Galapagos Islands Travel Adventures
Gail Howard's Adventures in the Galapagos Islands
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Continued

JAMES ISLAND

We pulled anchor and El Buzo headed across the Bay to James Island (also known as Isla San Salvador). Friedel and Eddy went into the hills to hunt goats with a .22 rifle and knives while Terry and I luxuriated on the beach. A gray heron glided by and perched directly behind us on a rock. Soon another was beside her, preening and gyrating his beautiful snake-like neck to charm his mate.

Shots reverberated over the lava hills, shocking us out of our reverie.

Friedel and Eddy emerged from around a bend. Smug with triumph, they laid a goat before us. Its head had been severed, its entrails removed. Friedel skinned it. Both Friedel and Eddy were covered with blood. After they dunked themselves in the sea, we rowed back to El Buzo. An hour later we were eating fresh goat stew and rice.

DAPHNE ISLAND

The waves were rough as we headed for Daphne Island. Covers slid around the pots and the spindly-legged stove swayed even more than usual. Eddy tied the pots to the deck with ropes. We passed Daphne on the way to a smoother harbor. It would have to wait until the waters were calmer.

We anchored off Borrero Bay where we found all sorts of exotic shells along the beach. At dawn, flamingos were feeding in rose-colored salt beds. As we tried to photograph them, they slowly moved away from us, farther across the pond.

Returning to Daphne Island the next day, we circled it twice before we found a cleft to get a foothold. We jumped carefully from the dinghy onto the sheer cliff, and then climbed its steep height on our hands and knees, keeping our bodies close to the ground. The scraggly vegetation was of little help in grasping for leverage. Lava rocks were loose and caused loss of footing. With each step, we wondered if we would roll down into the sea. We didn’t dare look back.

With legs trembling from the exertion, we finally reached the top. An immense crater was filled with thousands of blue-footed boobies. The crater was almost completely darkened by tiny specks—all booby birds. Even at the crest where we were standing, booby birds swarmed around us.

We climbed down onto the floor of the crater and walked among birds, which were in all stages of nesting, hatching, and mating. Their courting dance was a deep bow, facing each other with wings outspread.

No animals lived on this small island and the birds had no fear of us. Occasionally, an angry daddy bird snapped at my ankles when I got too friendly with his fluffy cotton puff of a baby that was bigger than he was. The din of strident bird-talk was steady and piercing.

The boobies ignored us as long as we didn’t step on or over them, but walking without stepping on them was difficult. At times we had to step over them and risk being poked through the skin with their beaks. They screeched at us and scolded. More daring birds skimmed across the ground toward us with flapping wings and snapping beaks. We were intruders in their world, but they had no fear of us.

The climb back down to the boat was almost a sheer drop into the sea. One false step on a loose rock and I skidded down several feet until I could stop myself. As we zigzagged down Indian style, we wondered if our boat was where we thought it was. At last we saw El Buzo, a dot on the water below. What a welcome sight. And what a relief that none of us rolled into the sea.

ISLAS PLAZAS

When we approached Islas Plazas, Miguel (Mike) Castro’s boat was anchored there. He and his wife, Zouzou, were lobster fishing. Mike Castro grew up on Santa Cruz and knew almost every rock on the island. He showed us a part of the island we had missed the first time around, a “bedroom” for sea lions.

After years of climbing over the soft yellow rock, the sea lions had molded it into a many-leveled castle. It had weird-shaped couches and round holes to peak through and fun stairs from one room to another. No sea lions were home at the time. We saw the magnificent view they had of the sea. The couches had slides so they could plunge into the water whenever they wanted to.

After a meal of goat liver, we returned to the sea lions’ bedroom. By then it was swarming with sea lions. Terry ordered me to get closer to a group of them for a photo. A big bull sea lion arp-arped out of the water and then came after me for intruding upon his harem. I ran away to preserve my hide and was scolded by my sister for ruining a good photo. I approached the harem again and the bull charged. I held my own for a few seconds, and then ran away. I was scolded again, of course.

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© Copyright 2006-. Gail Howard.

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