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Galapagos Islands

Sunday - 17 Mar 2002
Galapagos Islands - Ecuador

Life Onboard incredible self-contained ecosystem that is relatively unspoiled by humans. Self-contained indeed--gaining access to this national park is more difficult than the Pentagon! We were interrogated, disinfected, and searched, to ensure that we werenīt smuggling in any contraband (small pigs, man-eating plants, or Chips Ahoy...) Fortunately we left our pet goat on the mainland, so they allowed us aboard :o)

Since this was to be the highlight of our trip, we splurged and booked on the Rembrandt, a 57 meter triple masted schooner, carrying 30 passengers for the dive trip of a lifetime. However, our travel agent mentioned in passing a few days before we were to board that we had been switched to the Mondriaan, a 45 meter two-masted topsail schooner. Why we were switched remains a mystery--depending on who we talked to, the Rembrandt had lost itīs license, was in Panama for repairs, was running trips in Belize, or (most likely) didn`t have enough passengers to justify it sailing!!

Despite our misgivings, the Mondriaan was a great boat--15 passengers, 10 crew, and no cockroaches ;o) which meant that we even got some sleep!

The other 15 passengers consisted of a retired travelling couple, a family of four from Wisconsin, two peace corps workers stationed in Bolivia, two biologists from Canada, and another family from Canada whose daughter works in Ecuador. Amazingly, there were three Sara(h)s on board--I know, you`re all thinking "didn`t the others abandon ship knowing what trouble that is?" Everyone stayed put, however, despite the chaos that multiple Sara(h)s were bound to bring :o)

We sailed (OK, only one night) and motored throughout the southern islands, diving and hiking through the amazing land and sea scapes. Onboard time was spent eating (eating, and eating some more...), playing crib (south of the equator is not kind to Sarah!), and lounging on the deck, beer in hand. We even connived the crew into letting us play "Tarzan", by standing on the main boom, and swinging on one of the lines over the water, where we plunged 10 meters into the ocean below. What a rush!

By Land...

The landscapes in the Galapagos are as varied as the wildlife. Most of our daily hikes took us onto sandy beaches littered with sea lions. They all looked washed up, but every now and again one would make a break for the sea, and the others would bark with encouragement. Large marine and land iguanas lazed about, and brightly colored crabs dotted the rocks. Tons of birds circled overhead and nested in the trees around us--blue and red-footed boobies, great and magnificent frigates, pelicans, galapagos hawks, flamingos...(do I sound knowlegeable? OH good!!)

The most amazing thing is attitude of the animals...they were totally unfazed by a group of humans tromping through their homes. They stared, but made no attemt to flee--the exception being the small lava lizards, who were constantly underfoot yet never seemed to get squished!

Since the Galapagos are a volcanic creation, several of the islands were merely barren lava flows, with little or no wildlife or plant life on them. We got the eerie feeling that we were part of some Star Trek episode when trekking across the ropy and ah-ah (ouch ouch) lava. (Banner, great site for a movie scene, what do you think?!)

And By Sea...

We discovered upon boarding that we were the only two scuba divers on the trip, which had both ups and downs: we had the divemaster Rafael to ourselves and could therefore (somewhat) control the dives, but we also had to maintain an insane schedule to ensure that the land crew had their itinerary. What this amounted to was a very early first dive (6 or 6:30 most days), and another one either after breakfast or in the afternoon. Crazy, but well worth it!

Humor is never far from us, intentional or not. Diving equipment was part of our package with the boat, but of course they never specified that we would get the right equipment...Gary, being of general standard diving size, looked smashing in his wetsuit, but Sarah more resembled the Michelan Man, or perhaps those Sumo wrestler suits that you can wear in a bar and fight your friends (rematch, Benna?!) High comedy for the whole crew...only to be outdone by them getting a smaller wetsuit and then watching Sarah try to jam herself into it. The captain ordered "Barbie size", and he wasnīt kidding...about the time Sarah fell to the deck, blue from lack of circulation, they decided that they would try for a third size. It wasnīt quite the three little bears "just right", but it was certainly a lot better!

For any of you who dive, you know that you have to wear weights around your waist in order to sink to the bottom, and the amount you wear varies with, among other things, the wetsuit you wear. Forgetting that she had changed to the smaller wetsuit, Sarah donned her weight belt that she wore with the Michelan Man wetsuit and jumped overboard...only to plunge like a rock to the bottom...struggling like crazy to get back to the surface, since there were three sharks on the prowl for lunch!!

Despite these minor setbacks, the diving was fantastic! We found ourselves surrounded by sharks (hammerheads!), penguins, fish, fish, and more fish, rays, and of course the world-famous sea lions. They were incredibly curious and friendly--they would swim right up to us, mask to snout, and then spin away, only to come darting back a minute later. Of course, we were convinced that we had some cosmic connection with them, so every time one approached we made ourselves as sea-liony as possible, contorting ourselves inside out and backwards so they would play with us. Itīs a miracle that Raphael didnīt choke on his regulator laughing at us!

Quito en Espanol
Islas de Galapagos En Espanol
  Gary and Sarah Girotti/Jones - Bio and Journals
  ĄHola South America! - Intro Average Rating of 7 Viewers
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  Quito en Espanol
  Galapagos Islands
  Islas de Galapagos En Espanol
  South of Quito
  Sur de Quito En Espanol
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  Acampe Kapawi En Espaņol
  Cuzco and the Inca Trail
  Cuzco y Rastro de Inca-En Espaņol
  Lake Titicaca
  Lago Titicaca En Espaņol
  Desert Ramblings
  Los Cuentos de Deserte En Espaņol
  The Final Stop
  La Parada Final


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