As pumpkin spice season has descended with a flurry, (Trader Joe’s wins the prize for oddball pumpkin pairings: pumpkin salsa, anyone?) here’s my last gasp attempt to call up “my Galapagos feeling.”
A trip to the islands wouldn’t be complete without enjoying the goofy antics of the blue-footed boobies. The name comes from the Spanish word “bobo,” which means clown. The seabirds got the moniker when the explorers observed their clumsy waddling.
boobie and land iguana square-off
The Galapagos Islands were named for their giant tortoises; early explorers thought the shape of the tortoise shells resembled saddles. “Galapago” means saddle in Spanish. These lumbering creatures can weigh up to 800 lbs. and live to be about one hundred. The older they are the less you can see the rings on their shells
Giant tortises at Darwin Center, Santa Cruz
Swamp bath at Galapagos Conservancy, Santa Cruz
Male and female at Galapagos Conservancy
Park rules prohibit taking anything from the islands, so I had to be satisfied with taking photos of some interesting shells.
Green olivine crystals, Floreana Island
Thanks for checking out my pix!
The Galapagos Islands, the chain of volcanic islands about 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are a wildlife lover’s dream. On my trip this summer, I got to see creatures found nowhere else: pre-historic looking marine and land iguanas, a variety of aquatic birds, including blue-footed boobies and the impressive gigantic tortoises. Hiking among its landscapes—sandy beaches, expansive lava fields and desertscapes, which change from island to island—I got to experience how unique this region truly is. As Charles Darwin so aptly said about the Galapagos Islands in The Voyage of the Beagle, the account of his expedition to the islands that led to the development of the theory of evolution: “The archipelago is a little world within itself …”
Kicker Rock: impacted ash thrust from the ocean during volcanic eruption
Kicker Rock from afar
View from Sombrero Chino
300-year-old pricky pear cactus
As the islands are considered a national park, tourism is highly controlled. Upon arrival, we were given a list of regulations, particularly about how to interact with the wildlife. In a word: Don’t! No physical contact, no aggressive gestures and keep voices down. Consequently, the animals don’t consider humans as predators, and they freely come right up to you. Let me tell you, when sea lion pups would flop at my feet or glide around me while I was snorkeling, I’d have to fight every impulse to reach out and touch them.
This sea lion barked at the person sitting here to move, then when vacated took the spot.
Soaking up the sun
Sea lion pup
Nice life if you can get it
Next post: boobies and tortugas!
Growing up, there were two works of art that made a big impression on me. One was the Mona Lisa and the other was Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Poster-sized versions (24″ x 36″) were mounted in my father’s study, and I’d see them regularly. They were significant not because I found them beautiful or fascinating, but based on my experience when I saw them in real life for the first time. The Mona Lisa is much smaller and the Picasso is enormous compared to the poster: roughly 8 ft by 8 ft. My expectations of each were turned upside down. I couldn’t reconcile the indelible image in my mind with the real thing. The Da Vinci was less compelling while the Picasso overwhelmed me. I recall it took me a few moments to view the art as it was—rather than what I thought it should be.
I’ve never felt this more keenly than at Machu Picchu. As a teen I was rabid to visit the Incan ruins once I saw the documentary Chariots of the Gods, based on the Erich Von Daniken book. The movie theorized that aliens were responsible for its construction along with other ancient mysteries, like the pyramids. A place built by aliens? How could I not see that?! Finally, this summer, a teen dream was fulfilled.
For the first hour in Machu Picchu, I had to pinch myself because a) I couldn’t believe I was there, and b) I again had to reconcile my expectations. While the stone ruins were absolutely a marvel of engineering: How were granite stones fitted seamlessly without mortar? How were the structures built without the use of the wheel? Was it a city, temple, agricultural center or all three? … What transfixed me more was the landscape. The breathtaking site was framed by the magnificent Huayna Picchu or “young peak.” No photo can truly capture it. As the mist rolled in and out during the day, the mysteries of the sacred citadel were amplified even more.
Here are a few photos. Of course, they don’t do it justice, but for me, they are a new placeholder in my mind of the real thing.
As for the alien theory, I’m no longer buying it.
Main Temple: damage likely caused by vegetation removal
Houses of the Guardians near agricultural center
Inca architecture: stone roof structures
Temple of the Sun: stones perfectly placed without mortar
Llamas and babies in the central plaza: natural lawnmowers
Iconic view from the Guardhouse