Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Giant Glalapagos Tortoise

They have legs like a tree stump.  A tree stump with toes.  With toes and toenails.  They are awkward and lurchy and a little bit slimy and perfectly lovely.  They are gigantic.  They are sweet. They are contented to eat and sleep and graze and perhaps wallow in the water a bit.

On our first day in the Galapagos, we are picked up from the airport by our guide, Javier.  He's got a bit of a chop-chop to him at the first; let's go let's go, it's time to go, that kind of thing.  There is some confusion about our luggage leaving us, but before it goes we need to have socks.  Socks???  Did someone mention this?  

We have traveled for hours, dressed for the weather (hot and humid); we have worn or brought "good walking shoes", as instructed.  I could have prepared for whatever lies ahead, no problem  But nobody said anything about socks.  I'm pretty sure.

Digging in the suitcase requires, first of all, digging for luggage keys, as we have been warned and read the reviews about luggage theft being rampant down here, so everything's locked up tight. One of the biggest brands of theft here is rummaging through airport luggage and taking everything of interest, from costume jewelry to Tylenol.  So the luggage keys are buried as deep as we can bury them.

You can see that, in addition to my usual (2) pieces of luggage, one to check, and one carry-on, there's an additional unit.  You are not mistaken.  It's a back-pack.  You might also note that it's not being worn, and it doesn't really fit on the stack.  Mr. C insisted that I needed one for this trip.  And this is the beginning of a (month) loong story.

It's chaos as travelers are trying to reunite themselves with their baggage, get it checked through the EXIT security, get it unlocked and rummage to the bottom (in my case, at least) for a pair of socks.  I'm still not sure why.  

We race for the bus, now, socks in hand, where we stand toe-to-toe for the journey to ?  I know not where.  We are sheep, being herded by the guy with the "Cormorant" sign.  It's hot (already).  It's humid (already).  But at least I am secure in the knowledge that I have socks.  For whatever lies ahead, I am well-socked.

Our luggage is headed to the boat. We are not.  We are headed for our first excursion.   It's the giant tortoises "in the wild".  

I love turtles, I won't lie.  I love all turtles, everywhere.  They are gentle and peaceful and content, living in harmony with their surroundings;  they are doing all the things we should be doing. 
So right now I thank God I have socks.

After a bumpy hour or so, we pull up to the tortoise farm, 
and gain a better understanding of the need for socks.  

Apparently, we are to don rubber boots (or as my new Australian friends, say, "gum boots") for the trek through the muddy meadows to see the giant tortoise (es).   

I'm explaining here to Mr. C that I'm fully acquainted with boots like this.  I was raised on an Iowa farm.  And I had boots.  Even though he's never seen me in boots.  I swear I have owned boots.  
In a previous lifetime.

And he looks pretty fetching in boots himself.
Especially with his Indiana Jones hat.

These boots are most uncomfortable, by the way.  They smack the back of my calves with every step; they are hot and bulky and just awful.  

But.  We are here to see the turtles, I remind myself.
It will be worth all this, I encourage the uncomfortable me.

We strike off down the path, instructed to always (always) always (always) let the leader lead.  I'm willing to try, but I've not ever been too much of a follower.......

Almost immediately somebody breaks rank and takes the side trail, where he's spotted a giant tortoise.  (No, it wasn't me.  This time.) 

But I'm thinking this might be a long week for Javier.

Then we round a corner, and there they are.  Just like that.  Three giant tortoises, lounging about in the water.  How old are they?   How much do they weigh?   They are so cool.  Pun intended.

They are curious about us, raising their heads out of the water to survey, to take stock of these new visiting humans.  Then, because we are decidedly boring, they return to all their important tortoise stuff.

We are newcomers to the Galapagos, though, and we can't get enough.  All the hoopla about socks is forgotten as we try to capture the magic of this moment, this strange and wonderful encounter with these very old and wise creatures.  

They must be wise, I presume.  
They're so ~~ solid.  
Unmovable.  Unshakable.  Unflappable.

And I just love those stumpy legs.  

We keep traipsing after Javier, as instructed.  Then we see Him. Through the brush.  This gigantic male tortoise is on top of the female.  I'm so flustered I can't get my video to work.  

What are the odds we would catch them mating?!?   
I really don't know, what are the odds?    

This is amazing.

We've only been on the islands a couple of hours, 
and already I have the story of a lifetime.  

Wow.  It's gonna' be a fantastic week in the Galapagos!


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