Ah, the Galapagos. Amazing wildlife, jaw-dropping geology, fresh air, champagne. It was just like that Lonely Island video…
Well, not really. Yes, we spent our days hopping from island to island. Yes, we saw the most incredible flora and fauna. And yes, we were on a sailing catamaran motoring (and very occasionally sailing) around the Pacific Ocean with a lovely bunch of travelers / holidaymakers for a week. But there was remarkably little booze. It’s not that there wasn’t any on board, it’s just that very few of us actually felt the need (which, after a few habit-forming years of a beer or two every evening after work was surprisingly refreshing).
Other than the occasional broken night’s sleep (see below) the trip was perfect. Lucy and I were blissfully free of the seasickness that occasionally poleaxed some of our companions. We got up in the morning to the sound of the ship’s bell. A hearty breakfast, a pootle around an island, elevenses, a little snorkelling. Then a three course lunch followed by a siesta or a laze on the sundeck. More island pootling, perhaps more snorkeling, then a three course dinner, a briefing from our on board naturalist (not that kind) and bed. It was all highly regimented yet strangely comforting once you were in the flow of it – like being back at public school.
The crew were top notch, the other passengers were good company, and we all happily exchanged trivialities at first before risking anything more of ourselves (yes, I have been reading Paul Theroux, but other than this minor plagiarism I have remained relatively immune to his more misanthropic tendencies). We couldn’t have wished for a better bunch.
On reflection – and I am writing this at altitude in Peru after a six hour bus ride – my favorite part of the Galapagos wasn’t a particular animal or island (although Darwin’s boobies were amazing). The best part of the trip for me was seeing such a range of islands at such different stages of development: a fresh lava island covered in nothing but surrealism… next to an eroded lava island with a few plants and thousands of seabirds… next to an island that has been completely overtaken by vegetation, complete with giant tortoises. It normally takes huge leaps of imagination to picture anything happening on a geological timescale – here you just have to hop on a boat and travel a few miles to see millions of years back and forward in time, with all the changes in animal physiology and behavior to match. Truly fascinating.
Broken night’s sleep? Well, I have had a new business idea. It’s a new type of alarm clock for stressed executives who are having problems waking up in the morning, and it will be the recorded – yet unamplified – sound of a fifty meter steel anchor chain being hauled out of its resting place by a fifty pound kedge anchor just one thin sheet of plywood away from your head. I can guarantee its effectiveness, as I have now mastered the skill of sleeping through “slightly bumpy night navigations” (with one foot braced against the ceiling of our cabin, and with the sound of the waves blotting out Lucy’s occasional yelps as she was thrown out of bed). The anchor chain alarm clock never failed to rouse me, however. A shame that it usually marked the end of the night navigation at around 3am!