Dolphins, Turtle sex, Sunburns — oh my! Galapagos Part 1Quito, Spring 2012

The day before we left for the Galapagos, I woke up with some sort of stomach illness. I willed myself into feeling better, drank an entire jar of apple tea, and was on my way to the airport at 5:30 a.m. Day 1: Hiking on Santa Cruz We landed at one of two airports in the Galapagos and walked out into what looked like the African Savannah. The northern sides of the islands have a dry, arid climate while the southern sides are tropical. The airline sprayed our luggage with some anti-invasive-species spray, and we had our bags checked for fruit or vegetables that don’t belong in the Galapagos. We went on our first hike to two huge canyons covered in trees that formed when gigantic air bubbles in volcanic lava collapsed. We then moved on to hiking through an underground cave.  The ceiling dropped to three feet at one point, and we had to crawl through mud on our forearms, knees and toes to get through. We went looking for giant turtles in a forest, and found them stuffing their face with grass and chilling in lagoons to keep cool. We had a great photo op sesh in an old turtle shell and moved to the southern side of the island. We couldn’t wait to hit the beach. But our first Galapagos beach experience was kind of smelly. People kept digging up sulfur-smelling mud and putting it on their faces (I tried it – I smelled horrible until I showered). I was exhausted by 8: 30 p.m. and my stomach was begging me to go to sleep. I covered myself in bug repellent – I learned the hard way in the Amazon – cranked the a/c in our hotel room and fell asleep at 9 p.m. Day 2: Playing with sea lions At the Charles Darwin Center we saw Lonesome George, the last surviving giant turtle of his species. Scientists have tried to get him to mate with two genetically similar female turtles, but he wants nothing to do with them. In another part of the center, we witnessed male turtle aggression when they roared at each other and climbed on top of one another. At breakfast, I decided to be on the safe side and take a seasickness pill. I had no desire to lose my breakfast on a 2-hour boat ride. I drifted to sleep in a drug-induced haze, covered in three layers of sunscreen, while almost everyone else on my boat either burned or threw up. We went hiking on an island covered with iguanas, saw a shark swimming, and jumped in the water to play with sea lions. One sea lion hit me in the head with its flipper. We stayed on an island with a 120-person town and were temporarily trapped in a restaurant during a monsoon. We waded barefoot through the streets back to our hotel while I silently thanked my mother for making me get regular tetanus shots.
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