Where the locals just chill
and so do the people! Player Mann beach is about 30 min walk from where I live.
So yeah....apparently sharks in the Galapagos are vegetarians, or so I have been told by Miguel who owns the house where I am staying. He, his wife Marisol and 11 year old son Areal told me this with straight faces and expected me to believe them. Problem being that I may have been misunderstanding their English (or their Spanish) as is often the case when things are lost in translation. Either way I didn't believe them!
But I am getting ahead of myself, as usual.
Here I am! in the most famous archipelago in the world!!! I can't even believe it myself. I have been here now for 10 days and still find that I am pinching myself nearly every day.
The flight from Quito started off a little stressful with the traffic absolutely chockers. Let me tell you folks that it is the same all over the world.....when there is a simple little bingle the traffic going in the opposite direction ends up just as congested, with all the rubber necks checking out the 'nose to tail' bump that is not even blocking the road anymore!! As a result I had about 1/2 an hour less to
check in and go through customs etc. Normally this would be heaps of time too but for some reason the counters for the Galapagos flights are hidden, you finally find them and then they want you to go and buy a $10 tax ticket, get your bags checked and then
come back to get your boarding pass. Once done, you go through customs & immigration as they are really fussy about what goes onto the islands.
I settled into my seat for a relaxing flight......right in front of a bunch of 10 year old school kids 😞 Now, I like kids - heck I've been working with them for weeks - but these were the screaming, wriggling, kick the back of my seat type kids that didn't appear
to have any supervision at all. After about an hour we were descending to land and I was very excited....to get rid of the kids! Being in the aisle seat at least gave me the opportunity to pick the left or right side for my first view of the islands. Imagine my disappointment when it looked like I was landing in a city scape and not an island view! I felt
so disappointed - "they've screwed with the islands as well " was my first thought, although now not sure who 'they' were at the time. Then the announcement that if you are continuing onto San Cristobal to stay on the plane. Phew, sigh of relief this was just a quick stop in Guayaquil to offload and collect. I anxiously looked for signs the brats behind me were going. No luck there. There was another hour to go and had my Spanish been of any quality worth understanding, I would have given the 3 boys behind me an earful! However, I just closed my eyes and told myself it was only one hour, not much in the big scheme of things.
Arriving in the Galapagos, San Cristobal, was everything I thought it would be. Ocean, trees, sunshine and a small town. The airport is currently going under some remodelling and therefore the terminals were little more than a tin shed with tables for you to declare you bags and have them searched. There was then a wait of around 30 minutes for them to take the luggage off the plane and lay it out in lines in the dirt on
the other side of the shed. Once retrieved, and by now really feeling the humidity of 80%, I made my way out the tin shed door looking for my name. Ummmmm....no name, no-one appeared to be looking for me. Oh well, it was bound to happen at one point. Then this very tall man came up to me and asked if I was a volunteer. Being aware that there is always someone looking to get business somehow, I vaguely answered yes. He then proceeded to say that he was here to meet me and his name was Ceasar. Great! but that didn't convince me, until I noticed the name of the conservation project on his shirt at the same time he said, 'your name is Karen?" Thank goodness! Now I knew I was ok. We had to wait for another 20 minutes as all the taxis on the island are out picking up kids from school (it was around 1.30pm) and then off for a 5 min drive. We went via the school I would be helping out at, to meet the English teacher. Mr Tony was happy to be introduced but very busy talking to Ceasar about 'who knows
what' in Spanish. Then off to meet my family and Jenni the English girl who would be leaving in 4 days.
The next few days were spent walking into town to go to the beach everyday, following Mr Tony around to his classes and getting used to cold showers. Have to admit, I love cold showers now and that's not because of all the hot men on the island either! The humidity just about killed me for the first few days but thankfully I am now acclimatised. Not that I like it - just used to it.
Jenni left on the Saturday and as there were no new volunteers arriving, I had my family to myself. My first full week at school I was told that I would be teaching Gr 1, & Years 8, 9 , 10 (21 in the class) and 11, 12 (about 15 in the class) basic English starting that Monday in 1 hour! Thank goodness I had some preparation time ???!!! The high school kids had recently done an exam, been split into levels of their English capability and for some reason, they thought a combination of my none Spanish and their none
Mum & pup
English was a good mix. Well, who am I to argue? but I have to tell you that I went home with more homework than the kids that day! So far I have been 'the duck on the pond' and survived. I actually decided that a film in English with Spanish sub-titles was as good a way around my dilemma as any for the older kids. The little ones are much easier and fun and don't talk back to you in Spanish. If I actually had some idea of what they said to me it would be very helpful but they could be swearing or answering the question. My teaching role has come about as the school is still looking for the 3rd English teacher - although school is now in its 7th week for the term. It was a private Naval school which has just gone public as well, so a lot of changes happening all round.
So that's the work side of things.....now for the island side of things.
Can't believe that sea lions are just part of the community! They swim with you, lie on the beach with you, seat on the seats at the
pier with you, block the stairs and paths on the pier and generally just own the place. Already been chased by two (yes, it's cows all over again). One on the beach who decided he want to lay on my towel. Fortunately I was saved by an 8 year old girl who waved her skateboard in his face and plucked my beach bag to safety and handed it to me with a look of "and that's how it's done!". I was very grateful because sea lions are not to be messed with. The next time I just wanted a photo of them lying on the seats and the sea lion must have been a bodyguard for the others to keep the Paparazzi away. Yep I got chased! You can only imagine how funny it must look to the locals as another 'gringo' gets put in their place by the 'seal police'.
I've checked out all the tourist shops and figured out what I want to buy, just not sure if it will all fit in my bag. Been working on my tan every day and kept up my exercise routine by walking everywhere. Twenty minutes to school, 30 minutes
to the beach, yep...keeping it real in the heat and humidity. But the weekend was a one of 'firsts'.
Went on my first 4 hour hike by myself to check out the tracks; rode the family's motorbike into town (with Miguel driving) to book my Sunday Tour; snorkelled around Kicker Rock for 2 hours with sharks no less. There were only 3 (that I saw) and given I didn't want to see any, it's lucky I didn't drown panicking! There were 2 white tipped and one Galapagos probably about 15 meters down - I hope they were that deep anyway. The divers on our trip saw quite a few hammerhead sharks and I'm pretty sure they have been known to bite the odd person in Oz. However, there is so no shortage of tasty shark food in the Galapagos they don't want the 2nd rate human stuff. Really, I just didn't want to test out this assumption so really glad I didn't see one. The fish were amazing and hundreds of different types, colours. Enormous starfish, huge schools of fish and about 10 sea turtles, not to mention those playful? sea lions (not chased once!).
Now, I'm sure
There are little black ones too....
which I guess grow up to be orange?
Ryan you don't believe that I didn't somehow manage to lean the wrong way on the bike and topple both myself and Miguel off like I did to us all those years ago. It was actually great fun and the breeze was awesome! Not sure if I will get the opportunity again, but Miguel had great fun telling Marisol how I was clinging to him for grim death while he told me to relax. The islands are all volcanic rock so as can be seen the contrast between blacks, dark browns, greens is just awesome. Bit rough on the feet tho! lol.
Well that's it for now. Enjoy the pictures (I make no apologies for the amount of sea lion snaps!) and I will be reporting next week on whether I survived the school week, got to see giant tortises, finally saw a flamingo and managed not to get lost on Santa Cruz.
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