Monday, June 27, 2016

Seeing Galapagos Tortoises

A Galapagos Tortoise and Me
I saw the famous Galapagos Tortoises, at two locations. The tortoises are the largest living species of tortoises in the world. Unlike marine iguanas, however, these tortoises also live on the islands in the Indian Oceans. What makes them incredible is that they can live up to 170 years old. I wonder how?

I saw them at two locations: the Charles Darwin Station and at a ranch. At the Charles Darwin Station, I noticed that the tortoises and the iguanas they kept, looked unhappy. I found the whole foundation to be a marketing ad to donate money. I suppose I was unhappy to see how unhappy the tortoises looked.

I wanted to see them in the wild. But to do so, you need $40 USD for a taxi ride. And I couldn't afford that.

So, I convinced a truck driver to take me as close to the location I could for $1 USD. Then, I jumped off his truck and walked the rest of the way, until I hitched a ride with a cattle truck. I stood up in their pen.
My uncomfortable ride in the back of a truck

When he dropped me off, I saw the tortoises. And were they huge. Apparently, they can weigh up to 919 lb (or 414 kg). They're rather shy, and they pop their heads in, when a human approaches them. There are allegedly 10 species alive on the Galapagos. 5 have become instinct because of humans.

During the 1600's, English pirates lived on the Galapagos as a base to plunder Spanish ships that were carrying gold back from South America to Spain. For food supplies, these pirates took the tortoises on board, for food.

Sadly, they realized the tortoises could go a year without food and water, before they died. (This was before the days of having a refrigerator.) Imagine being corralled on a ship, without food and water, so that you could be chopped up into pieces to feed dirty pirates. What a horrible way to go.

Anyways, back to the ranch. I noticed in their natural environment, the tortoises were much happier. One of the reasons that I saw, besides not being penned up, is that they had mud and swampy water to roll around in.

Why this makes a difference? Who knows? But it appears that it's essential to have muddy areas and swampy waters, which the Darwin Station didn't have.

After seeing the tortoises, and the rich American and European tourists walking around, I wanted to go back. Like before, I hitched a ride with a truck, only this time I was allowed to sit in the cabin, and not the bed.

Not bad. I spent $2 to see tortoises in the wild. And I learned something about them.

What else is going on? I was alone at the hostel for awhile, but the weekend brought more tourists, mainly French backpackers. Usually, I find the French quite unfriendly to the non-French, especially when they're in a group.

But, these French people were so nice. There were two couples, and one single guy, who was on his sabbatical.

They fed me. They taught me French. We shared stories. They were quite pleasant to be around. And I really enjoyed learning French, and telling them in the morning, "Bonjour."

After awhile, I told them how I cheaply went to see wild tortoises. They ate up the advice and tried themselves.

Other than that, I can say the internet is rather shoddy on the island. Without internet, I've been reading a lot. So far, I've read, Domino Diaries, Nine, and am almost done with Ponzi's Scheme.

I have to say, Nine is highly recommended by me. The book delves into the secret history of the Rehnquist Court, and it's fascinating to see the inner workings of the Supreme Court.

Anyways, that's all for now. Update you more later.

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