the rocks. To cap it off, a big sealion swam right under me at the end. Some people saw a couple of penguins swimming. Perfect. The water was crystal clear. Despite there not being any coral reefs here, the number and variety of fish more than makes up for it, and it has to be said that you don’t see marine iguanas, sharks, penguins and seals on that many snorkel trips.

We had ample time to chill out now on the boat, and we did so, reading, sunning ourselves, and taking it easy. One of the Dutch girls was 25 today, and when a frigate bird following the boat unloaded all over her as she lay sunbathing on deck, it was seen as a good luck sign by all, as we all wailed with laughter and took photos.

The boat arrived at Whale Bay on the west coast of Santa Cruz island, and we all boarded the dinghy to head across to land. This place was parched and devoid of life. The trees looked dead (even though they weren’t – they shed their leaves in the dry season, shutting up shop to preserve water). A few mockingbirds, a yellow finch and a bizarre ladybird with no spots (endemic to the Galapagos) were all we saw until the end of our long walk, when we came across a huge Galapagos tortoise under a tree getting some rest from the burning sun we were all stupid enough to be traipsing around in. It was a bit of a disappointment, truth be told. We headed back to the boat, where we now had plenty of time to kill reading, writing, and chatting to each other. Dinnertime came, and after dinner, there was time for celebration, for it was the young Dutch girl’s 25th birthday, and also the birthday of the ship’s cook, who was at least twice the age but had a smile and a twinkle in his eye that belied the deep set wrinkles on his leathered face. Birthday cake was the special dessert, then Rodrigo the general busybody Colombian of the ship put on some salsa music, and the dining room became a dancefloor. The captain himself, in his trademark Louis Felipe Scholari tracksuit, was first on the dancefloor, and his first dance was with the lucky birthday girl. The captain knew how to tear up a dancefloor, and, gracefully gliding in step with the tune of the rocking boat and the salsa music, he deftly turned and twirled and led his charge around the floor like an old pro, making her look like she’d been dancing salsa for years. The captain was a hard act to follow, but Rodrigo was more than up to the task, and was next on the floor, smoothly jiving in a way that only one born in South America can, a natural rhythm that no matter how many lessons those of other nationalities take, they never seem to completely get it, instead coming out with mechanical well-rehearsed steps that do the job but don’t really feel the vibe. The engineer was next up, proving that everyone with South American blood can dance, putting the rest of us to shame. Still, we all got up and had a good twirl, and really enjoyed the special evening.

Author: Neil

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