Well, if you read Part I earlier this week then you know where we went, what we did, who we did it with, and what we did it to, so now I it’s time to go through some of the highlights, lowlights and dim but memorable lights, like the beam of a flashlight with old batteries, or the fading twinkle in an elderly actress’s eye.
This was undoubtedly from the top of the hill on Bartolomé Island. Surrounded by a rocky, almost lunar, landscape of volcanic ash looking out over brilliant blue sea in all directions except the one scenically interrupted by the narrow spit of sand and trees leading to another peak, and off in the distance the larger island of Santiago and its endless moonscape of alternating flatness and stubby volcanoes.
It was even more exciting because of the way we built the suspense, stopping every 10 minutes or so to stand motionless and sweating through another historical information session, longing for even a hint of breeze, or maybe a swim, or at the very least a couple of Vegas ring girls to swab us down with moist towelettes that had spent all night cooling in the crisper. Maybe it was the heat and ensuing lethargy, or maybe it was my inherent lack of balance under pressure, that led to our horribly failed attempt at a synchronized action photo of us jumping from the safety railing (one of roughly 3 safety precautions in all of the Galapagos more extensive than a tiny wooden placard imploring you to “stop”). Either way, my Dufnering the Galapagos photo turned out much better. Could I BE any more awkward?
Best Snorkelling Spot
Had to be Devil’s Crown, just off Floreana Island. Crystal clear water, a variety of depths, fascinating underwater formations, plenty of sea life, including sharks, and all set within a partially sunken volcano. Even more exciting than that time when you were four and sunk your cousin’s battleship in the tub.
Most Entertaining Wildlife
Sea lions. When in the right mood they were playful, curious and amusing, and capable of anything from chasing each other around the beach to performing intricate body contortions underwater to zipping up to my face underwater close enough to compare whiskers, or have a discreet conversation about the consequences of interracial penguin dating.
Least Entertaining Wildlife
Sea lions. When they weren’t in the mood they simply laid around lethargic and practically motionless, occasionally grunting but mostly just quietly stinking up the joint. Remind you of any grouchy relatives at Thanksgiving, or is that just me and Tom Arnold?
The Nazca booby. Watching them collect puny rocks and scrawny twigs to ineffectually attempt to turn their rather mediocre nests into something far more exciting and attractive to the opposite sex was surprisingly reminiscent of bumbling Antarctic penguins, or the real estate agent two doors down who just added an outdoor fireplace next to his cedar hot tub and collection of communal bathing suits.
Most Daring Feat
Clearly it was the courageous and dashing fellow who jumped (pun alert) at the chance to jump from the top of the boat, becoming just the third person to do so that particular day. Five metres high if it was an inch, he pulled it off with stunning precision, falling straight as an arrow thanks to his overwhelming fear and furiously clenched buttocks. If only he hadn’t reflexively put his hands out flat to the sides in some ill-conceived attempt to slow his descent it would have been a perfect splash-free entry, and it wouldn’t have been half an hour before he could feel his palms.
Most Polarizing Site
Daphne Menor, a tiny concave island home to thousands of birds from dozens of different species, and a geological anomaly in the way its edges are slowly falling away and turning it, eventually, into a spire, or maybe a rough approximation of a giant penis, albeit a giant penis covered in miniscule birds. However, with nowhere for boats to land, and hills too steep to walk on anyway, it was necessary for us to remain on the Edén while it slowly circled the island. Coming on the heels, as it did, of the spectacular scenery of Bartolomé and the creature-ridden cliffs of Genovesa it somewhat paled in comparison. Although it was debatable whether this ever so slight reduction in excitement warranted such vehemently disparaging comments as:”What the hell are we supposed to be looking at?””What are we circling this thing for? We better not go around it again or so help me…””Do you see anything besides this ancient volcano covered in dozens of bird species that is now an island that is slowly crumbling into the ocean leaving a scenically conical formation sticking up out of the water in the middle of nowhere, or is that it?”On the other hand, many passengers still enjoyed it, or at least saw no good reason to slow their prodigious rate of photo-taking and hinder their chances of eventually breaking the all-time record for photos taken in a one-week span, currently held by a suspended proctologist in Idaho.
Hottest 3-Hour Period
The long, slow, meandering walk around the tiny peninsula at the end of Española Island. What should/could/might have been a refreshing half hour stroll past a large community of sea lions, several messy families of marine iguanas, a number of bird colonies, some impressive cliffs and the crowning glory – blowhole! – took much, much longer for some reason. I suspect they didn’t want us back on the boat yet because the crew were in the midst of an intense high stakes game of pai gow that was running long because the Korean attaché wasn’t about to return to his wife without winning back the pink slip to her metallic green Prius. Or maybe there was just nothing else for us to do.
Most Poignant Lesson
Learning that some attribute the death of Lonesome George (as the last of his particular species considered the world’s most famous tortoise) to overeating. Not a jealous lover, as suggested by the tabloids, or even a rare poisonous pollen from a flower found, conveniently enough, in only one particular park within easy driving distance of the Miami police department.Rumour has it that in the interest of preventing the sudden extinction of any more endangered species, old footage of Solitario Jorge will be featured in an upcoming Subway commercial promoting their all-lettuce low calorie sub.Most Exhilarating MomentRacing across the glistening waves in our small zodiac surrounded by a pod of bottlenose dolphins frolicking all around us, dipping, diving and jumping in front of the boat, slapping their tails on the water, and occasionally twirling as they passed underneath us, either to demonstrate their impressive aquatic agility, or maybe just to show off their shiny white underbellies and flawless bikini waxes.
Strangest Activity Involving Government Infrastructure
The Post Office Bay postcard exchange. Apparently, back in the 19th Century when there was no actual postal system in the area people who had letters to send would leave them in this fairly random box on this equally random beach. Then when people stopped by on their way abroad they would take and deliver any letters intended for someplace they were heading, or might be passing, as well as any of those featuring three fit women in thong bikinis, you know, to help pass time on the journey.
Probably the one at Post Office Bay. Although the one on Santa Cruz was kind of dark, too.
Most Darwinian Moment
On Playa Las Bachas, our very first landing, at our very first salt water lagoon, where we spotted our very first baby sea turtle, one who had apparently taken a wrong turn coming out of the nesting crater and was probably still thrilled at how easy it had all worked out, and how this one metre deep calmly tepid pool seemed far less wild and scary than he had expected from the big dangerous ocean. As we all oohed and aahed, snapping photos in the dim hope it would show up as something other than a dark spot resembling either a rock or sunken frog carcass, Rubén solemnly explained that unfortunately it wasn’t likely to last very long, being far too exposed and visible to predators in the clear shallows. We were still muttering noncommittally, certain that Rubén was only being morbid and that this particular adorable little turtle could quite easily be the one that bucks the odds, like in a Pixar film, probably with the help of a wise-cracking sidekick of some sort, a sandpiper, maybe, or a jittery crab, when not thirty seconds later an evil frigate bird swooped down and, to our collective horror, plucked it from the drink like the terrible cherry in a delightful cosmopolitan, soaring off into the distance where we could then just make out a tiny dot escape the powerful beak and tumble off into the bushes, leaving us to engage in a lively debate over whether he had somehow pulled off a daring and complex escape, or whether the bird had already separated the best parts out and simply spit the shell out like it had been enjoying a mouthful of sunflower seeds.
Best Underwater Photo
Sea lion chasing its own tail for Laynni’s amusement off Punta Carola on San Cristóbal. Or maybe it was miming a small case letter “o”. Or a zero. Definitely not a cheerio, though, way too symmetrical.A close second has me next to a huge sea turtle. It might have edged into first if we had been able to make out the Kids in the Hall logo on my old yellow t-shirt.
Worst Underwater Photo
The one I took in Black Turtle Cove while trying to capture a dynamic sea turtle action shot from the zodiac by simply holding the camera underwater at arm’s length. Upon later examination, no turtles to be found, although we did end up with a nice murky close-up of our guide Elliott’s dangling feet.
Coolest Sexual Ploy
Male frigate birds have a stretchy strip of a red skin on their throat that can be blown up like a huge red balloon, or a sexy inflamed scrotum, that is then proudly presented for all to see, apparently as proof of their virility and willingness to do their part in the sack.
Just what the doctor order when it comes to attracting eligible females. The inflamed sack was also sometimes accompanied by pathetic keening noise, vaguely reminiscent of “I’m sooo hooorrrny. Soooo hooorrrny. Ack.”
Diego, of the Puerto Ayora breeding centre, apparently. Even though he looked like any ordinary tortoise to me – thick scaly legs, dirty shell, beady eyes, no lips to speak of – the fact remains that I am still fairly new to the intricacies of reptilian sexuality, and have never, to this point, had the pleasure of being mounted by a long-necked saddleback tortoise for the dual purposes of saving an endangered species and being gleefully “tortoised”, so I am really in no position to judge. But they say he holds all the records, and in the breeding game, much like French kissing, it’s the final score that counts.A close second was the slow moving Casanova in Rancho Manzanillo mostly concealed under some shrubs with his handsome lady, ever…so…slowly…giving…her…the…business. Apparently tortoises do everything slowly. Either that, or he was just showing off some of his new tantric moves.
Well, that about wraps it up. Galápagos Islands – pretty cool! I think that makes a better slogan than their current ones “Galápagos Islands – Surrounded by Water!” and “Galápagos Islands – Take Videos of Animals Having Sex!”