That first afternoon, we landed at Las Bachas on the island of Santa Cruz. To the right are turtle nests. To the left is an interesting intersection of tracks (an iguana and turtles). This beach is the home to the Pacific Green Sea Turtle, the Sea Iguana, the Great Blue Heron, flamingos, and various other wildlife. We were not allowed to walk on the beach except for designated areas to protect the nesting turtles. This was the rule in the Galapagos: stay with your guide, don’t wander off, and never interact with the wildlife. If wildlife interacted with you such as approaching or (more commonly) retreating, we were to retreat immediately. Galapagos animals were capable of being observed due to their lack of fear of human beings. Also, there were no facilities on the beaches – one had to bring one’s own sunscreen, water, and change of clothes if needed.
The Galapagos Islands are only accessible via arranged naturalist tours such as the one we took through the Center of Inquiry. We were woken up every morning at 7:00 a.m. in our beds by the voice over the intercom of our head tour guide, Lobo. (I can still hear Lobo’s voice: “Goooood morning, everyone!”) Then we had breakfast in the dining hall before heading out on our morning tour of another island. The tours were held in the early mornings and late afternoons so we could avoid the harsh equatorial sun at noon, although I discovered to my surprise the Galapagos Islands were in the same time zone as my home: Central Standard Time.
The beach is a beautiful pristine white. Las Bachas means “barges” and is a mispronunciation of the original name by English-speaking settlers between WWI and WWII. To the right are the remains of rusting barges left over from World War II, when the American Army was stationed in the Galapagos Islands. To the left, Josh Timonen films Richard, with Diego, one of the naturalists, in the foreground.
Richard had recently appeared on The Bill O’Reilly Show in which the now-infamous statement that it was easier to be a believer than an atheist since “The tides come in, the tides go out, the sun goes up and down,” which was effectively countered by Richard. Since we were walking on an ocean beach, Josh and Richard were joking about this statement and I joined in.
Below left is a close-up of a portion of the organic beach, not yet pounded down into sand, and below center is basalt lava with seaweed. The dark basalt contrasted with the white beach and vibrant green vegetation and amazingly beautiful wildlife.
That evening we had a reception on the ship in which the captain and his crew introduced themselves. Every evening after our excursions there would be a presentation of our next destination and an open bar so the passengers could socialize and get to know each other. There was also a small library where I would use the ship’s computer to blog the day’s events, and Richard would work on his laptop and call home. I learned one of my fellow passengers had written songs for Sesame Street! At this point, I was still a grad student, and in debt for this trip.