Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Seeing Galapagos Seals and Penguins - Sailing to Isabela

Seal Selfie (Can you get one?)
I took a seal selfie behind the condemned bank on the Galapagos Island in the middle of the afternoon. The seal knew I was there, and I heard people say not to get close to the wild animals because they are wild. (In law, we call this circular reasoning.)

But, I took my chance. I approached the seal. He slowly opened one eye, which looked like a massive amount of work for him. He saw me, then closed it again, like I didn't exist.

I got closer. I pointed at the seal, and my finger was so close to him, that if he lunged at me, he could've bit it.

But he didn't. He made high pitched happy noises, as if he was dreaming about coming upon a school of fish he could eat.

It reminded me of the noises my (now ghostly) cat, Luke, would make sleeping. Hearing such noises, both from Luke and this seal, led me to believe that animals do dream.

I'm getting heaps of emails that say that it looks like I'm having lots of fun. And the reason people assume so is that I'm posting such typical Facebook, social media pictures, that it gives this kind of impression or illusion. The truth is, this has been an average holiday.

I think this is partly because I've seen so many wild animals in their environment as an ecologist, biologist, and naturalist. As one commenter said about the Galapagos, you kind of feel like you're stuck in a kind of Ecuadorian Sea World.

I agree. And you're extorted by all these high prices, everywhere you go by Ecuador's federal government.

Though with that said, I really enjoyed meeting the French people I did. I enjoyed learning French and talking to them about the world.

I also met an Austrian mathematician. He was boring. (Tell you why later.) I had a conversation with him, though, about what he studied for his masters and for his PhD.

His explanations gave me some clues as to what kind of research the European Union was currently interested in. Nonetheless, at least for math, it wasn't very interesting, not interesting at all. (And I did understand what he was talking about; perhaps, it'd be more interesting. In short, he was designing equations to save fuel for space travel.)

I think I found the guy boring because all he could talk about was all the girls he was getting because he was European. But he was clearly a typical math nerd. So, without fully admitting it, he talked about how he wasn't so lucky back in Germany, Switzerland, or Austria. (So, he had to come to a third world country to use his European status to attract the young girls - and they were young.)

At one point, he said, "Back in Colombia, I was with my girlfriend."

I asked, "Oh, you traveled with your girlfriend, then, from home?"

"No. She was my four-week-girlfriend."

"That's not a girlfriend then."

"I meant, kind-of-girlfriend."

"Right. Go on." So, he did.

I felt sorry for him, for some reason. I guess (like myself, sometimes, like many people), he was looking for someone else to validate his self-worth.

Anyways, I was done with the island. Despite all the nice pictures with big animals, that make good posts for social media, I was bored and getting island fever (it's a feeling you get that you need to leave the island).

This is a good point: Just because people look like they're enjoying life on Facebook (which I'm not on), remember it's just an illusion, an appearance, or a mirage of a sorts.

I booked my ticket to leave earlier and booked my aqua taxi to the next island: Isabela.

The water was really choppy going to Isabela. Remember, the cold current? Well, that current was rather strong. At one point, a little boy was ready to throw up. So, another rider and me, switched seats with his father and him, because we were at the back of the boat, which had more fresh air and was outside of the cabin.

The problem was, that after, I felt like hurling. I was feeling ill. So, I closed my eyes.

The ride, all in all, was an hour and a half.

Here's a question for you: True or False? Can snow penguins be found at the Equator?

Well, I got this question wrong, in 2002 (14 years ago) in my Marine Biology exam. 14 years later, I didn't forget the question.

I marked false. Penguins are only in the cold, southern regions of the world.


The Galapagos Penguins, which are endangered, are the northern most penguins, which do live on the Equator.

Sailing into Isabela, they welcomed us, as our boat arrived into the harbor of the island. They looked like little tuxedoed birds, standing at attention. I wish they could wave at us.

It made me wish I went to the Galapagos before I took that class. I remember, I got an A- in it. Maybe if I got that question right on my midterm, I'd have gotten an A.

Galapagos Penguin
Copyright Konica Minolta
Anyways, we disembarked the boat. I asked the little boy, "Que tal?"

He looked at me with his brown eyes and said, "Bien," though he still looked ill.

His father smiled, for asking the question.

We all got taxed another $1 to enter the port. We got taxed another $5 to enter the island. (Remember my allusion to Sea World.)

I found my hotel. It had a beautiful kitchen and private restroom. I had a nice bed. It was $15 a night.

I realized that I was happier on the quieter Isabela, which is the largest island of the Galapagos. But of the three islands with towns, it has the smallest population.

I also realized that I didn't appreciate the noise, loud music, and party scene of the last island. I finally felt at peace. I finally felt like I found what I was looking for, a chance to unwind.

Here's a map of my travels, from Baldwin Park to Quito to the Galapagos.

Map of Baldwin Park to the Galapagos

Map of Boat Ride from Island Santa Cruz to Island Isabela

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