I've returned and am readjusting to a life where my closest companions are not sea lions, (though they are great listeners). Being home is rather strange in it's normalcy and if I didn't have a 1000 pictures, and the ability to ask for the butter in Spanish, I might easily be convinced that it was all a dream.
The Galapagos cruise went off without of hitch, and my heart (and wallet) now belong to the sea. During 8 days of living on a relatively small boat I managed to only get mild sea sickness once with the help of me lady Mareol, the sea sickness medication of choice here in the Galapagos. The islands are a pretty magical place that have a staggering amount of endemic wild life and stunning and unique natural landscapes. When we got off the plane we were ushered through the airport customs and were treated to more airport and island fees than seemed reasonable. Once we had been financially bled to our hosts liking we found our tour guide Rodrigo and hopped on a bus that would take us to our boat. Waiting for the boat, we received our first introduction to what would be many, many interactions with the mighty sea lion. Though the Galapagos are best known for the turtles that lent it their name, I assure you it is the sea lion that reins supreme in this island kingdom. They are adorable and extremely lazy and absolutely everywhere. If you see one, rest assured it will be lying down in the sun swatting flies away with their lethargic flippers. They always seem as if they are hungover, and can't be bothered with the day to day formalities of life.
It was at this time where we started popping Mary's (Mareol) so that she might begin fighting the seas on our behalf. The boat was pretty nice, with a respectable dining room and sleeping quarters for 16. Andy and I were shown to our room, actually more of a nook, and I prematurely called the bottom bunk without really weighing my options, and ended up with the bed with no windows. We met the crew and quickly departed soon after.
Our days were very laid back with an easy schedule and a plenty of time for some serious nappage. It was not for the extreme adventurer, but was the perfect speed for Andy and me, and to be honest, the perfect pace for seeing the Galapagos. We started the days around 7AM with a hardy breakfast. At 8AM we would depart in little motor boats, called Ponga's, and dock on one of the many islands. Then we'd slowly hike for an hour and a half at about the same pace as a land turtle carrying a rickshaw with two other turtles in the back, and probably covering the same distance. Sometimes the pace was frustrating, but the Islands were so beautiful, and often very small, and especially in the beginning it didn't really matter. After our "hike" we'd go snorkeling for an hour, presumably with some combination of sea lions, turtles, fish, penguins, white tipped sharks, and sting rays. We'd return to the boat around 11, where we'd relax on the deck, until noon when a delicious lunch was served. After lunch, we'd nap for around 2 hours until 2:30, when we'd once again depart and repeat the morning activities - hike and snorkeling - in another location. We'd return the boat around 5:30/6:00, shower, and then relax until dinner at 7. Because of the pills, the hardest part of the trip by far was trying to stay awake until 9PM, the earliest time I would allow myself to turn in for the night. We'd then sleep for a healthy 10 hours and repeat our lazy schedule the next day.
Our trips were lead by Rodrigo, an experienced tour guide with a hilarious command of the English language. I want to say that his English was quite good, but it was a little more complicated than that. He really had a fairly large vocabulary and he effortlessly tossed around words like fauna, nocturnal and vegetation. Yet much of the time it seemed as if he was throwing them out at random without any regard for the proper placement of verbs, nouns and adjectives. Though this lead to some pretty amusing tours, the actual learning part of the trip took a serious backseat, replaced mainly by Andy and I entertaining ourselves with pretty dead on imitations of Rodrigo. He was a great guy though, very friendly with a big smile, and what he lacked in clarity, he almost made up for with heart. We did manage to catch some fragments of knowledge that were filtered through his incoherent translations, especially those parts having to do with pirates having used the islands to stash their booty.
The crew was also very friendly and accommodating including the captain who's primary responsibility was watching Spanish dubbed 80's flicks in the boat dining room, and staring inappropriately at the female passengers. He did a great job with both.
The islands all varied in shape, landscape, size and wild life and all extremely beautiful. Many were formed of volcanic rock from eruptions as recently as 10 years ago. We were also able to hike around some active volcanoes and walk on an actual red sand beach. Besides the gorgeous landscape, the main draw of the trip was the wildlife. It was truly spectacular. In addition to an army of sea lions, we were graced by both land and marine iguanas, land and marine turtles, lava lizards, and a million different exotic bird species including finches, mocking birds, brown pelicans, several varieties of the crowd favorite boobies, frigates, flightless cormorants and possibly my favorite the adorable Galapagos penguin. The animals are not afraid of humans which makes for a great interactions, though they do seem to be at the very least slightly annoyed by them. They stare at you a lot, often in a disapproving and almost condescending way, which makes you wonder who, in fact, is studying who. Hmmm. None the less, los animales were my favorite part of the trip, and probably the coolest thing was swimming with the sea lions. They are very playful and often charge right at your face mask when you are in the water, turning away only at the last minute, as you freak out. Very cute. And speaking of very cute, I think Andy and I have probably over 40 hours of raw unedited footage of baby sea lions doing nothing but being cute. You'd think that it would get boring, but I assure you, it doesn't. Simply ridiculous.
Many of the other highlights of the trip were at night after dinner as the boat departed for our morning destination. We'd often hang out on the deck absorbing the sunset, and then watching the moon reflect off the water as we sped into the distance with no land for miles. I have had very limited experience with ocean life, because of my nerdy predisposition to sea sickness, but with the medication giving me balance, I was able to appreciate the sea in a new way. I really fell in love with the ocean, and I felt so incredibly free as we traveled from one destination to another. On the second to last night we all gathered on the deck as we motored our way to our final site and I brought my guitar up and sang to everyone for a few hours as they lay down and watched the full moon and the stars. It was a magical experience.
Another highlight of the trip happened on the second day when Andy celebrated his birthday. Once I informed Rodrigo he made sure there was a cake ready for dinner and lead the boat in roaring happy birthday chant. He then preceded to shove Andy's face in the cake as is tradition in that part of the world.
All in all, a one of a kind experience. It was the perfect way to end our trip, and a great introduction to new career possibilities in piracy.
Here's most of my Galapagos pics: