30 Mar

Galapagos Day 1

Angie got in last night. Our landlords were kind enough to take us to the airport to pick her up. When we got there at 11:45, however, to our horror, she was waiting in the international arrivals area. Her plane had arrived 20 minutes early. Who´d have known? We fit the four of us – Will, Eileen, Angie, and me – into the landlords´ toyota camry. Marlene and Luis both came along for the ride, so on the way home, six of us were stuffed into the car, a number disorienting enough to cause Eileen to get her fingers caught in between the door and the dashboard when I closed it.

We of course didn´t get to bed very early, and consequently, we were all suffering when we had to get up at 6:00 this morning to go to the airport for our Galapagos flight. Everything went smoothly, but in Quito, we discovered that we´d be on the tour with about 15 – 20 5th-grade kids — kids who proved to be pretty obnoxious when, for example, we were getting off the bus that had taken us from the airport to the ferry, and one of the overanxious little tykes exclaimed,”Chuta! Por esa mochila!” (roughly, “geez, this backpack is in the way!”) He continued trying to push by us in the two-foot wide bus aisle after I had picked up the backpack in question.

Our guides here don´t speak much English; Angie and Will are pretty much the only ones who don´t understand Spanish — though Will´s doing pretty good actually. I´ve been translating for Angie whenever I can afford to stop concentrating fully on the understanding the guides myself. At lunch today, which immediately followed our arrival in Puerto Ayora, the guides gave us an exhaustive list of rules to follow (thanks 5th graders) and told us about our schedule for the day. We´d be going to the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Once there, we saw some iguanas and baby tortoises in zoo-like open-air enclosures and we saw some massive tortoises more or less roaming free. It´s true, you can go right up to them and pretty much touch them, though you´re not supposed to. You´re also not supposed to take pictures with a flash. Nonetheless, one gringo-looking woman, taking pictures just before our tour arrived, violated the rule. Our guide said, “no flash!” to which she replied, “there is no flash!” and then she proceeded to take a picture with her flash. She and her husband were pretty salty about being reprimanded. “That´s why people don´t like Americans,” Angie observed. Exactly.

After the tour of the research station, we stopped at a small rocky beach for an optional hour of swimming and/or relaxing in the shade. Will and I went in; Will brought his snorkeling mask. I tried it out – a little reluctantly – but fell in love. There were so many fish, and they too, like all the animals in the Galapagos, were pretty unafraid of humans. It made the ocean much less intimidating.

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