Galapagos, Day 19: Pitch Dark

Ecuador Trip: Day 19

Galapagos Cruise: Day 14

Our Galapagos cruise was technically 15 days long. However, the last day (Day 15) was also the day we flew back to Quito and then began a very long journey home (during which I barely slept a wink). So by Day 14 the knowledge that we were nearly at “The End” was bearing down on me and making me a little sad. But I was also determined to soak every ounce of enjoyment out of the trip that I could. Like I said in my last Galapagos post, I thought Floreana would be all about showing us Post Office Bay. But we had an extra treat. And while our guide explained our underground excursion the previous evening, Cindiana Jones didn’t really realize what she was getting into until she, well, got into it.

First, we visited Baroness Viewpoint on Floreana Island. We had a lovely walk and snapped photos of bird life. There is a legend about the first inhabitants of the islands that is full of intrigue, mystery and maybe even murder! According to our itinerary, we would learn about the legend at Baroness Viewpoint (thereby named because a baroness once lived there). However, our guide wasn’t into relating negative stories about the islands. For example, on Isabela Island during Week 1, according to our itinerary, we were supposed to visit the Wall of Tears, which is evidence of a wall built by prisoners back when Isabela Island was a penal colony. We wound up visiting another area of Isabela that was replete with beautiful mangroves, but we didn’t see what was left of the wall at all, which is too bad, because to me that would have been interesting. If the Wall of Tears or Baroness Viewpoint is on your itinerary, you are free to ask your guide about it. I didn’t ask our guide about either, because I was too busy enjoying nature. But I would have enjoyed visiting and learning about the Wall of Tears.

If you want to learn more about the Wall of Tears on Isabela or Baroness Viewpoint on Floreana, you can click the links I just provided.

After Baroness Viewpoint, we visited Post Office Bay, where 18th century whalers placed a wooden barrel as an unofficial mailbox. Since the Galapagos National Park started receiving visitors, people from all over the world have brought postcards to the Barrel Post Office to leave for future guests to find. The staff of The Cormorant provided us postcards for this purpose. Yes, it’s basically a touristy thing now, but it’s fun.

One of the Group of Four approaching the "post office" with our guide. Some people leave actual postcards and others scratch notes on pieces of wood or whatever else they can find. We left a note pretty much chickenscratched on a piece of wood for the Couple from Arizona (from Week 1) to find if they ever return to the Galapagos for the second week of the cruise. Although, by then, our chickenscratched piece of wood might be destroyed, we tried!

One of the Group of Four approaching the “post office” with our guide. Some people leave actual postcards and others scratch notes on pieces of wood or whatever else they can find. We left a note pretty much chicken-scratched on a piece of wood for the Couple from Arizona (from Week 1) to find if they ever return to the Galapagos for the second week of the cruise. Although, by then, our chicken-scratched piece of wood might be destroyed, we tried!

When you reach the barrel, your group goes through the postcards and notes that have been left by previous visitors. Some are only weeks old and others are years old. We divided the postcards between the members of our group, and if the address of one of the postcards was close to us, that person would take it and then have the responsibility of delivering or mailing the postcard to the recipient to which it was intended, upon their arrival home. We know this really works, because we left a postcard for my husband's cousin in Australia, and, months later, she announced on Facebook that it had arrived at her door. She was pretty surprised, and so were we. Meanwhile, my SIL took postcards addressed to people from British Columbia, and I'm guessing she mailed them once we returned home. I'll have to ask her about that.

When you reach the barrel, your group goes through the postcards and notes that have been left by previous visitors. Some are only weeks old and others are years old. We divided the postcards between the members of our group, and if the address of one of the postcards was close to us, that person would take it and then have the responsibility of delivering or mailing the postcard to the recipient to which it was intended, upon their arrival home. We know this really works, because we left a postcard for my husband’s cousin in Australia, and, months later, she announced on Facebook that it had arrived at her door. She was pretty surprised, and so were we. Meanwhile, my SIL took postcards addressed to people from British Columbia, and I’m guessing she mailed them once we returned home. I’ll have to ask her about that.

After the post office visit, our guide took us to the underground cave that we were going to explore. He had told us about the visit in advance, and while every member of our group went to Floreana, not all went down into the cave, for good reason (like, say, if you have bad knees). Unless you had a headlamp or were constantly snapping pictures, it was very, very dark. It was pitch black! And the descent into the cave was extremely steep. Here’s Harry trying to get us to follow him down into the cave:

See that little hole to your left? That's where we climbed down. We left our daypacks up top, and I also left my camera. My husband took his Blackberry and he had a little flashlight. My brother-in-law had a headlamp. Myself and my sister-in-law had to rely on our husbands to help steer us down the "staircases."

See that little hole to your left? That’s where we climbed down. We left our daypacks up top, and I also left my camera. My husband took his Blackberry and he had a little flashlight. My brother-in-law had a headlamp. Myself and my sister-in-law had to rely on our husbands to help steer us down the “staircases.”

If that woman at the bottom of the stairs (there was more than one set) looks like she'd holding on for dear life, it's because she is. I had to go down the stairs backwards, because I more sure of my footing that way. We were basically all helping each other along with the flashlights and the flashes of those brave enough to take cameras underground when we knew we would eventually wind up waist deep in water.

If that woman at the bottom of the stairs (there was more than one set) looks like she’s holding on for dear life, it’s because she is. I had to go down the stairs backwards, because I was more sure of my footing that way. We were basically all helping each other along with the flashlights and the flashes of those brave enough to take cameras underground when we knew we would eventually wind up waist deep in water.

To get to the big lovely opening where our group could spread out and take pictures, we had to trundle through this big crack in the rocks. My husband took this picture, and he had the flashlight, remember. I was pretty much in the dark and relying on him telling me to keep coming and the person behind me encouraging me forward. The water wasn't the warmest, but as a Canadian it was entirely walkable. To Harry, our Ecuadorean guide, the water was very cold.

To get to the big lovely opening where our group could spread out and take pictures, we had to trundle through this big crack in the rocks. My husband took this picture, and he had the flashlight, remember. I was pretty much in the dark and relying on him telling me to keep coming and the person behind me encouraging me forward. The water wasn’t the warmest, but as a Canadian it was entirely walkable. To Harry, our Ecuadorean guide, the water was very cold.

This picture gives you an idea of how dark it is underground in the cave while you are standing waist-deep in water. Everyone turned off their flashlights for the picture.

This picture gives you an idea of how dark it is underground in the cave while you are standing waist-deep in water. Everyone turned off their flashlights for the picture.

At other times of the year, the water is even deeper. And when it’s deeper, I think it might be warmer, too. Harry insisted that the water during our visit was far too cold for him to swim to the very back of the cave. Would no one swim to the very back of the cave to see how far it extended? Only one person. My husband! He took a tiny little flashlight with him and swam until he reached the narrowing at the other end. I was a trifle concerned, because this is what it looks like when your husband is swimming away from you to the end of a cave where God knows how many trolls lurk:

If I looked worried, I was! Can you see that tiny pinpoint of light way back in the tunnel? That's my husband!

If I looked worried, I was! Can you see that tiny pinpoint of light way back in the tunnel? That’s my husband!

At this point, we had taken a bunch of group pictures and we were getting hungry! So the group made its way back to the surface. However, My Liege, Rembrandt and I loitered behind the group. We wanted to see what it felt like to totally be the only three people down there. We knew approximately where the others were ahead of us, but we left enough time and space so that we started singing (I think it was “Oh, Canada!”) as we were climbing out of the cave, and apparently none of the group ahead of us heard us! You know what this means, don’t you? If my husband had chosen that moment to clunk me over the head and then say I’d tripped, no one other than my brother-in-law would have heard him commit the dastardly dead. However, I can be charming when I want to, believe it or not, so I escaped from the cave unscathed.

Day 19 was a very busy day! We had our last snorkeling excursion, however, I have no pictures because Rembrandt’s old underwater camera had busted by that point. We had a nice lunch and then continued to Cormorant Point, where a last surprise was in store for us. My husband wasn’t feeling well, so he stayed behind while I accompanied the group to the Point. When my parents visited the Galapagos at the turn of the century, they saw a lot of flamingoes in the lagoons on Cormorant Point. I don’t know why, maybe they were just shy, but we saw only one flamingo from very, very far away during our trek to a nice sandy beach that looked like this:

Gala_May4_Floreana8

We thought we were just going on a walk. It’s really too bad My Liege missed this part, because it was amazing. Our guide told us to wander into the water, but not to take big steps. To shuffle our feet along the ocean floor. What he didn’t tell us but left us to experience for ourselves was that every time the tide rushed in, like you can see above, it brought dozens of rays with it! When you’re standing there and the water comes in, you can’t see the rays, but when the water rolls out again, it’s incredible:

Honestly, these rays were just around my feet! That Harry, leaving a special surprise for the very end of our cruise. I could have stood there for an hour, I'm sure.

Honestly, these rays were just around my feet! That Harry, leaving a special surprise for the very end of our cruise. I could have stood there for an hour, I’m sure.

A close-up of a ray:

Totally amazing.

Totally amazing.

We made our way back to the boat and enjoyed a sociable evening. However, everyone trekked to bed by 9 p.m. For one thing, all that exploring is exhausting. For another, we knew we had a wake-up call for 5 a.m. the next morning, because we were all flying out of the airport on Baltra, which meant we needed to return to Santa Cruz first.

Awwwwwwwww, Galapagos, it is nearly time to say goodbye. Except, first we had to visit Lonesome George. Little did we know that the famous century-plus-old giant tortoise would pass away a couple of months after our cruise. So we were amongst the last Galapagos visitors to see him. I’m glad George waited for me, because seeing him was on my Bucket List. It didn’t occur to me to make the list more general (like Visit the Galapagos). Learn from me, people! Learn from me!

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