Now playing:
Recorded 1986

play music

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Walk for your life! It's a tortoise stampede!!!

The Galapagos Islands
After my walk around it was time to head back to the hotel and meet some of the other participants on the Galapagos tour.   At six o'clock there are five other people sitting in the lobby for our Guide to show up and brief us:  There’s a pharmacist from Chattanooga,  A tall very fit couple from England, Marla, a girl who turns out to have lived three blocks from me in Richmond, and Sid who hails from New Zealand.  Sid is wearing a muscle t-shirt, a copper bracelet and an earring  in his left ear.   He is engaged in a contest with the ropey English couple of who’s the most fit.  Sid claims that he actually rode a bicycle up to Machu Picchu which is 5000 feet higher than Quito.  After my experience  chugging up a small hill in Quito I point out the only way you’ll get me up to Machu Picchu is in a hyperbaric chamber on the back of a pick-up truck!  Sid is also annoyed that our original boat has sunk.  It doesn’t matter we’re getting a “better” boat.   I instinctively know who they’re going to assign as my bunkie when we get to the boat.  I judge I’ll have to make the best of it as he looks to fit to push overboard. 
The groujp
 The next morning our guide arrives with a van to transport us back to the Quito airport for the three hour flight out to the Galapagos  Islands.  He buys our tickets, escorts us to security and bids us farewell.  Evidently we’ll be met by a new set of guides on the other end.

Along with about a hundred other people we mill around departure Gate 9 until just about departure time.  A few minutes before the scheduled loading the video screen above the gate suddenly goes blank.  A murmur of concern spreads throughout the milling throng.  This is when I am at my best.
“Don’t worry,” I tell the group, “I speak Spanish.  I’ll go find out what’s happening.”

I head over to the next gate and begin to engage the  chap in Spanish.
“I speak English,” he says.
I lower my voice so the group will still think I’m conversing in Spanish.
“Where do you want to go?” he asks.
“To the Galapagos Islands,” I reply.
“Oh you’re at the wrong gate!  You have to go upstairs to the other end of the airport to gate 1.”
I march down to the assembled group.
“Gate change!  Gate 1.  Follow me.”
Like the Pied Piper I lead the group upstairs and to the other end of the airport to Gate 1.  The plane is already loading.  I hand the attendant my boarding pass.
“This isn't your flight!  Your flight is downstairs at Gate 9!  What are you doing up here?  You better hurry or you’ll miss your flight!”
There is an angry murmur in the crowd.
“Communication problem, “  I tell them.  I was speaking Mexican Spanish to the guy, he misunderstood.”
I don’t wait  to find out if they buy it, but head down the escalator.

San Cristobal
Even though the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador there’s a rigorous screening after we land.  They’re not interested if we’re carrying firearms or bombs – they’re more interested in anything organic that might infect their islands.  My luggage is ploughed through and my gingerbread men from home confiscated.

Outside the airport a person stands with a sign reading Monserrat, the name of the boat we will be staying on where we meet the other 11 people  who will be sharing the boat with us. There are several other couples from England and Ireland, a thirty something dot-com millionaire from New Orleans and Mr. Sandhu an 83 year old Indian gentleman whose entire travel clothes seem to be what he has ben wearing: dress pants, a madras shirt, and leather loafers. 

Mr. Sandhu
It’s a quick bus ride to the harbour and our boat which I quickly rename Monster Rat. (Actually the boat was quite nice – I just had a hard time remembering the name – after I renamed it, nobody else had a problem remembering it either.)  We’re introduced to our crew and our naturalist/guides, Pedro and the gorgeous Jocelyn.
I notice that most of the guys in the group have stopped taking pictures of sea lions and concentrate on the local attraction. And as predicted I found my assigned roomie was Sid.


As soon as we’ve had a chance to unpack we’re ushered on to the dinghies for a ride back to shore and a bus ride  to the Jacinto Gordilo Breeding centre where they breed Giant Tortoises in a semi-wild habitat.  Bascially what you’re seeing are a lot of giant tortoises standing around doing nothing.

“Pretty boring, mate, eh?” comments Sid,  “Maybe we can stir things up a bit.”
With that he screams at the top of his lungs.  Four seniors in the next tour group go into cardiac arrest, but the effect on the tortoises is amazing.  Heads suddenly appear from inside the shells and they are galvanized to move on mass.

“Tortoise Stampede!” yells Sid. “Walk for your Life!”
After about twenty seconds the tortoise herd grinds to a halt having covered maybe one foot.
“Pretty exciting, eh?” asks Sid.  “Did you manage to capture that on video?”

Sid is taken aside by the tour leaders and given a stern lecture about decorum.  I decide maybe I misjudged him.  


No comments:

Add This