Friday, January 15, 2010

Galapagos Journey

On our Way to the Santa Cruz

We met Amparo, my Spanish teacher, at the airport at 7:30. Andres, her 13 year old son, was waiting with her. He had insisted on accompanying her instead of going to school. On Tuesday, after our visit to Cochasqui, and before we were to visit Cuicocha, we had received a call from Karina, who works at Sacha Lodge and helps make travel arrangements for the group. One student had canceled last minute due to medical reasons, but we were unable to get a refund for his place on the Galapagos portion of the trip. Karina told us if we could find a replacement within an hour, she could switch the reservation. I immediately thought of Amparo, since she told me she had never been to Galapagos, and I thought she could manage to rearrange he schedule. I called her on her Porta and her Movistar phones (everyone seems to have at least two phones here!) and left messages. When she called me back she was surprised that I was back from the US, and was even more stunned and thrilled when I proposed that she come to Galapagos for the four days. I am happy to have her with us, and expect that we will be practicing lots of Spanish!

Smiles all Around

We have to put all our bags through an XRay scanner to check for food and animals that would be dangerous to the Galapagos. The airport is always a madhouse, so it is good to be there early. I was happy to catch up with Amparo and the waiting time was painless. Amparo was excited because this was her first time on a plane and on a boat! She sat in a window seat next to Maya on the plane and was so very excited. Tame made a very scary abrupt landing in San Cristobal airport ( the young man sitting beside me said it was a typical Tame landing).

It was windy when we arrived on the island, so it was not uncomfortable waiting in line at passport control. Once through, we were whisked off to the harbour where we encountered many sea lions ( there are no seals in Galapagos, two species of sea lions). We are navigating between San Cristobal and EspaƱola Islands in the Galapagos, the boat swaying side to side, and I am fading fast after waking up at 5:50 this morning to catch our plane. Although our flight left at 9, we met the students at the Sierra Madre Hotel at 6:30 or so. We were a little taken aback when we opened our front door as we left our apartment and found a drunk man sleeping on the doorstep. When we told the guard downstairs, he did not seem surprised or concerned, acknowledged what we reported and said good-bye!

It was noon when we were motoring toward the MV Santa Cruz, our home for the next four days. I love seeing all the sea lions on the dock and littered on top of the boats. They seem to have taken over the harbour. The Santa Cruz is like an old and weathered boat, but experienced and well organized as always. We were in our rooms and eating lunch in no time. I love it that the ship functions as a well oiled machine. We don't have to work too hard to make things happen exactly as they are supposed to. The ship does the same program week after week and it works for them, so our job is to simply go with the rhythm and flow and enjoy ourselves .

Frigate Birds Above the Boat

Our first destination was 'Cerro Brujo' on Isla San Cristobal, where we brought our snorkeling gear to test ourselves out in the shallow water, and then took a short walk along the beach. Maya and Eric stayed in the water body surfing, while several of us walked along the beach. We were entertained by sea lions resting on the sand, a few marine iguanas, boobies diving into the sea for fish, a few pelicans, sally light foot crabs, small bright yellow birds, a few finches, and wonderful soft sand to sink our toes into. Our guide was not interested in saying much, had a huge impressive looking camera and was snapping pictures while ignoring us. The site was beautiful, with impressive rocks in the distance and the sun shining relentlessly.

Sea Lions Own the Beach

Sally Lightfoot Crabs are Everywhere!

The sun sets very quickly, perhaps taking 20 minutes before all is dark. I watched the sunset when we got back to the boat, it was spectacular.

Galapagos is unique because it is full of animals that are not fearful, who stay on their turf and watch us walk by,not very curious about our presence. It is peaceful because there are not too many human inhabitants) , which also keeps the islands pristine and often there is the feeling that the islands are untouched (even if I know they are visited by hundreds each month). The students are entranced every second, expressing themselves with 'oohhs and aahhs'.

It is wonderful to be with Amparo. Her enthusiasm is infecitous; it is her first time here, and everything is new and different and adventurous. I am enjoying all her energy.

Cerro Brujo Sea Lions

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