Monday, January 25, 2010

Chapter 6 from 'An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel'


There is a lot of talk these days about closing the Galapagos Islands to tourism because of the great sensitivity of their unique eco-systems. In the meantime, we’re only allowed to be there if we stay within the path outlined for that purpose. Therefore, on the smaller islands, Orlando, one of the guides from our yacht Flamingo I, would take his group clockwise around the island, while his colleague Karina took our group counterclockwise. This system worked fine until the day I got left behind.

One of the best days of my life!

Karina speaks excellent English and is a wonderful guide with a tremendous depth of knowledge about the Galapagos. Nevertheless, when she said we would see lots of blue-footed boobies one day, I was thrilled to find she hadn’t exaggerated. Just as my feet were getting sore, we came to a huge field covered with sand, rocks, twigs, a few shrubs, and a flock of elaborately-courting and minimally-nesting blue-footed boobies. With the exception of one booby protecting an egg, they paid no attention to us.

I was in heaven. “I’d love to stay here,” I sighed.

“Okay,” said Karina, “you sit here until… (I missed this part) …pick you up on the way to the beach.”

Another rule: Pay attention, or request repetition for verification. I’m not always good at this, either.

When I heard Karina say “Okay, you sit here,” I immediately unfolded my cane/chair thingie, and sat down in that wonderful field full of blue-footed boobies, without actually hearing all of her instructions.

Another communication problem existed, but I didn’t know about it until later. There I sat, with my giant collapsible beige golf umbrella shading me from the sun, and watched boobies sky-pointing in their courtship dance; looked at the ocean in the near distance; watched a group of male boobies trying unsuccessfully to intimidate one another; and looked at the ocean again in case dolphins or whales came by. They didn’t, but I enjoyed myself immensely anyway.

After a few hours, Orlando came along with the second group from Flamingo I. They all greeted me.

“Hi, Kay, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m having a wonderful time.”

“So you’re alright here?”

“Never better,” I said as I waved goodbye.

I didn’t know Karina had asked Orlando to take me back to the beach with them. I thought our group, including my husband, would be coming back for me.

Eventually, when I was beginning to get just a teensy bit tired of sitting, but not the least bit tired of booby-watching, Orlando and a man from his group came up behind me.

“We’ve come to take you to the beach.”

“Oh?” I asked, “where’s Dick?”

“He and the others are out on the Flamingo already.”

So off we went to the beach, where one of the pangas (boats) from our yacht was waiting.

Oh, yes, getting in and out of a panga. That’s another story.

But first, my giant umbrella: I searched and searched online until I found a large, collapsible, light-beige golf umbrella. For a sunny climate, a light color is best, because dark colors absorb the sun’s heat, as we all know but often forget when buying everything from clothes to cars – and then we’re sorry later, as I have learned the hard way.

My umbrella, along with my portable chair/cane, provided me with shelter and seating. My face got red from exertion, but never from sunburn, for which I was grateful because I’m photosensitive, among other awful things.

However, when we got home from that trip, I discovered some sand had found its way into the workings, so I could no longer open my wonderful umbrella. Did I order a new one? No, I forgot that, too.

Of course, the time eventually came when I needed sun protection desperately. Surrounded by tourists and locals who were carrying pastel umbrellas and parasols in the heat of a Beijing summer, I found myself holding a small black (yes, black) umbrella over my head. It might as well have been a portable oven.

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