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Published: October 28th 2009
Hello Galapagos, what a very pretty place you are! Barren islands sprouting Cacti, white sand beaches, muddy wetlands... and the guidebook is right, incredibly fearless wildlife. Landing at the makeshift open-air airport we realised this was really a trip of a lifetime.
We found our guide who was calling out the name of our little boat, "Rumba, Rumba". It was indeed little, the smallest boat in the Galapagos waters we were told. Five teeny-tiny bunk cabins, the roof just high enough for me to stand and squatting Joe. This meant for some rocky nights at sea but luckily Joe and I had both brought our sea legs. Our first introduction to Rumba was jumping into the dinghy off the jetty that had been run amok by sea lions, they were everywhere and we were quite excited.
Our boat was unintentionally the couples boat this week, two German couples with very high-tech gear giving Joe camera-envy, an Austrian-French couple who spoke four languages fluently and a couple from Cyprus. It was a lovely bunch and we all sat down to our first lunch and to find out about what our cruising involved.
We went ashore on our very first day to one of the prettiest beaches I have ever left footprints on. Big red crabs (the ´Sally Light Foot´ ones) sunning themselves on rocks, pelicans and their large bills swanning around, blue and red footed boobies flying overhead, all just like from a picture book Joe and I decided. As with most island jaunts, the guide took us down the beach and told us stories of all the animals we could see... for the ones we couldn´t see on land we donned our snorkeling gear and waded into the water. Our days were made up of much the same routine, which quite quickly helped Joe and I fall into a very relaxed holiday mode. We wandered the beaches, swam in the crystal clear waters and read books on the sunny deck.
Each island had its very own distinct character, and with an early start one morning we jumped in the dingy and were taken to Black Turtle Cove where we glided through the murky waters into dense Mangrove forest. Very big pelicans, boobies, sea cucumbers, fish that swam, squirted water at us and flew all vied for attention. The longer we sat quietly in the dingy the more interesting the murky water got and we got our first sighting of an ancient turtle. They were so slow and graceful, then another swam past our boat, chasing the first we were told. Courting turtles look a bit big and silly trying to impress each other, flaps of flippers everywhere. A stingray slipped past us and I got a little worried as the boat tipped with everyone trying to catch a glimpse but we stayed upright luckily, to see the next animal to show off in front of us - a White-tip Shark. Harmless apparently, but anything called a shark is a little bit scary. We were promised a swim with them later, I was quite sure I´d be sitting that one out. Joe had other ideas!
Cruising to another island some five hours away it got a little rocky, not surprising really when you consider our 15m boat pitted against the expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Some didn´t survive as well as Joe and I and were quite happy to get back on land at our next island jaunt, Santa Fe. The snorkeling here was so special, the water was deep but we could see right to the very bottom where an old turt was hiding in a rocky spot. Swimming with a turtle is quite amazing, especially when I realised he was probably as old as my little New Zealand islands. A huge school of tropical fish decided to swim through us all while on search for their coral lunch and then perhaps one of my favourite moments on the Galapagos... Joe felt a tug on his flipper and we turned in the water to see a baby sea lion tugging at him to come and play. He circled Joe seeing what his reaction would be and then came right up to stare in his eyes before looking to me, as if to ask if I would play too. Oh he was very cute. So we swam around with our new friend for a minute or so until his very big (she look especially massive underwater) mummy came and called him away. We think he got a bit of a telling off for frolicking with strangers on his way home.
The Island of Santa Fe was quite an eerie place, like someone had played with the colours on a camera. Where the muddy ground should be brown it was red, where the trees should be green they were brilliant silver, where the sand should be yellow it was white, even the sunlight felt different somehow. Iguanas... everywhere! Marine Iguanas that swim and this was quite an odd sight, seeing one splash its way through the waves to the next rocky outcrop. The rocks belong to the lizards it seems, while the beach is home to dozens of sea lions. When I first scanned down the beach I thought I was seeing lots of washed up logs so it was much to my surprise when one rolled over and squawked right beside me. Unlike in the water, these smelly but quite sweet lions of the sea look a little uncomfortable and sound it too... they really can make some noise! The babies searching for their mummies, the bull sea lions keeping check on his ladies. They also have a very fine technique of walking the red carpet, or in this case the waves splashing onto the beach to their sand resting spot. A bit of a waddle then pose, another waddle another pose, we laughed at them a little as they asked us to capture them at their best angle.
One of the islands we wandered onto had a post box, we were told on board the night before to write a postcard and bring it with us thinking there would be a bright red box somewhere on the island. In a slightly more romantic view however there wasn´t one, but instead a ramshackle driftwood structure that apparently used to be used by pirate to pass on messages. Now tourists can leave their postcards in the box for another passerby, months on, to pick it up and hand-deliver the message if going close enough to the address.
In a naive move one afternoon, Joe left his porthole open as it was hot in the boat and his teeny-tiny bunk was quite sopping when we got back. After swimming all day a little more salt water didn´t faze us though. When it got dark we all sat on the top deck for Pilsner beer, Joe quite happy as there was only one size of this and it was grande, and we looked at the stars. A German couple asked me to point out the Southern Cross, of which I did the most terrible job and ended up giving them two options. I have been away from home for too long perhaps? Oops. Joe then used his wonderful astronomy to point out a few of his favourite constellations to me. There was the "one star all on its own constellation", the "two homeless men fighting over a piece of cheese constellation" and the "cross-stitch pony". Perhaps life at sea was getting to him, or the grande Pilsner, I am now however a lot wiser about the skies.
Another island we wandered on was hot and dry with a colourful lighthouse plonked on it. Not so surprising to us anymore, it was filled with animals... more sea lions (they are everywhere), some more lizards, and lots of boobies. Blue and red footed ones... with their shockingly bright coloured feet they did little dances as they flirted with other boobies and on our walk we saw lots of fluffy white babies. In fact we saw lots of different animal babies, there is something about a young animal and it´s baby fluff or it´s unsure footing they just makes me quite happy. Albatross use the rocky cliff as their landing pad and we sat here to feel the wind in our hair and watch the giant blowholes go off one after the other. Back on the beach we saw a sea lion pup being pulled into the water by the scruff of its neck, he was no more than four hours old and needed to get to the water to be cleaned up his placenta still attached. It made us quite aware how very in the middle of all this wildlife we were.
Another snorkeling afternoon and with some luck the girls decided to sit this one out and sunbathe instead, Joe and boys went swimming. Oh poor Joe, it wasn´t until they all got back into the boat that he heard the stories being bandied about of sharks swimming alongside them all. Joe was quite unimpressed that coral eating fish had grabbed his intention instead. At least he can say he did go swimming with the horrible things and need not ever do something so silly again.
One of the girls had a birthday in the middle of our trip and it was a very sweet surprise for all of us to come back to a party boat with streamers, balloons, cake and all! We had no idea how all the party paraphernalia got to the boat in the middle of nowhere... We partied into the night with the crew who were intent on showing us how to salsa with our hips. It was all quite funny.
I could go on and on... we saw a pod of Fraser dolphins swim past our boat, it was a rarity and so amazing; the flamingo lagoon was otherworldly, it was all so special and hopefully some of our pictures capture this so we can share a little bit of all the exciting things we saw (they are now on facebook I hope... computers are a little tricky here). So windswept and sun-kissed we realised just how lucky we were to have experienced some Galapagos, the island hopping kind.
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