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Saturday, February 8, 2014

A walk on the Moon

Santiago Island is unlike anything we've previously encountered:  no sea lions, no iguanas, no boobies -no anything.    Sullivan Bay looks like a combination of the surface of the moon and Mars: a huge black lava field in the foreground and barren reddish hills in the background.  The lava field is a result of a recent volcanic eruption:  recent, Pablo explains, is a
mere two hundred years ago – barely yesterday in geological terms.  We’re about embark on an hour hike to the red hills in the distance, then on to a bay on the other side of the island.

Because of the fractured nature of the lava going is relatively slow.  After about forty minutes we are fairly strung out along the lava field. I notice we are missing a couple of people: Mr. Sandhu and Sid. 

  Sid disappearing  isn't  that uncommon, he would often find something that interested him – like swimming with some tiger sharks (after Pedro warned us not to go swimming there) or sneaking up on iguanas just to see if it’s true that they jettison their tails when frightened.  The other disappearance is a bit more troubling.  Mr. Sandhu at 84 is not as nimble on his feet as the rest of us. 

I work my way to the front of the line to let Pedro know we’re missing two people.  Pedro puts me in charge of the group ( another risky move) and is about to head back to look for his missing charges when we see Sid and Mr. Sandhu in the distance.  Mr. Sandhu is hanging on Sid’s arm.  He has a makeshift bandage on his right hand.  Pedro hurries to help them.  I am truly amazed since Sid generally only worries about himself.  When I quiz him about what happened he tells me he was hanging back at the end of the line when he found an interesting hole in the lava and was planning on hiding in it and scaring the hell out of the next group of tourists who were about twenty minutes behind.  As he was getting himself settled he noticed Mr. Sandhu stumbling by.

“He looked pretty shaken, and he’d obviously fallen and cut his hand on the sharp lava,” Sid said.  “So I got out of my hole and went up to him, calmed him down, bandaged his hand and started back with him.  He didn’t want to be fussed over, but I knew he was glad to have some help.”

“Well you’re the last person I would have expected to do that.” I reply.
“I was the last person,” Sid responds dryly.
Sid’s stock with the group, especially Pedro, changes dramatically after that.  Pedro realizes that Sid has saved his bacon, and from that point on nothing too good for Sid.  If Sid wanted a “selfie” with a sea lion – no problem. He was golden.

After the lava field excursion we head back to the boat for lunch then on to Bartolome Island, home to the world famous Pinnacle Rock.  There’s a lookout at the top – a mere 350 steps up.  Mr. Sandhu wisely decides to stay on board and miss this excursion.  I’m looking forward to giving the new stent in my heart a challenging workout.  Sid is still basking in his new role as a hero.  Pedro hardly winces when Sid boots (gently) an iguana that gets in his way.  The 360 degree view is worth the climb.

We return to the boat and get into our swim gear for a bit of snorkeling around the rock and once again we’re treated to more white tip sharks, and rays.

During the evening the boat heads back to Santa Cruz Island for our last full day on the islands.  Today
we’re going to Cerro Dragon, or “Dragon Hill” in English where we’re supposed to see land iguanas – which look surprisingly like marine iguanas except they can’t swim.  Pedro catches Sid dragging one of them down to the beach to test the hypothesis.  I agree with Sid, I don’t think we should take everything on faith.  Unfortunately the iguana is set free and scuttles away – so I guess we’ll never know.    The word evidently spreads around the iguana community that a maniac is on the loose as we only see one more iguana that day.

The next morning we awake early and take the dinghies to Black Turtle Cove, which is a shallow lagoon where we see more sharks, turtles and rays, and an amazing flock of  a thousand Boobies that dive bomb into the lagoon all around us.

Then it’s back to the boat and off to the airport for the trip back to Quito and home.

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