An Island-Hoppin’ Christmas in the Galapagos
Our cook at Jatun Sacha was named Rosa. And Jeremy, being the excellent chef and kitchen aid that he is, naturally became Rosa’s favorite volunteer. She liked Jeremy so much that one weekend she invited us to stay at her house instead of joining the other volunteers at the usual hostel. We accepted and soon found ourselves on a private boat tour around the island led by Rosa and her husband, Louis. The evening was shaping up to be perfect. Louise had brought us to the most beautiful beaches, pointing out all the Blue-Footed Boobies, red-throated Frigate, and marine iguanas. After a gorgeous sunset, Rosa cooked us up a deliciously healthy portion of fresh fish, patacones (fired green plantains – my new favorite), rice and salad. We stayed up chatting with their family for hours. Drinking tea and playing with her 2-year-old grandson.
Finally, when it came time to go to bed, she gave us a sheet and bug net and showed us to our room, which was more basic than at Jatun Sacha. It was a barren, cement cube detached from the house. There was a thin mattress on the floor and nothing else. The only window was covered by an iron gate, but had no glass. We had to shoo away the cockroaches to make the bed and since there was nothing to hang the bug net from, we covered our bodies with it like a blanket. “We’ll, at least it’s free,” we agreed and said goodnight.
I wish I could say that it was a good night, but that night ended up being one of the worst nights we’ve experienced so far. Within minutes of laying down, the mosquitos began to attack. The net laying over our faces felt like we were wrapped in cheesecloth and didn’t stop the mosquitos from reaching our skin. In the dark, open room we couldn’t tell if the scratching and rustling noises around us were spiders, roaches, rats or the two kittens we’d let stay with us for the night. We were hot, itchy and claustrophobic under the net and couldn’t sleep if our life depended on it. So we lied there, trying to be calm, but occasionally bursting out into slight fits of rage for 7 hours.
When day broke, we were up and out of there. Luckily, our ferry to Santa Cruz (the main island) was an early one. At the dock we met the other volunteers looking worse than they did after a night of partying, and unknowingly loaded onto the speed boat ferry from hell.
After a two-hour back-breaking, butt-numbing ride across the open sea, we arrived to Santa Cruz island very thankful to be alive and ready to start enjoying our long island hopping holiday weekend. Our plan was to spend two days on Santa Cruz then take another ferry to Isla Islabela for two nights before returning to San Cristobal.
The weekend turned out to be perfect. It was the third Christmas that Jeremy and I have spent together and it was by far the best. Instead of a crackling fireplace, we had rolling waves. Instead of Christmas cookies, we had coconut ice cream. Instead of presents, we had snorkels and fins. And our Christmas tree… Well, there were Christmas trees all around us.
At Kicker Rock, we snorkeled in a school of Galapagos sharks and popped champagne to celebrate the underwater engagement of fellow travelers. Off the bays and beaches we swam and played with more sea lions, sea turtles and rays than we could count. We visited the giant tortoises at Charles Darwin Research Center and the memorial of Lonesome George. At Tortuga Bay, we fell in love with the white, silky sand, the warm, clear water and the dozens of resident iguanas.
I don’t know how else to describe it. The Galapagos are exactly what I had hoped and dreamed they would be. And Jeremy and I, we had everything we needed. We were together and could not have been happier. That was the greatest Christmas gift of all.
I hope everyone everywhere was able to enjoy the holidays with someone they love.