Friday, January 15, 2010

"versace" Shrimp

This may be my last post until Quito.

Dad thinks this is the most luxurious cruise he´s every been on. They give us moist towels on our return, followed by cocktails and snacks after every excursion.

Yesterday afternoon we had an opportunity to whale watch, but saw nonething for quite a while. After everyone else had given up, I went back up to the prow after lunch to look. I saw something in the distance. Some other guests with binoculars (I can´t use them), debated whether what we were seeing was a whale or a porpoise. A naturalist told us we had seen a humpbacked whale.

At 2pm they had a culinary demonstration. As they were setting up, I asked the busboy what they were going to do. Shrimp "versace," he said, meaning shrimp ceviche. I said they must be fashionable shrimp.

Dad came out and watched, and we all enjoyed it. They also showed how to make a red-footed booby cocktail. I tried one later and it was very good.

Around 3 we reached Fernandina Island, the most recent of all the islands. It was windy and overcast, so dad stayed on board. We had a dry landing on a pier in a mangrove swamp, but then had to walk through 2 meters of water. There was a sleeping sea lion on the pier to greet us, followed by many dark marine iguanas on the trail. Much of the island is still black, volcanic lava deposits. We could see the peak of the volcano, mostly wreathed in white clouds. Many marine iguana colonies along the beach, along with some sea lions, and one swimming penguin! There was also a "beach master" male sea lion defending his territory against tourists who got to close (he barked at one man).

We then saw some flightless cormorants, who lost the ability to fly after adapting to swim for food. We also saw other sea birds (such as whimbrels, and ruddy turnstones), and the wind started to pick up.

We had an easy time getting on the zodiac, but the ride back was far from dry. I got soaked from a wave and it started to drizzle heavily. Back on board, I briefed dad on the adventure and then we joined Simon and Dwight, Mark and Paul, and Gayle and Angelos (her greek-born husband) for drinks on the upper deck.

At dinner we sat with a couple we´ve talked with several times. They are from Atlanta, but I can never remember their names. I tried looking them up this afternoon and at lunch today I called her Dianne, but she said it was Jackie. In any case, they told me I should get in touch with them next time I was in Atlanta. Dad and I enjoyed our grilled lobster, but Jackie was very unhappy with the quality of her grilled beef. All beef, by the way, is local to the Galapagos (by law).

After dinner was the talent show. The staff put on a nice concert, but I left before the guests started.

I got up at 6:45 am for the morning excursion. Dad wouldn´t sign up for anything last night, but I did talk him into the short walk today. I went on the long one.

We landed on a volcanic beach on Santiago island, and walked past the ruins of various structures built for the salt mine. Then we reached the volcanic coast, where lava tunnels had formed coves where the fur sea lions like to rest. We saw several, along with a yellow crested night heron, and lots of marine iguanas. Then we walked back along the tide pools, where we could see the layers of ash-stone had eroded in fantastic shapes. We also saw a galapagos hawk.

Back at the beach, I saw dad´s zodiak arrive, but he decided to stay on return to the boat, while I went snorkling. Simon needed a snorkle buddy (as did I), so we swam out along the rocky shore. It was the best snorkling of the trip. Many schools of colorful tropical fish, including parrot fish and angelfish. We also saw a puffer fish, and were buzzed by three sea lions. I also saw a sting ray resting on the ocean floor.

We headed back on board for a mexican buffet lunch, this time sitting with Crystal and Hylon, a couple from Idaho, whose grandson worked in the peace corps in Khazakstan.

Dad´s napping now, and they´re setting up for the passenger who lectured on Judy Garland earlier in the week, for another talk, this time on American composers (he´s working on a book).

This afternoon we´ll be in Santa Cruz island, and tomorrow, we´re going to see the giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Center, followed by a drive up to the highlands to see them in the wild. We´ve been warned about rain, so I´ll take my windbreaker. Speaking of which, I nearly lost my cap this morning in the zodiak, but Paul caught it.

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