Sunday in the Galapagos
Woke early around 4:30 a.m., well before the alarm set for 5 a.m. Went outside and viewed the stars – they are a bit different here at the equator. Saw the Big Dipper with the North Star almost on the horizon, then the Little Dipper. Couldn’t make out Draco the Dragon but did see Scorpio – it is high in the sky here, whereas from the Northern Hemisphere it is much lower along the horizon.
It was balmy and warm out – absolutely divine temperature. The night was peaceful and quiet. The moon was full, and turning orange as it slowly descended over the Galapagos Islands. I finished looking through Kristina’s fish book before returning it, and went down to the main deck. No one was up or around – all quiet. Back to my room I organized a little for the day and went down again, and this time folks were around.
Because six of us were departing the yacht today at 8:45 a.m. to catch our return flights, we had a very early hike on North Seymour Island . The “pangas” took us at 7:15 over to the island and we had a dry landing almost on top of a baby seal – possibly the smallest, youngest one I’ve seen. Then we spied the marine iguana, which is very dark in comparison to the land iguanas known as the Christmas iguanas, which are red and green. But the big attraction on this walk, even greater than the blue-footed boobie which were plentiful, was the red-throated male frigate bird in all his mating regalia. When the male frigates are trying to attract a mate, they puff up the red air bag at the base of their throat until it is almost as big as a balloon, and crane their head back and watch the skies overhead for a female frigate that might be attracted to their large red air sack. We saw quite a few of these male frigates, and they are really quite extraordinary to behold. We also saw a number of frigate chicks, all fluffy and white, which proves the red neck balloon obviously works as nature intended.
The beach had incredible tube waves coming in, perfect for surfing. Long breaking rolls with aqua blue beneath – stunning! Finally it was time to board the “pangas” again and we were shuttled back to the yacht, where I quickly packed up and then had lunch with the others. This is the first absolutely perfectly beautiful day with no clouds and no hint of rain, and of course I’m leaving Ecuador when the good weather finally arrives.
Not only that, but once on my flight, out of at least 100 seats I had the only one, on a full plane, that had a drape across the headrest that said “Do Not Occupy”. And, to make matters worse, my seat was missing the button that allowed it to lean back. And the flight attendants went back and forth dozens of times and not one of them seemed the least concerned that I was in a broken seat. And I did not said anything for concern they would have me deboard and take the next flight instead of this one. On top of all this, two children thoroughly high and buzzed on sugar candies were seated right behind me who could not sit still. They were continually hitting the back of my seat and bouncing up and down with a mother who must have thought this behavior was natural and not to be controlled. There was someone in front of me who had reclined their seat all the way back practically into my lap! What a flight!
We were an hour late taking off, and it was so humid I was sweating like a pig, salt water running down my face, and once on board I discovered that this flight has no cooling air jets overhead, only reading lamps – it must be an ancient plane! Where’s my parachute! While the captain was trying to start the engine, an airport worker was standing ready outside on the tarmac with a large fire extinguisher on wheels just off the left wing…it occurred to me that perhaps I should just stand up and get off….!
But I didn’t and, other than being in a completely ridiculous seating situation, all went well. The best thing I could say for it was that I was perched directly over the middle of the very wide wing, so in case we went down I might have survived a few minutes longer than the rest…although I’m not at all sure that would’ve been a good thing.
The flight to Guayaquil went well, despite the malfunctioning seat and the screaming kicking antics going on behind me, and once there we transferred to another plane. Now THAT was a scene – no one knew where we were going and when we finally found the proper gate it was a free-for-all on seat assignments! Fortunately I was quite near the front of the line, so I was able to get a window seat in the 9th row. Departing Guayaquil we flew above a largely flooded landscape, the direct result of recent torrential downpours. The massive flooding appears to have stretched in a swath between Guayaquil and Cuenca. The skies were completely covered by thick active cloud layers and had been this way almost continually since I arrived in the equatorial region. The temperature was warm and it would be unbearably hot if the clouds weren’t there – Nature’s way of trying to maintain temperature balance, I guess. Reminded me of my menopausal days: constant hot flashes with my response being cold showers.
Touchdown in Quito – excellent pilots! Smooth landing, quick plane departure, short visit with a fellow passenger, Robert from Colorado, and an arrangement for dinner later on, then a taxi and whoosh! I was back at the Chicago Hostel, my traditional hang-out in Old Town, Quito. My room was all fresh and neat, and after a little time checking emails I caught another taxi to Robert’s hotel, from which we went to a superb Ecuadorian restaurant he had heard of, the La Rhonda. We had fabulous traditional Ecuadorian style food while seated at a show-side table observing cultural skirt and shawl dances and Andean bands playing native music – all surrounded by fine mural art on the walls – an amazing place, delicious food, and delightful company. Unfortunately, the rigors of this trip were catching up with me and with the food, music, and wine I was slowly falling asleep in front of my host – how rude of me, but Nature cannot be fought with, at least not for long. We bade goodnight to our fine M’aitre de, and taxied it back to his place where he departed, and the taxi driver delivered me on to my hostel.
Out my hostel window I had full view of the most amazing “basilica” – a church to make the ones in Europe envious! The tall arched windows were all lit up in yellow from the inside, and on the tower the large round window was glowing yellow. The spires were delicate and tall, and extremely ornate in their architecture. Against the outside of the church were hidden lights that slowly rotated the color of the church walls from warm gray to beautiful yellow green, darker green, then purple blue – incredible. I stood at the window and watched for quite a while, then struggled to figure out how my camera works in order to take a timed picture of it. Finally got a few shots that were okay, and hit the hay!
Tomorrow is my last day…it seems to have all gone by in a rush and a flurry.