Love Stories from the Galapagos Islands
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands is an experience not to be missed. Celebrating Christmas and New Year alone with gratitude for all that travel has brought.
Have you ever fallen deeply in love? When asked this question, my mind automatically thinks of human relationships. (And if you’re curious, yes I have fallen in love with someone but that’s perhaps a different blog) But today I want to share a different love story. These are stories of how I fell for the Galapagos Islands.
Swimming with Sea Lions
She stares at me, curious and unafraid. Her eyes are bright black beads against the deep blue. A trail of bubbles rises to the surface. This is her element. And so I, her welcomed guest, keep at a comfortable distance. Then, the dance begins. She spins and swirls like a graceful ballerina. Her tail and flippers are her paintbrush. She paints the water. “Come join me! Come join me!” she seems to say. The dance continues, but she moves farther and farther way from me. Finally, she is gone from sight. A distant speck swallowed by the blue.
Celebrating Christmas Alone
It’s December 25th 2014. “No toca la roca. Y permanecer detrás de mí,” (Don’t touch the rock. And stay behind me) the guide instructs us. I spit in my snorkel mask and tighten my fins. My body submerges in the water. For a moment I am paralyzed as freezing water tries to seep into my wetsuit. “Ok, listas” (Ok ready?) Kicking furiously to warm my now shivering body, I swim after the guide. Perhaps this is why this is place is called “Kicker Rock.” (strangely the official name in Spanish is Leon Dormido or Sleeping Lion. A completely different translation.) We make our way through a channel between giant slabs of rock. It is frighteningly deep. I squint to see the bottom. Suddenly a dark looming creature streaks across my vision. Tiburón! (Shark!) Then another and another appear. I feel no fear, only a sense of admiration for how beautifully they glide through the water. They are mesmerizing, these majestic predators of the deep. I wonder if I would feel differently if I weren’t floating several feet above them. They are uninterested in our presence.
When we return to the boat, my lips have turned blue. I make my way to the bow to soak in some glorious sunshine. Just as my body has thawed, I spot a slitter of silver cut through the water. Suddenly a delfín (dophin) burst from the water. She fully emerges from the water, spinning with a childlike enthusiasm. Water splashes onto my cheeks as she falls back into the sea. But she is not alone. An entire pod of dolphins swim alongside our boat. They chatter and play in the small waves our boat creates. When they grow bored with our “ohhhhhs” and “ahhhhhs,” they sink back under the silky waves.
Three hours later I return back to my apartment. I look around. It finally hits me. There is no Christmas tree. There are no presents. There is no family waiting with dinner on the table. There is no one to hold me close and whisper “Merry Christmas.” I am alone. The weight of that reality makes me feel small. But then I think of all the blessings I have. I have an amazing opportunity to travel the world. I had the privilege of seeing what I saw today. I have a family and boyfriend patiently waiting for my return. And so instead of mourning the loss of “home for the holidays”, I celebrate this Christmas with a spoonful of gratitude.
The streets of San Cristóbal look like a war zone. Smoke nips at my nose and huge bonfires light up the streets. I watch as a little boy grabs his paper muñeca (doll) in his tiny fists. The doll is twice his size. He gleefully tosses it into the inferno. The fire reflects in his eyes, which widen with innocent child wonder as his doll is eaten by the flames. I learned that the burning of human sized paper dolls is a New Years tradition here. The tradition signifies the end of the old year and the start of a new one. You burn all the bad things that happened in the past year and have a fresh start. The dolls are stacked like dead bodies in the streets then lit ablaze. I can’t stare at the dolls too long. The whites of their painted eyes are all too real. Some have names painted on their chests. Others had signs hung around there necks. I watch in amazement as their faces are cupped by the flames and melted away. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The energy of the night beats like a drum.