Wednesday, January 09, 2013

365 Steps Bartolome Island, Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay

Bartolome Island 

7:00 Breakfast
8:00 Dry landing – Sandals or shoes, easy trail, Look out, 365 steps
10:00 Back on board
12:00 Lunch

Santiago Island
Sullivan Bay
2:30 Snorkeling off of the dinghy or beach time
3:30 Back on board
4:00 Dry landing – closed shoes, lava formations, rocky trail
5:30 Back on board 
6:30 Cocktail – Dinner – Briefing

Our last full day on the cruise has finally arrived along with my mixed feelings. We have been really enjoying the people we have had the week to share time with, admittedly, I have enjoyed the hikes even when they were really strenuous, and of course the meals. Most everyone shares their time with those who speak their native language, but each person has been friendly, helpful and considerate of all of the others. At times, we have had small group chats as well, reviewing the stories du jour.

Miraculous mini-banquets are prepared by the cook who concocts amazingly diverse and for the most part healthy meals in a kitchen that is about the size of our small bathroom plus ½ yet again. He has taken the vegetarians seriously, always having something to supplement their meal when we have fish or meat as a main course. Fish nights, I go vegetarian too. Because I told the barman that I am diabetic, thus the reason for my refusing dessert each night, he or the cook have prepared special fruits for me which is more than kind. The last creation was a shark in a banana suit, with thin slices of tree tomatoes as dorsal fins and greenery from a scallion to adorn the top fin.  

This morning, we will have a dry landing, meaning we will arrive at a dock with the dinghy. We have been promised that we will climb 365 steps, nothing that I am looking forward to and not even sure I will be able to complete it. Would it have been better not knowing the number of steps or just being surprised? Either way, I did not count them, I was counting my inhalations and expirations instead wondering if they would airlift me out when I keeled over. 

The purpose of this was to visit volcanoes that erupted from under the sea and pushed upward, creating the island. To prevent erosion, the park services had to create a boardwalk, which was a great help, otherwise walking on lava rock in places would have been treacherous and there would not be a way to climb to the top lookout point. What Omar neglected to mention was that we would be walking about 600 steps before we even started climbing steps that actually escalated up to the top. 

At 4 different points along the way, we stopped to hear some commentary, which is difficult to comprehend when you are gasping for oxygen. Pleasingly, the two young Polish guys and one of the young Russian men were also panting as hard as I was at times and each of them looked to be worthy specimens  of a men’s health magazine cover. Marco the Swiss man could also be a cover model, but he did the steps without displaying any additional effort. Each section of the climb up, I analyzed how much I really wanted to call an end this sojourn and wait here for the others to return. Instead, I unrelentingly carried this carcass upward to the very top. The rest of the group had only achieved the same success minutes ahead of me, making me feel quite accomplished. 

On the way and on the top, we heard about the volcanoes, some that erupt above ground; others erupt under the sea and push the lava upward. There were craters there and on and on. Omar told me the other day that 500 people apply to be official Galapagos guides and only 30 are chosen. Those chosen have strenuous training for years. It all makes me feel badly that so little of what he shares stays with any of us. When I question the others of the day’s teachings, no one has remembered more than I. Most of this group is twenty years my junior, so it is not a memory issue. If I could take notes (no one is stopping me, mind you), I would have more to share. Sorry! These are like my students’ end of semester exams. Remember it for the test and then swish, it is gone from the memory. The one trivia point I do remember is that Neil Armstrong was here and said it reminded him of the moon’s landscape. 

Before lunch there was a snorkeling or beach swim option. I would have been the only one to do the beach swim option; therefore, opting to stay on the boat instead. With everyone gone, I had all of the lounge chairs on the upper deck to myself to read and snooze, read and snooze, and that is exactly what I did until they returned. 

Fish was served for lunch, so I along with the vegetarians, had a stuffed tomato. Other items were rice, potato salad with peas, carrots mixed with string beans, and green salad. These buffets are the nemesis of anyone watching their weight. It is too readily available to return for seconds once everyone has had first choice. Fingers are pointing back at me. 

Post lunch was snorkeling again for the last time this trip. It was off of the dinghy again. Ron by-passed it this time to take a nap instead. A beach visit was the other option, but since we are leaving tomorrow, I did not see any sense in getting my bathing suit wet only to cart it back to Quito wet. Those that did snorkel discovered 2 sharks, sting-rays and a number of yellow finned fish. A couple had seals swimming around them coming face to face bearing teeth. A few reported seeing turtles mating. Sitting on the boat bobbing up and down and to and fro was so relaxing for me, I did not miss a thing. 

At 4:30, we went out on the dinghy again for the lava formations. We were concerned it would be more of the same as yesterday, but actually it was quite different. The majority of the island was molten lava. Omar told us there were four different types of formations. Most interesting were those that looked like braids of a thick rope or corn rowed hair. 

I kept seeing designs made by nature in the way the lava cooled. There was a squid with long tentacles, a mermaid, horse’s head, and others. It would be interesting to have a photography contest here. Photographers are set loose for X number of hours to photograph shapes that could be clearly interpreted as something realistic, not abstract. At the end of a certain time period, after they have them printed and mounted, there is a judging. Should I sell my idea to the parks services?

Dinner included a cocktail, tasty, but I could not identify it. The captain toasted us with a long speech in Spanish, which Omar gracefully translated as “He enjoyed having you on board.” Had Omar translated the full monologue, dinner would have been delayed by hours. Carin, our Dutch femme fatale, was delegated to give the toast and thanks to the crew from our group. Ron and I were approached as the “senior statesmen” of the group, but being such, we delegated instead. The younger ones need the practice after all. 

After the Last Supper, we had our briefing for tomorrow. I had the foresight to create a table for everyone’s e-mail address. All but one person, one of the Australians shared their information.

Time to pack.

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