Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Galapagosh A Rooney

The plane flies over the open Pacific for an hour or two. Then islands appear below, not tiny ones. We land on a flat scrub and cactus covered spot, take a bus for a mile to a channel, a boat across the channel, and a 50 minute bus ride to the main town, Puerto Ayora.

It´s humid but not horribly hot. I walk around to several of the cheap hotels. Their prices are much higher than the book says, and they are almost all full. Strange, you would think that in the midst of a recession in the off season it wouldn´t be that way. I find a simple room for $15.

By now it´s about 3 and I head out for the famous Charles Darwin center. It´s about a half mile to the end of town past not that many restaurants and souvenir stores. Then over another half mile and increasingly hotter to get there. I´m hoping to see hundreds of giant tortoises at the end of it.

Disappointment. There´s a total of about an acre of enclosures, and maybe a dozen tortoises walking around. Not all that giant, either, although I just saw giant sea turtles in Oman, so maybe now I´ll never be satisfied. I was able to sit about six feet from one and stare for twenty minutes. She seemed to be saying, Í sure hope that you have this all figured out more than I do. I tried to look confident.

In the evening all the hundreds of rich tourists take launches back to their small to medium sized tour boats. By the next morning I am horribly bored with Puerto Ayora. I pay $30 for the two hour ride in a thwapping speedboat in open ocean. We then arrive at Puerto Villamil, the only tiny town on Isla Isabela, by far the biggest Galapago island.

Then I settle in, on Saturday finding a room right on the beach, complete with sea breezes, hot water, and a fridge. $20 a night, and I start in on my self imposed discipline of trying to write 3000 words a day.

Said days are thus spent in concentrating for hour and a half bursts, then walking around on the beach to look at all the iguanas wandering back and forth, maybe taking my daily dip, walking the couple of blocks to ´downtown´to try and find edible food, walking the half mile to the internet place. Kind of idyllic.

They have a turtle station here which is much nicer and has many more turtles. The islands though are dry deserty volcanic places, like much of Baja. The only tortoises I´ve seen in the wild were only around 18-24 inches. They do have very silly necks and heads.

The volcano caldera tour is supposed to be a bust, since it´s been raining like crazy on the mountain. It´s cool having Sirius on the top of the sky when the stars are visible. I still hope to go snorkeling, and am trying to arrange a boat tour. All those things are expensive.

And it´s very hard using this keyboard at the internet place.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

So Much For Rose Smelling

The sickness didn´t get better on Wednesday. On Thursday I realized that it was probably a reaction to the pills I was taking for the intestinal stuff, so I stopped taking the anti-fungal. I was still awful on Friday, spending most of the day in bed. The incessant clouds and rain didn´t help; I was often in thermal underwear with two other layers and blankets. It´s not that it was so absolutely cold, but rather that my defenses were gone and there was no such thing as a space heater.

I couldn´t go to the Amazon lest I get some horrible other disease. The Ecuadorian coast was hard to get to, and is pretty crappy once you get there. But I noticed that my guidebook said Écuador & The Galapagos... Hmmm, ordinarily I would be far too cheap to spend the $500 to get there, not to mention the $2000 for a week´s cruise. But it would be warm.

Saturday I stopped the cipro and moved back up the hill into town. I got a great room with WIFI and its own little balcony for $7.50 a night, and started writing away. Sunday I bought my ticket.

Tuesday was Inauguration Day, and I wasn´t going to miss that. Friends Jim and Marshia were even going to have a little party. I awoke bright and early to find that my computer wasn´t working. Neither was anything else. The hotel girl said that all power in Banos would be off all day. Aaagh!

Around 10 somebody noticed that the best hotel in town had a little generator going. I talked to the British owner, who said, sorry, but his big screen tv wasn´t hooked up to the same circuit. Aaagh! But at eleven he let us know that we could come over to his house and watch it all on his personal tv.

So I got to witness history from far away. Then at around 2 the sun almost fully came out. Barack: He causes planes to land on water and the sun to shine in Banos. Marshia and I celebrated by riding bicycles down the hill.

It was about a 30 km hill. And there was some up, but mostly d-o-w-n. There´s one quarter mile long tunnel, and I remembered it as being a lot of fun, so I went right into it. About half way through, at about 30 mph, I realized that I hadn´t let my eyes get adjusted, and that I could crash into the wall at any moment. And once I had lost my ignorant confidence...

But I came out the other end unscathed. And once we got to the bottom, we just stopped an upgoing bus and rode back.

Wednesday morning the clouds were back. And my little experiment of just staying in Banos had come a cropper. Who knew it could be so friggin cold here on the equator?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Right Now, Not So Ecuadorable

Even with stops in Atlanta and Miami, it's pretty painless to get to Quito. Of course, they have all the flights arrive at around nine at night, so that by the time you get through Immigration all the luggage is piled up in giant heaps of black bags on the floor. (I have so much stuff in my 'backpack' that I can hardly lift it, let alone carry it on my back. It's smaller than most Ecuadorian luggage.) But after a couple of minutes of freaking out that yours has been stolen, you finally find it.

The next morning it is amazing how quickly one adjusts to this foreign country. People are small and the pace is quiet. But it is also cloudy and rainy, not to mention an upcoming weekend, so my initial plan to go to Mindo, a cloud forest reserve, has to change. By three in the afternoon I am on a bus to Banos, and by six thirty I am there and hanging out with our friends Jim and Marshia who own a small hotel there.

And then by three in the afternoon the next day (Saturday) I am esconsed 3 km down the hill in my house rental for the next three weeks or so. It's got several rooms, a little porch, a little garden area, and, like every other house in Latin America, eight foot high walls surrounding it. Banos is, however, a no crime area.

My project is to put an allegorical gun to my head and, like in those old college days, force myself to write. And, like in those old college days, the first day I hemmed and hawed and did nothing, mainly because I still hadn't figured out how to approach the next part of my current project. But by Sunday afternoon I had decided to write a history of my drive to Panama 8 years ago. That stuff is easy, and I had quickly done 1700 words.

Unfortunately, part of renting a house is putting food inside it so that one doesn't have to go 6 km back and forth to restaurants three times a day. And it turns out that the only supermarket in Banos (population 14,000) has been closed for a week. Something about a messy divorce. So everyone had said that I should go up the hill to the Sunday market, which I did. And there I bought many fruits and vegetables.

But I also had tasted a plum that an indigenous lady had wanted me to taste.

So by the dawn of Monday I wasn't feeling too good. And then as the day progressed it got worse. By three am Tuesday my bowels, and everything else, had been evacuated. I thus lay in bed for 24 hours.

Around two this afternoon I finally forced some clothes on, walked out to the corner, and got a cab into town, where the nice Farmacia lady sold me a big pile of pills. I barely had enough energy to down the first ones, buy some Ecuadorian gatorade, and take a cab back to the house.

By five I had enough energy to help this little bird that keeps hopping into the house to find his way out again. By six I could read a NY Times article. Now it is eight and I am blogging.

Although my stomach still is gurgling.

And it's been cloudy and cold pretty much nonstop. Which is kind of weird, since Banos is only at 5500 feet, it's, uh, on the Equator, and the Amazon is only two hours down the road from here. At certain points, though, I've had to have on thermal underwear, a long sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt, and been under two heavy blankets.

But the theory is that I'M ON THE FRIGGIN' EQUATOR, so that the Scottish Highland weather won't last...

(Oh, and writing blogs does not contribute to my daily authoring quota.)