“Damas y caballeros, muy buenos días.”
And another packed day began. We took the panga to a beach where we were greeted by iguanas.
Lots of iguanas.
They walk all over each other, paws on eyes, no flinching. They reminded me of some Medieval paintings of hell, all writhing bodies, inky black with spots of flame red. They also have a very distinctive smell. There were of course also sea lions napping on the beach. This one in particular was my buddy. I leaned in to take his picture as he cuddled a rock…
…and roused him from his nap. He followed me just like my dog would and when I turned back to look at him again he propped his chin up on a rock to give me the sad eyes just like my puppy does with the arm of the couch when should happen to walk by, not playing with him:
But the beach was just where we started. The trail we hiked that day was a steady climb up to albatross-launching height. It was a rocky trail. By which I mean the trial was nothing but rocks; it was quite a workout.
We saw a few different kinds of lizard and of course finches and even a hawk nesting just off the path but what we were really there to see were the albatrosses. They had an entire village of nests going on:
We even got to see a cool event: the mama albatross trading places with the daddy albatross so she could take a turn at hunting squid. The daddy made a very convincing show of taking charge of the egg:
But as soon as the mama was ten feet away he too wandered off, walking just behind her but since she wasn’t looking back she didn’t see him. Poor abandoned egg.
The edge of their nesting grounds was a cliff, because if you know anything about albatrosses you know they can’t take off from the ground. They have to jump off from a high place and catch the wind. (Look more iguanas. They climb some pretty sheer slopes to get up here.)
The albatrosses look incredibly inelegant when they are running, but once they’re in the air they’re gorgeous. We also saw a few trying to land, and what with the rocky terrain that was also a bit of a comedy show. Lots of begging off at the last minute and circling back around to try again. Honestly, if you’ve seen the Disney movie THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER, the albatross voiced by John Candy is spot on with his flying technique.
The albatrosses picked that spot to nest because it’s high but it also boasts some awesome views:
There was even a blow hole that sent water up at impressive heights that I never timed quite right. This was the closest (but it was so much cooler live):
In the afternoon we did more snorkeling. After dinner the night before the naturalists had shown us a slide show of some of the fish we might see at this reef and what their names were, which was cool especially as we saw almost all of them, even a chocolate chip sea star. Sadly, not having an underwater camera you’ll have to take my word for the coolness of the Galápagos under the waves.
After snorkeling we headed to another beach, this one full of sea lion puppies pretending like they were too tired to play, but secretly napping so close to the water that the waves would catch them and roll them about and then they just had to frolic, didn’t they? Whole rows of them were playing this game:
I also got a picture of the youngest sea lion pup we had seen yet, just a few months old and oh those eyes:
A full day for sure. The upside of all of this hiking and snorkeling is that you can feel free to eat all of the awesome food they serve (I’m pretty sure this was the day the kitchen staff prepared an all-Ecuador lunch buffet. How do you not want to try a bit of everything? Ecuadorian food is so good).
I knew we would be navigating for eight hours that night and was a bit worried what a sleepless night was going to do to me. Some of the other passengers recommended taking one of the Dramamine pills they kept out on the front desk in a basket like they were candy. I had no motion sickness, but the other passengers told me they were very sleep-inducing and would knock me right out. So I took one and per usual crashed right after dinner.
Then was awake again less than two hours later as we navigated to the next island. It was a long night. Even now a month later I often wake up at night feeling like I’m on a ship navigating on the sea. The motion is fun, even soothing, like being rocked in a gigantic cradle, but oh the noise. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be a light sleeper.