In the Galapagos

We weren’t due to meet our boat until noon, so after breakfast of fresh-fruit and home-made apple-cake in a sunny courtyard, we walked back into town. On the key, fishermen were cleaning silver tuna under the noisy scrutiny of a couple of dozen scruffy pelicans. There were sealions too waiting patiently under the tables for whatever was thrown away. One was leaning against the leg of a busy fisherman, looking at him like a faithful labrador. Another raised itself up, with its flippers on the work-table sniffing the fish and squeezing its eyes at the fisherman. The man told it off and it reluctantly got down to wait its turn, glossy flanks shining. An Iguana lay at the base of a dry fountain and the trees were full of pelicans.

We got coffee and ice-cream at the place we had eaten at the night before and were served by the same waitress who couldn’t keep her eyes off Tom. It was a nice easy way to spend the morning before we collected our bags from the lovely Josy and took a two minute taxi ride to the ferry port. There was no boats called the Galavan that I could see and no-one to meet us, so I called our agent Lilian who assured us that someone would be there, and eventually a Zodiac boat cruised up to the jetty and Rodolfo, the driver loaded us on. We sped across the  choppy bay to where the Galavan 1 was rolling in the swell. An older couple was already on board, Chris a short man with humour in his eyes – from Perth “the best kept secret in the world” and his elegant friend Cecilia from Brazil (“Brrrazeew”) As the boat heaved at anchor, lunch was served. It was plentiful and good: fish spiced with curry, rice, salad and lots of fruit.  Neither P nor I could stay in our little cabin for long as the world rolled under our feet. T, who seems invincible to motion sickness was happily oblivious and thrilled that he got the single top bunk above our bed.

The fourteen other passengers and our naturalists boarded a little later and had their lunch at which point we assumed we would get under way, envisaging that our next stop would be some remarkable Galapagosian atoll where we could roam among giant tortoises and dragons. But instead we all got back in the zodiacs and went back to Puerto Ayora.  It felt like a bit of an anti-climax, as we climbed onto a waiting bus and began climbing between farmsteads dripping from a passing shower. But the first stop made it all worth while. It was a lava tunnel that could easily fit an underground train. It snaked along for four hundred meters, its arched ceiling sometimes soaring up to church heights. It was formed by a tube of lava which had cooled at its outer edges leaving a tunnel in its wake. Even Tom, who can be blase about these things, was impressed – especially when the lights went out briefly leaving us in total darkness. “I can lead us out by the light from my watch” he piped.

Once out, and ten minutes further along the red dirt track was a farm where some of the wild tortoises like to gather because it has a number of mud holes. We found a few wallowing in the murk, eying us warily. Another ambled past us (perhaps that is unfair, he could have been galloping for all I know) and what followed was a tortoise face-off. Two leathery necks extended and the two biggest tortoises hissed at each other for a bit, before, presumably exhausted, they each settled down into the mud.

There was a small display of tortoise shells which were big enough for Tom to get into, and then we all sank back into the bus for the port and a rather precarious journey through the harbour swell to the boat. We had another huge meal (with much concentration on the horizon by me and P). Laced with Dramamine we followed T to bed and were rolled around in our beds as the boat sat at anchor – until 1 am when the engines started up, apparently they were bolted to the foot of our bed. The noise filled the room and bounced around our heads but at least we were under way.

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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