12/19/15 – Birds

We pitch, roll, and heave all night long. At least I stay horizontal on my bed in the small dark cabin. I survive to the morning without nausea! Dramamine works. Better living through chemistry.

Our first full day at sea. Lee sets his alarm one hour too early because of the time change between Quito and The Galapagos, so I wake at 5:40am to a gray but warm morning with a ribbon of a black crater circling the boat. I put on sunscreen, pack a bag, and brush my teeth. Lee finds the boat crew still sleeping on deck, announces we are an hour too early, and resets his alarm for 40 minutes hence.

After breakfast, our group of 11 plus guide Julio disembarks for a “dry landing” on a wet staircase leading up a cliff. Sadly, I step first into the ocean, soaking my left sock and sneaker. Ray warns that due to the high humidity, nothing dries. I wring seawater out of the offending sock.

Isla Genovesa is also known as Booby Island for birds are everywhere, nesting in trees, huddled on the ground, or inquisitively poking at us. Julio differentiates the tree-sitting red-footed boobies from the terrestrial black-footed boobies. Along our walk along the cliff, we spots thousands of petrels diving into the ocean.

The short-eared owls are quite civilized. Not nocturnal, these owls wake at a reasonable eight o’clock in the morning to forage for breakfast. Blending in with the surrounding rock, they hide in petrel burrows to surprise the smaller birds on their lunch return. We watch an owl tear apart an unfortunate bird.

We retrace our steps along the cliff, descend the wet stone stairs, and flop back into the two pangas. Just before lunch, we depart again for snorkeling from the pangas along a cliff. As the water isn’t turbid, the snorkeling is quite excellent with lots of large iridescent parrotfish. I’m still swallowing too much seawater but grateful for the buoyancy and sun protection afforded by the rented wetsuit.

We lunch. Much of our day centers on food – often, good, and in quantity. The ship’s square meals are not innovative haute cuisine (more at sea level), but it is varied and thoughtfully prepared.

We beach in the afternoon to walk past more birds: boobies, herons, frigate birds. Sea lions yap at us, then slumber on the beach. We’re advised not to approach a sea lion too closely as they like to bite. Tourists are permitted to explore only small parts of each island under the supervision of a guide and not at all after dark. At nighttime, the animals can do what they want.

We snorkel from the beach of Isla Genovesa for the rest of the afternoon. I’m getting the hang of underwater life. Terrestrial concerns – San Francisco, work, relationships – ebb away, although I do receive a vision of a rainbow dinosaur outfit and contemplate light-up fish.

We dine. I skip the camarones although the shrimp sauce is tasty over rice. Ray and I add hot sauce to most dishes. We choose not to drink tonight as Julio announces a 6am hike the next morning.

I pop another Dramamine to find it not soporific. Ray, Adriene, and I watch the stars from the yacht’s top deck. The moon rises bright and the clouds gracefully recede. I identify an upside-down Orion, the smudge of Pleiades, and the W of Cassiopeia. We discuss life, Yellow Springs, travel.

I go below decks to my cabin and brace for another rocky night. The boat will sail for 6 hours over open ocean back to close where we started. This time I’m not nervous; I can hack life, even in The Galapagos on a yacht.