Contents for The Galapagos
We started the day with
breakfast a two and a bit hour boat ride to Floreana. Before I begin, a little history/mystery:
The island was one of the first to be inhabited, or rather to be colonised, but it quickly drained of people as it was so hard to live there. In 1929, however, a german couple moved to the island to get away from society. Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his mistress, Dore Strauch, were into their own cult which consisted of nudism, vegetarianism, eating only what they grew, and having nothing to do with 'the world'. Dr. Ritter even had his teeth and his mistress' pulled out entirely, mostly because there were no dentists on the island, but also because he saw no need for a veggie to have teeth. It has been noted however, that his strict cult rules were slackened when he began wearing clothes, eating meat and asking for news.
The next people to move in were another German family, the Wittmer's. Margaret Wittmer was pregnant at the time and had the first documented baby to be born on the island. That baby girl grew up to be Floreanita, after the island, and is still alive today. We met her as she was our hotel's hostess, or rather the hostess to the only hotel on the island, set up by her mother before her.
After the Wittmer's came another German woman, with her TWO lovers, and she called herself the Baroness of Floreana. Of course, as the situation would imply, she was bossy, rude, a bit cuckoo, and very much disliked by the previous settlers. Living on the island had become hell until pretty much everyone except Margaret Wittmer and her family disappeared or died suddenly. Margaret wrote all about it in her biography, available in English, Spanish and German at the Hotel Floreana's reception.
And that's the mystery, no one knows just quite what happened, or where the people disappeared to. No bodies were ever found. Ever.
Now back to my day: While on the boat ride, we stopped at a few places, where we saw Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate birds, some with their red pouches inflated, and sea lions yet again. Sea lions everywhere. Even though I don't talk about them much, they're everywhere. Watch out. I'm serious. They look all cute and cuddly just sleeping in the sun or doing flips in the water, but they're planning something...
At one particular stop, we saw a huge National Geographic ship, which I thought was interesting. It was sending out scuba divers in a rubber dinghy.
When we arrived on the island, we had our bags checked, like, someone rummaged through the bag. Everytime you leave or come to an island in the Galapagos, your bags are checked. Even your backpack. But on the hush-hush, they don't really check the bags properly. If I really wanted to take a sea shell or something with me, which is illegal in the Galapagos (nothing is to be left or taken), then I could easily smuggle it. But of course I didn't do anything of the sort, I'm just saying their checkpoints are absolutely ridonculous.
We finally got to the island and our hotel, after many stops and sights. It was right on the coast, and two steps from our door we were on the Playa Negra, the black beach, named so because of the black (rough) volcanic rock sand. Floreanita also had many pets, including two adorable puppies that I dubbed Salt and Pepper, who were sooo playful. I also noticed several Siamese cats, although on approach they proved to be quite feral. But the most notable of these pets was a tortoise named El Solitario (Lonesome). He used to belong to Margaret Wittmer, along with many other tortoises, but when the National Parks took over, and put tortoises under protection, they claimed back the animals. All except Lonesome, Margaret's favourite. Floreanita now also still refuses to hand Lonesome over. He is estimated of being about a hundred years old by now.
After a little lunch and break, we got ready for a walk in the higher parts of Floreana. Our goal was to reach both the source where the people used to get fresh water, and the 'pirate caves'. With it's good placement and fresh water, Floreana, before the settling Germans, had been a haven for scallywags and buccaneers. While waiting out the storms on the island, they would reside in their homemade shelters, dug out of soft rock. We saw two small such places, but the best one was a long tunnel-like home made in a ravine. There were holes in the walls to place doors and lock in place logs to make cages for livestock. It was all quite impressive. There's even, apparently, meant to still be treasure hidden on the island.
We did see the source, but what do you want me to say? It was a source.
After the pirate caves and a little break at a great viewpoint, we continued further on the path, this time heading more in forest. We arrived at a place that housed lots of tortoises. They were actually the first giant tortoises we saw, so everyone was very excited. I am not quite sure where we were, as the tortoises were wild-ish, not pets, and yet they were in an enclosure. Granted, it was very large, but still an enclosure, and they were being fed and all. So, not quite sure here.
But after them we went back to the truck that had taken us to the path, and went back to the hotel. It was still a while before dinner, so most of us went to the pier to watch the sun set over the water, in the company of sea lions, marine iguanas, and Sally Lightfoot crabs.