Boobies as far as the eye can see; what more can a man want? The Galapagos are wonderful.
We had to leave the hotel at a very unsociable hour to get our plane to the Galapagos.The airport reminded me of a cross between the chaos ofChambray airport at the height of ski season and the American Embassy during the fall of Saigon.Bags every where, manners far from evident and lots of people were cutting about in clothes brought especially for the trip, complete with tags still attached.In the midst of all this chaos a tour rep appeared and all became easier.Boarding passes were handed to us, bags taken away from us, and goodie bags presented.This proved to be the standard for the trip; the reception at the other end, the transfer and the boat could not have been better.
Now on to the wildlife. The variety is amazing, the quantities spectacular and their comfortableness around humans was incredible. Sea Lions cover the beaches, many with cubs hours or days old. Marine and Land Iguanas spat at us from every rock and in the sea there are both tropical and sub-tropical fish. I have swum with sea lions, turtles, dolphins and a white tip reef shark and seen Tuna, Parrot fish, Sting Rays and hundreds of other species.
We visited a Giant tortoise sanctuary on the first morning and met the famous 'Lonely George'who is the last of one of the 12 surviving species of Galapagos giant tortoises.He is getting on a bit but they have managed to find him mates of a relatively close genetic match and he now has two female companions.Problem is, he is not interested.They have tried all kinds of things to get things moving, including sperm collection.Now this fascinates me.Firstly some poor female scientist was roped into this, and I am sure she felt that her years in education and research should have meant more.Also I am pretty sure that if a tortoise tried to harvest my sperm, not much would happen and it must be the same the other way around.Therefore, I cannot help wondering if Dr blah blah PhD, MA, XYZ had to dress up as a female tortoise beforehand, complete with lipstick, false eyelashes and shiny shell.And how on earth do you tell if a tortoise is 'stimulated'?What kind of expression appears on its face?My theory is that this is all irrelevant as the survival of a species obviously rests of the shoulders of a gay tortoise.What they need to do is dress up the girls in biker moustaches, policeman's caps and leather chaps, put of a Soft Cell album and the problem would be sorted.
I have loved the fact that much of the bird life seems to be put on the planet purely to make simple men like me snigger. Of course there are Boobies everywhere (blue footed and masked), many of them in pairs, but there is also the Frigate Bird whose males attract females by inflating a big red sac and waving it at them. In a mirror of human life, the female pretends to be interested in the big red sac, but is actually only attracted by how good a nest the male can offer.
The remainder of the passengers were good company, though compared to our little gang largely teetotal. I think the fact that the four of us brought 4 litres of booze and some wine aboard (and feltthat that was so little we needed to ration it) may have been seen as rather odd. I also think that our dedicated approach to devising'field signals' for all the animals we would see may also have been considered odd.The Boobies were the easiest, but the Fairy Penguin were the most interesting. A covert video was taken of my manta ray impression which I hope will never see the light of day.
This afternoon (29/11) we visited the free Galapagos post barrel, which is a postal service set up by Whalers in the 18th Century and allows passing boats to place mail into a barrel, on the understanding that when you are there you go through the barrel and identify mail that you can deliver when you get home.In modern times the rule is that you must hand deliver it and not whack a stamp on it and shove it in the post once back in UK or wherever. We have one to deliver in Buenos Aires; we decided that people who visit the Galapagos probably do not have friends that live in shanty towns, so figure we will be safe.We have also posted a couple home, so if someone delivers a post card by hand to your door, be nice to them.
The highlight of the trip ashore was the swim off the beach.It started badly as I almost did a Steve Urwin by bumping into a large Stingray, but by the end of the swim both Jodie and I had swum with Sea Turtles which was magical. I had about 5minutes following one from about 6 feet away (the rule is that you must stay 6 feet or 2 meters away. As a man who does things in Imperial measurements, I get just that little bit closer than the metric man), and was amazed how graceful such a big ugly thing can be (that has also been said by those who have seen me on the dance floor).
We spent the morning looking at lava flows and the afternoon on a boat trip along the shore of one of the Islands, discovering what lived in the Mangroves.During the day we came across a interesting variation of the Cormorant.The Cormorant is the symbol of The Defence Academy as it is a creature that is equally at home on land, at sea and in the air, therefore representing the Army, Navy and RAF.Interestingly, the Galapagos Cormorant has developed and has decided not to waste any energy maintaining capabilities that it no longer requires or do not aid its survival, and it is now a flightless Cormorant.They say it is a wise man that learns from nature.
The highlight of the day was encountering the rarest of marine mammals -the Jodie FT.That's right, Jodie got over her fear of fish (hmmm - I would not go that far - J) and twice snorkeled with turtles and FISH!
01/12.It was a bit of a dull start to the day, with a visit to an Island that allegedly had many land Iguanas and some reasonable snorkeling.However, only a few Iguanas were found and the visibility in the water was poor (but Jodie was swimming again).That all changed when Alex, our guide told us to get into the RIB ASAP as there were dolphins off-shore.I have seen dolphins before, but nothing like this.There must have been 50 dolphins and a few sea lions feeding, playing and coming to inspect the visitors.Better still we were allowed to jump in with them.Jodie had a little debate with herself about getting in: 'Can I do this? k*** s!' and was in like a shot.What an amazing experience.The first thing we noticed was the sound - dolphins chatting away everywhere.Then we noticed the dolphins themselves, which are so inquisitive and playful.They came at us in twos and threes, from the left and right, from underneath and in front, and they really do look you in the eye.They were inches away fromus and this went on for about 15 minutes, with the odd Sea Lion joining in for good measure. Unforgettable.
04/12.We are back in Quito and a month into our trip.
The remaining days in the Galapagos where as fantastic as the first.I was convinced I would bore of seeing yet more Iguanas and even I would find my Boobie jokes tiresome after 8 days (they were! - J), but the Islands continued to surprise.Each day we found creatures in different surroundings or displaying different behaviors.I played with a sea lion for about 20 minutes, had sea turtles all around me, some being cleaned by fish, Jodie continued to swim, with penguins, sometimes with 1000s of fish around and once with a shark close by (arrgh), we saw a turtle that sunbathed every day, marine iguanas fighting, manta rays jumping, minky whales, herons, more dolphins playing with the boat and best of all, very few other tourists.
We were both sad to leave the boat and fellow passengers, sad to say good bye to JJ & Jen (who continue their adventure in Chile before returning to Oz to get wed, when we shallmeet up with them again) and hope that we will return one day. If any of you wish to go, I strongly recommend the SS Sagitta; it was always going to be a island of indulgence in a sea of parsimony and it fulfilled its requirement. We ate well, the cabins and public areas were comfortable, but the crew where the outstanding feature. The place ran like clock work (even the Swiss and the German were impressed) and every requirement was anticipated. The itinerary was also perfect.
We now have a day or so in Quito before Buenos Aires, Spanish classes, Tango lessons and great big lumps of dead cow.
I have only uploaded a couple of photos as this machine is very slow, but once in BA I will do more.