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Galapagos to French Polynesia July 25, 2004 Español

Posted by Belle in : Galapagos to French Polynesia

July 9

We arrived at Espaniola during the wee hours of the morning. The breakfast bell rang at 7:00 and the dinghy was to take us ashore at 8:00. I had forgotten how much I love breakfast food. Yummy granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, fresh squeezed juice, eggs, cheese. Dio liked three pieces of salami with cheese, a little granola and yogurt, juice, and some eggs. I’ve never seen him eat so much as he did on that boat. He must have gained at least two pounds in one week and two pouds for a twenty five pound boy is a lot. He has a belly now. And he walks like a little santa, waddling about like a little rolly polly. So cute.

On Espaniola we saw lots of seals on the beach. I love seals. A lot. It seems I love seals more than anybody else on our trip. Or on the other trips we ran into. I may love seals more than anybody ever. Though there might be some freak out there somewhere who gets to spend hours a day with them. I really could hang out with them, watching them and attempting to talk to them for weeks. I pretend that they understand me. Sometimes it really seems like they do. They really seem to enjoy life. We went swimming with them in the afternoon. So fun. They are so graceful, no ballerina could ever be as graceful as these beasts. They zoom around twisting and turning, floating towards you upside down, coming so close to crashing into you and then, just when you stop smiling and realize that this creature weighs over two hundred pounds and has teeth and could bust your rib in an instant, it would swivel around you, looking back at you like a child singing, na na na na na na. I almost drowned laughing. Dio wasn’t quite sure what to make of them at first. If they got too close he would start yelling and make the -pick me up mommy before I die- gesture.

In the Galapagos there are no predators so the animals have no fear of humans. When we went for a walk on Espaniola we saw hundreds of blue footed boobies sitting on their nests. And they never seemed annoyed or scared that we may have to stop right next to them to continue on our path. The Boobies lay two eggs. One of the chicks makes it, the other one always dies. I guess they probably feed the one with the biggest mouth and the other one eventually dies. We saw lots of chicks. The saddest thing was seeing a mother boobie sitting on a dead chick. It was as if she didn’t know it was dead. Maybe that was a little Natural Selection in action right there. Or maybe she had a live baby boobie under her that we didn’t see. Who knows. We also saw albatross. They’re so beautiful and so huge. When they fly, they soar, forever. They have beautiful faces, cream colored with brown cheeks.

By the end of the day, Dio had gotten used to these animals. Maybe too used to them. Wences and Dio went for a walk on the beach where all the sea lions were and wences told me that Dio had seemed to lose all fear. He even almost stepped on one, but the seemingly sleeping seal snapped upright and belched at Dio (they really sound like drunken sailors, farting and burping all day). Dio took one step back, fearing for his life, and then his survival instincts kicked in. He made his super scarey monster snarl right back at that seal and that seal shut up. Since the snarl was so effective, Dio is attempting to extend its usage into more ordinary, day to day stressful situations, like when mommie won’t let me eat cookies or coke, but so far, it only scares her when I do it for no reason. Then she runs away and hides from me and I go find her and she runs away again. Fun game.

July 10

We arrived at Floriana early in the morning. By the time we had breakfast and were ready to go ashore, Dio was ready for a nap so Wences stayed with him on the boat.
Floriana was beautiful. We walked across it, seeing a briney lagoon with lots of flamingos, to the other side where there was a beautiful beach. I saw something in the water so went in to take a look. As I was waiting for the water to settle from the last wave so I could see the sandy bottom, I felt a large fleshy thing crash into my ankles, float between my legs and drift off back into the sea. It was a big ray! Just then the naturalist came walking quickly over to me to tell me the dangers of stepping on a sting ray, and how I should shuffle rather than walk or I could step on one, piss them off, and then they would whip there tail at me with that little stinger they have and leave me limping for a day or two. So I shuffled away. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by rays. On eHUGE one, two medium sized ones and one baby one. When the waves would crash, they would all float somewhere else, probably close to where they had been before, but definitely not in the same place. I felt like we were playing hide and seek! I loved finding them.

In the afternoon, after a yummy lunch, we put on our wetsuits and were told we were going to the waters where white tipped sharks hang out. I quickly decided that Dio and I needed to stay aboard, that Dio hand’t REALLY been sleeping when wences had been watching him, but PRETENDING to sleep for two hours. Wences knowing me well replied, no way are you staying here. Dio can come with us and stay with Luis in the dinghy. I looked at Luis. I had never even spoken a word to this man. Now I’m going to leave my adorable sea lion wannabe with a stranger, in a little dinghy, over shark infested waters? It was a bit much for me. I decided to appease wences I would get in the water, and to lay my own fears at rest, I’d stick close to the dinghy, ready at any moment to snatch my darling out of the water in case he should fall (don’t worry, he always wore a life vest whenever he was in the dinghy). So, I jumped in the water, looked down through my mask, couldn’t see much, I looked back, expecting to see Dio squirming out of Luis’s arms, trying to get to his mother as she disappeared into the deep blue, but no. He wasn’t even looking my direction. I said, fine. That’s great. He shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t WANT him to be watching after you. So, I started REALLY looking in the water. A beautiful parrot fish was just underneath me. A big one. I watched it chomp away on something for a bit. Oh, my angel must be missing me now, I thought. I looked up. No dighy. OH MY GOD WHERE HAS THAT MAN TAKEN MY LITTLE ANGEL FISH? I looked around and saw something I never would have imagined in a million years. He wasn’t trying to get to me, he wasn’t trying to get in the water, he wasn’t climbing all over Luis, he was holding onto the handle of the dinghy engine, DRIVING the dinghy, AWAY FROM HIS MOTHER! What am I going to do when he goes off to college. All of the sudden I felt a deep connection with my mother, and all mothers.

So, I decided, since my son was safe, and obviously very happy learning a new skill, I should take advantage of what I was supposed to be doing. I started really paying attention to the things I was seeing underneath me. Lots of fish. It was a little cloudy, but still very beautiful. Suddenly I saw a small turtle cruise by me, disappearing into the cloudy water in front of me. Wences came and found me and we swam holding hands. He was bringing me to the sharks, I just knew it. He wants me to get over me fear, so he’s going to make me swim with one, maybe even touch one, I just knew it. Oh god. Well, I know that all of the things he makes me do, I love after I do them, so, I tried to swallow my fear and swim along. But I made sure I was always little behind him, so if one came, it would eat him first.

That day the captain of the ship, Pepe, had come with us. He told us he loved white tipped sharks and that they were very tame. He told me that he touched them all the time and that he had never had any problem. Wences and I got close to Pepe and then we saw something amazing. He was focusing on a rock that seemed to have a cave in it. He put his arm inside and started pulling. What the hell is he doing, I thought to myself. Suddenly Pepe yanked a white tipped shark out of the darkness and let it go. It must have been about seven feet long. Oh my god! Here it comes! The shark started swimming towards us, I started swimming backwards, Wences was in front of me, I was safe. Then the shark turned away and swam in the opposite direction. No eye contact, no nothing. Sort of an anti climax. You expect them to at least look at you like they want to eat you or something. But no. Then Wences and I started swimming separately. He always wants to go twice as fast as I do. I was puttering along, following a fish, thinking how glad I was the shark was gone cause I just remembered I had my period and if the shark smelled my blood, he might have come after me and eaten me up in one bite. I turned around to see where Wence was and the shark was swimming right by me. Ten feet away. I almost had a heart attack. Of course nobody saw my close encounter with jaws, but I know I did it. White tipped sharks are ok, I’ve decided. BUT THAT’s IT.

Unfortunately, I did not write the last three days of the trip on Diamonte and now can’t remember much. So this is kind of a Greatest Hits of the Galapagos. Wences and I snorkeled together one day, in search of turtles. Of course we were with the group, in a spot where I guess there area always turtles. I had always thought turtles were kind of boring. They’re not cozy, cute, they don’t make any noise, they move too slow, where’s the fun? So I was looking for parrot fish or rays. Wences suddenly pointed at something emerging from the sandy water in front of us. A HUGE turtle was chomping away at some moss on the sear floor. It was so HUGE that my first instinct was again, to get behind Wences and let the turtle eat him first while I got away. After a few seconds I noticed that Wence was not swimming away, or being dragged away into some turtle lair, he was following the turtle. So I followed. The turtle didn{t go far, just moved to another spot to eat. Wence swam down and grabbed onto the back of the turtle. Of course my husband always does the things the environmentalist says not to do. Don’t TOUCH the animals was really the cardinal rule. Here Wences was grabbing onto the back of this poor old turtle, probably five hundred years old for chrissake, never touched by a human, forced to drag Wence around like a pony in a zoo. It looked so fun. The turtle was startled at first, and swam pretty fast, much faster than I ever imagined a turtle could swim. And when he swam, it looked like he was flying. Those two front legs flatten out and appear more like little wings in the water than legs. When Wence let go I expected old the turtle to hightail it out of there, but he swam in a circle and came back to see what the hell was that thing that had grabbed onto him. No fear. No big deal. And Wence rode a turtle. How fun. Of course we didn’t tell anyone in our trip or we might have been thrown off the boat.

Another day we swam through this bay that was a series of volcano ash channels. The water was really shallow. The rock was black and you could see everything. Tons of beautiful fish, some turtles. It was really unique.

We really enjoyed our time on Diamonte. The crew was fabulous. The captain, Pepe, was a cute forty something, stocky guy who looked like a soccer player. At first he was very serious and kind of withdrawn, but wence has a way of bringing people out which I really enjoy. Pepe let Dio steer the boat, he was the one who grabbed the white tipped shark, he became such a merry, warm guy, we wanted to take him with us. Then there was Walter, the chef. The first day we were on the Diamonte, Dio found the little window outside the kitchen. He loved to go look in and see what was going on in there. Since we were always up before everyone else, we had to wait a bit for breakfast. We sat there for a bit, watching Walter and then Walter handed Dio a banana pancake. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Walter loved Dio. Really loved him. He would hold him and cook at the same time. He made special things for him when he thought Dio wouldn’t like what we were eating. And sometimes it seemed like he just felt like making something yummy he thought Dio would like. He would come sit with Dio in the afternoons and pretend to be a seal barking. He was very gentle, kind, a great chef and a hard working guy. He and Pepe came to Simpatica to say goodbye on the one day they have half off. Pepe came to say goodbye to wence and Walter came to say goodbye to Dio. Dio didn’t want Walter to put him down or leave. It was really sweet. Sophia told me later that he had told her had a son who has down syndrome that he doesn’t get to see much because of his job and because he just got a divorce. All of the guys who worked on the boat were divorced. Of course. They work for six weeks straight and then they have a week or two off. Hard to make that work. But we loved all of them. Luis and Angel would always take Dio in the dinghy either when we were going snorkeling, or sometimes Angel would take Dio to another boat, just to way hi, while I was finishing breakfast or something. I’d here someone say, LOOK THERE’S DIO, and he would be in the dinghy, looking as if he was steering, hand on that stick thingie, waving to a big boat of tourists with Angel at his side. After two days of being with these guys, I completely trusted all of them with Dio. Louis would always say, va ser marinero, he’s going to be a sailor like he could just see it in him. They asked if we could leave Dio with them and give him to us when he was older. Since they all have children they never get to see, they took care of Dio as if he was their own. We really enjoyed our time with them.
When we finished the trip we had three days in Academy Bay on Santa Cruz to clean the boat and provision for crossing the Pacific; not a lot of time. We went to the local market early one morning at got all of our produce. I really enjoy going to food markets in other countries. Especially ones at 6:00 in the morning that attract locals and not too many tourists. It’s fun to see all the local food and people. We bought some great fruit and vegetables there. The apples and oranges, cabbage, zucchini, and pears when wrapped in foil paper and put in the fridge lasted the crossing and then some!

The day before we left I nervously checked my email for an email from Gloria or Frank Amadeo. I saw two emails from Gloria waiting in my inbox. The moment of truth. I waited for the incredibly slow connection to reveal her positive or negative review on the second draft. She loved it. I think she used the word more than five times and great three times. I was so relieved. Of course, there were still changes to be made, but hearing that she was now sure we had something that she was confident to pitch to some of her Hollywood connections made me feel so good. And now I could make some of those changes during the Pacific Crossing.