Adventure Log

Galapagos is Disneyland for Nature Nerds

 

This was written day by day in 2017 on my epic 20 year friendaversary with my beloved Princess Sarah. Sarah and I met in 1996 in Eugene, OR. We have been close ever since and through a combined 4 higher education degrees, several careers, divorces and too many men. In 20 years we have collectively done 2 cross country USA moves, 3 international moves, and have had countless amazing meals, fun, laughter, and travel adventures. She is one of the great loves of my life and a source of sanity on this journey I call being human. Thanks Sarah, I love you!
2003 and 2017

Why Galapagos? Sarah was an English-lit teacher living and working in Quito at the time and we decided she couldn’t move out of Ecuador without a trip to the famous Galapagos. So I bought a ticket and this is the result. Enjoy!

12/22/17

After spending a day in Quito recovering from a near 24 hour door to door trip from Seattle, then trying not to vomit from the almost 10k altitude of the Andes, we flew to the Galapagos. We went from air to bus to boat and straight to paradise. Let’s get this adventure started!

Sarah, having a lifelong fear of being in the water, went snorkeling for the first time like the badass goddess she is and I have never been prouder.

A sea lion bumped my mask twice and bit my fin playfully as it zoomed closely by and around us dozens of times. I couldn’t stop giggling into my snorkel and I am pretty sure my new friend loved it. Sea lions are playful little assholes, I think I’m in love.

The Galapagos are stupid, obviously someone staged all the animals near us wherever we went as a publicity stunt. Well played island fairies! Blue footed boobies everywhere, no bigs.

The wildlife didn’t give AF about you, they were curious!

I love Boobies!

12/23/17

It’s fucking 11am and we just saw a ton of fucking shit. (Two kinds of boobies, marine iguanas, fur sea lions, bullhead shark, dozens of fish in a giant sea cave and more…)

Our afternoon snorkel was penguin paradise and Sarah snorkeled with a ton of green sea turtles. Marine iguanas are fast little fuckers in the water. I saw a puffer puffed up and a damsel fuck with an octopus and win.

Galapagos Penguins are adorable
Marine Iguanas are weird and cool
Good to know Brown Pelicans are everywhere on this planet
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Sea turtles were everywhere. They snuck up on you and scared the shit out of you.

We went to Fernandina and saw love, war, sex and death in two hours. By the time we left the island the overload of cute, powerful and majestic made me never want to see a sea lion or marine iguana again.

To illustrate my point, Two marine iguanas duked it out head to head for 15min and to everyone’s surprise the little guy won. We needed David Attenborough to narrate, or a boxing announcer, it was that intense.

Did you know green sea turtles essentially get gang raped? We watched that happen in fascination and horror. Did you know marine iguanas desalinate their own water in their fucking heads? Now you do. Did you know the Galapagos go upward of 1500plus above sea level from a seabed of 2-3 thousand fucking meters? Ya, that’s a thing, big big big old fucking volcanos.

 

Looking adventurous next to whale bones
Striking a mandatory pose with the iguanas, park rules say you had to stay 2 meters away from wildlife unless they came up to you. The little fuckers always came up to you.

12/24/17

Felize Navidad bitches! “I know I am but what are you?” This was the morning catch phrase and Jenn is the absolute worst bully ever. (Insert sigh and eye roll here) Nature walks are arid and hot as fuck in the Galapagos. Land lizards are huge and different colors, they lounge around with their bellies on the ground and legs splayed like my dog Appa. Lazy bitches. 

 

Land Iguana, at least 3 feet long

A flightless cormorant pecked my mask, what a dick. I think he thought I was shiny so I don’t blame him, it was actually a compliment and I got good video, which will make me more cool on the social interwebs. I saw a white tipped reef shark pass me by at close range, came out of nowhere and reminds you that this ain’t your home lady….stay humble.

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Mermaids laid on the deck and pondered making Disney movies about the tortoise lonely George and his crew of Galapagos pals. The theme being that the plight for romance is overcome through solid friendships. That’s so true. Happy 20th friendiverssary Princess Sarah.

Let this be known: no amount of hot yoga can prepare you for 150 stairs straight up in the equator’s sun. But the promised “nice landscape” of Darwin’s lake, was indeed very nice. Sarah snorkeled on her own for a bit and found a shark. My evil plan of making her water ready for future boat excursions is working.

Our amazing group of fellow travelers, we were so lucky to have such a wonderful group of people aboard.

Christmas Eve dinner was spectacular and the Ecuadorian men running this boat are rock stars. I spent the evening talking with teens and parents and it’s good to know that on or off the clock I am the child whisperer. Ask kids interesting questions and you will get interesting answers. Plus, these kids are super cool people. Their youngest took this rad picture when we crossed the equator.

12/25/17

I woke up at 5:20am to walk a beautiful beach and see baby fur seals and lava herons. I had nothing sarcastic to say as it was just too fucking breathtaking. This was followed by the best snorkel yet with lots of colorful fish and coral. The overstim overload is impressive and we are still not sure that any of this is real. Oh ya, and it’s Christmas. Ho ho ho. 


My Christmas present to the world and the Galapagos was me trying to show up the seals in a photo shoot battle. I won. (Obviously.)

Last night we saw Brydes whales and then today a giant pod of bottle nosed dolphins rode our bow jumping and playing. What is this crazy ass place? Disney land for nature nerds?

Baby fur seals hurt my face. Their only job on the planet is to look cute and be lazy, I want to be one when I grow up. I love you forever wobbles!

Holy shit balls Sarah did deep water and drift snorkeling and spotted not one but two white tip reef sharks as big as us. We also saw our first ray, his name was Ray. I’m running out of things I haven’t seen in the Galapagos so now I’ve got my sights set on a real unicorn. If history repeats itself then we will see one tomorrow as these islands deliver. Oh ya, and merry fucking Christmas!

This is Wobbles. He was said to be probably a day old. He hurts my face and I want to love him and pet him and squeeze him and call him Wobbles. I didn’t do any of that though because he’s wild. I just took this picture so I could think about it. Be respectful to wildlife.
Spotted Rays, so many of them. Birds in the sea.
This is a Lava Heron. Somehow they always seem a little grumpy. I am pretty sure he’s like, “Fucking tourists…..”

12/26/17

Apparently the Galapagos is all about extremes. This includes our boat where it is either sweltering hot in the cabins to the point of your skin melting off or so cold you can see your breath and dream you are sleeping naked in the Andes. It is a mystery indeed, and also the AC apparently has no thermostat. I still love you Golondrina!

Today was a full land day at the Galapagos national park turtle breeding center in Santa Cruz. I thought my face was going to fall off watching baby tortious tongues munch greens. Then it did when I saw the 150 year old tortoise gumming greens. Tortoise tongues are hilarious, I hope my face repairs itself.

Sarah and I made voices for these little guys and made them talk a lot. Anthropomorphic turtles are the best.

This evening is all about the animals we have spent the most time with this trip: people. We said goodbye today to some new friends and hello to some people joining the trip. In total 6 countries have been represented on this boat and many conversations have been had, adventures experienced, and laughs shared. Tracey and Geoffrey from Australia were especially special, such wankers. And the Praul family, with awesome teens mentioned above, are badass. We also got to know some of our Ecuadorian crew better, and have a lot of respect for their lives and jobs. The disparity of rich and poor and light and dark skin is global and tragic. I have nothing sarcastic to say this entry. What I will say is fuck racism, fuck White privilege, fuck misogyny, and fuck violence….fuck it anywhere and anytime.

Our crew on Christmas as they gave us a toast. We loved the white outfits, so professional. I also need to say that the food was fucking AMAZING the entire trip. YUM!! Go Golondrina in the Galapagos.

12/27/17

“We are not here to fuck spiders.” “Excuse me while I go be badass.” These are 7:25am quotes by crazy Americans and Australians exploring nature reserves…..such wankers.

A hike on 100k year old Lava flow with lichens slowly turning it to soil, then 30+ white tip reef sharks sleeping in a channel with current helping them breathe, a marble ray and 8 spotted rays flying by us underwater? Yes please. Then some eggs and coffee for breaky. Oh, and a penguin shat in my face and swam away. I think it’s an omen of good luck. He sees me and is like, “OH FUCK!” I also got it on video:

Sarah is convinced this is all staged. There is no way it can be real. We saw the tiniest baby turtles at the breeding center followed by pink fucking Chilean flamingos eating six feet in front of us. We were so distressed by all this cuteness we had to go get fresh coconuts to drink and walk on the beach. We might have left the beach with educational turtle porn etched into the sand, I have no idea who would do such an immature thing. This trip is sooooo hard!! Here is your visual tutorial of how baby tortoise are made. You are welcome.

Yes, this is suggesting that turtles think of my sexy self as they do it. Naturally, it is evolution.

This is us showing the flamingos how to pose best to look pretty. Is this humansplaining the animals? I don’t think they needed the help, but having thumbs and a frontal lobe I felt entitled that it was my job to show them.

12/28/17

I can’t even get myself to write an entry today, our last day on the boat Golondrina with her crew and our new friends….but I will. We did more snorkeling where I finally found some nudibranchs. The Galapagos is not known for invertebrates, it is famous for more big animals so it was a true geek treat. I also happen to love nudibranchs, the butterflies of the sea. We saw all the usual stuff….swimming iguanas, rays, sharks, lots of fish, turtles, blue footed boobies, finches, herons, flamingos, land iguanas, and sea lions. We have become so desensitized that unless they touch us somehow we don’t even get our cameras out.

This was such an excellent find. A nudibranch on a scorpion fish. YYYAAAAASSS!

A hi-light of the day was hanging out with the captain, first mate and engineer for a while talking shop with Sarah translating in her amazing fluent Spanish. I had already received a tour of the engine and boat systems days before and came ready with more questions. The engineer takes very good care of the boat systems. They let me drive the boat for a while and the currents were so strong it would take you 10 degrees off in seconds if you barely started to get lazy steering. These guys are exceptional sailors, the Galapagos are notoriously difficult to navigate due to the intense currents and terrain. As I drove we saw two huge manta rays fly out of the water and do flips. When I squealed with delight the captain laughed and causally said, “they play all the time!” No bigs.

The men were so impressed by my nautical savvy the captain tried to convince me to marry the engineer right there and then so I could move to the Galapagos and work on the boat. Then he said Sarah should marry the first mate and come along too. Laughs were abound as Sarah and I graciously declined. That evening, however; while learning to salsa dance on the top deck we both received more formal romantic proposals and felt a little bad to turn them down so emphatically. Latin men always make this pale curvy woman feel wanted. Fuck you white guys, get some game.

Speaking of white guys, at dinner I had what I call a bridge conversation with a factory chicken farmer Trump supporter from the US south. Bridge conversations are essentially trying to connect with empathy and compassion for people who have different worldviews. It is an attempt to connect our humanity. These two men were our new boatmates for the last few days as they rode their motorcycles through south America. One said, “I don’t get it, why save the turtles? I mean: what do they do for anyone anyway?” It was a moment of anger, clarity, and then compassion as I took a deep breath and tried to explain ecosystems and interconnectedness. I refrained from challenging his obvious belief that all life on the planet should be useful for people somehow. Maybe we could even just save turtles because they live to 200 years and are as cool as fuck? Although I did not help change any worldview with these people, I was proud I was able to dialogue instead of fight. We need more of that in this world. I certainly had compassion for their lives and livelihood, and because I extended that empathy they did listen to my point of view with some respect, even if we never agreed.

With all that said, we have to say goodbye tomorrow and it’s depressing. The Galapagos are a magical place and honestly very ridiculous. We did not come here to fuck spiders, or snakes, or Latin men for that matter. We did come to celebrate a friendship of a lifetime and I believe are doing an amazing job of it. There is no one I would rather joint marry two Ecuadorian men with and snorkel with penguins daily for the rest of my life.

12/29/17

Sad day to leave the Golondrina and our friends. For our final excursion, we went to black turtle cove and watched mangroves light up with the early morning sun. Then we watched baby hammerheads eating while black turtles and reef sharks swam by. Travel is the best use of time and money, you grow so much in such a short period of time; and not just in inches because the food is so good.

We got to our beautiful hotel room and knew it was meant for us when we found the below epic painting. Enjoy! 3.5 hour naps are fuel for the soul. Shopping helps soothe the sad from leaving our cruise. Good Ecuadorian food made it all better followed with a long nights sleep.

12/30/17

Sarah had a down day while I went diving. I had a major panic attack going down on the first dive then recovered and rocked the rest of that dive and the next. Honestly we didn’t see anything that I already hadn’t in the past week and I had an epiphany: I don’t like scuba anymore. I think I prefer snorkel where I feel more free and unencumbered and less likely to die. This is a good lesson yet again: just because you can doesn’t mean you need to. Listen to your body: it tells you what you need to know and mine says “fuck that pressure,” literally. I think I want to learn to free dive better.


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Me in a sea cave trying not to focus on dying. It looks cool and feels shitty.

Evening was dinner with the Praul family who we met on the boat. Erika and Darryl were traveling with their three teenage kids and when I first saw them I admit I was Iike “oh god, teens! Augh!” But Jacob, Sarah and Hunter are awesome humans and I loved hanging out with them. It was hard to say a final goodbye to such amazing people! But we did it with ice cream and sorbet and laughing at my bad jokes so it worked out okay.

12/31/17

Waking up late then a lazy day with nap on a beautiful beach followed by another nap in the hotel. Why is this trip so so hard?! (Insert whiny voice here.) On the beach, marine iguanas walked just feet by us and endangered finches literally landed on my face. At the pier I watched sharks and rays and realized that at the beginning of the trip this was all so exciting, and while still magical, I have become desensitized to to the point of “oh, just another swimming iguana.” People get jaded so fast!

The evening was capped with the burning of handmade effigies of people and things to be let go of in 2017. Apparently in 2016 the streets were covered in Trump dolls. This year it was Japanese shark hunters, which had sadly illegally desecrated a ton of sharks near Galapagos earlier that year. Sarah and I made our lists to let go of on paper and burned them in front of a giant Darwin statue because we want to continue to evolve. Men dressed as sexy women and blocked the streets for money and there was a fireworks show that I thought would go to 2019. Women dressed in prom dresses and fancy evening wear and one skirt was so short we saw vulva. Hoping that fashion becomes all the rage in the US soon. So feliz AÑo and sad to say goodbye to the Galapagos. My 2018 intention is gratitude and starting it here in evolution paradise is a blessing.

1/1/18

My last day with Sarah we toured Quito. So many beautiful buildings in the historic district. Church after church told stories of conquest and colonization. The Iglesia de la compañía de jesús was my favorite as the entire inside was covered in gold leaf. We discussed how when it was built many people were enslaved and starving, but man that church was shiny! God loves bling. It also had a painting of all the ways you can go to hell and what happens. I think this is now one of my favorite paintings of all time. I am a gleeful sinner and it’s clear I am going to burn with the best of them. Good thing I believe in heaven and hell as much as Santa clause and the Easter bunny. Probably less, because the other two still give me chocolate. Sarcasm aside, the history and art is still cool and I do respect parts of Christianity quite a bit. Just wish it wasn’t so hypocritical, political and often practiced as a fear based punitive religion instead of a compassionate one….which I am pretty sure the social revolutionary JC originally intended. Religious Rant from a Buddhist over.

Dinner was with our new Australian friends with sweeping views of Quito and a rainbow said goodbye to us all. After a quick selfie with a creepy statue I promptly missed a step on some stairs as I reviewed said picture on my phone and started to fall. Mid-way I thought “well, you are committed now” and just spread out for a big jump and somehow made it. Broken neck or leg averted I wanted so badly to play it off as intentional but the whole group, including the doorman burst into hysterical laughter. Tracey said it was even graceful. Who knew I could be such a clumsy badass? Probably everyone but me. Luckily, in Ecuador if I had broken my leg it would be nearly free to fix it. Sadly, my broken wrist in 2013 in the US cost me $40k. We are not the greatest nation on earth.

 

1/2/18

Goodbyes with Sarah always suck. We also have become pros at it. I love this woman with all of my heart and after 20 years I am still amazed, inspired, engaged and delighted by her. We decided we will come back to the Galapagos for our 40th friendaversary. In 2020 I will hopefully be going to Vietnam, where she is off to next to teach. I am always looking forward to more adventures, play, and conversations. Unconditional love exists if you cultivate it, and that my dear ones is what real family and tribe is all about.

Now…back to the states with new perspectives and growth. Especially the bit about priorities and lifestyle. I increasingly reject the perpetual US busy for the delicious moment, that’s all we really have anyway. Everyone needs to chill the fuck out stateside. I intend to continue to reject things and stuff for experiences, you can’t take any of that material stuff with you after all. Relationships are more important than all the money in the world, including and especially your relationship with yourself. So in 2018 my theme is gratitude and I have so much to be grateful for….especially all of you wonderful people connected to me in so many wondrous ways.

Thanks for reading and sharing in the adventure. This was by far the best vacation of my life. I highly recommend you make the trek sometime to this magical world that really does take you back in time and allows you a real time window into the magic of evolution. It’s better than just watching Master and Commander. Also: watch the Galapagos Documentary 2017 on Netflix, it’s all real. 

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Not sure who is cuter

 

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Winking adorableness
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I’m never quite sure why….
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I will let you decide….
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Who the hell knows…..
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Marble Ray
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You know, adventuring. I like to fit stereotypes sometimes, this is my white middle aged American tourist outfit.
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Some people think I am a fashion icon. They aren’t wrong. This outfit is called: I am allergic to the sun. Seriously, I am allergic to the sun.
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Bullhead Shark
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Sarah made me go into a giant lava tube. I didn’t even write about it, I was so traumatized. I had to use my own therapy emotional regulation techniques not to completely freak. Jenn no like caves.
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Wish I had more time to post pictures….maybe someday. Good thing they made this sign though.

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Galapagos is Disneyland for Nature Nerds”

  1. This a wonderful post! It has renewed my dream of visiting the Galapagos Islands one day. That cracked me up to see a video of a penguin doing a “shit and run”. I’ve seen many birds do that and, well, penguins are birds too so I guess it makes sense. I love your outlook on life. It is inspiring. Thanks.

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