The heat in the Galapagos is quite unbearable at first, especially having a room without air-conditioning and just a small fan to keep the temperature down. The cheapskate that I am, I wasn't really prepared to pay extra for something that can easily be coped without, and anyway, the restless night I enjoyed gave me much time to reflect on something I had been planning for a long, long time, and if all went well today I would unleash this plan of mine on my, hopefully, unsuspecting girlfriend.
Not having any day trips planned we decided to go for a walk to the nearby beach of Tortuga Bay, one of the few places you can venture inside the national park without a guide. Although I knew it was going to be a walk of around 3km from the main town of Puerto Ayora, it felt at least twice as long due to the sapping heat and by the time we reached the beach I had already consumed half of my meagre two litres of water I had brought with me.
The beach itself was everything I had dreamed it would be, a 1km stretch of white-golden sand, with crystal clear blue waters, the frothing white foam of the waves lapping the shores. Although I had noticed at least sixty other people checked in before ahead of us at the ranger station, these people were nowhere to be seen. Possibly swept out to sea by the strong sea currents!
There were a few people enjoying the invigorating harsh rays of the sun further down the beach, but to my left was a tiny beach separated from the vast golden expense by a small outcrop of rocks which extended several metres into the light turquoise waters. Beckoning my girlfriend towards me, and explaining we could have a private beach all to ourselves we made the short walk towards it. I had a feeling that my girlfriend had an inkling of what I was planning. Luckily she didn't.
Upon making our way onto the golden sands and allowing my girlfriend to have a few pictures taken next to a resident pelican, I got knelt on one and asked her to make an honest man of me and take my hand in marriage. I also said many a soppy sentence, that would be far too embarrassing to print here. Selfishly I was hoping a few tears would be shed, but sadly not, just the response 'are you being serious?', which didn't match the romantic ending I had been role-playing over and over again in my head the previous night. When she realised it wasn't just another piece of British sarcasm, she accepted and I slipped out her $5 ring (I had knocked the price down from $6 a few weeks earlier on a secret trip to Quito) and gently prized it onto her left ring finger and we embraced like we had never done before. I promise there will be no more mushiness now.
At this point some of you might be wondering, while I might have done a half decent job of picking the location to propose, what on earth a decent girl was thinking of by saying yes to a $5 ring. Of course being an English gentleman this wasn't the real engagement ring. I calculated the risks of buying an expensive ring and bringing it into a developing country and decided they were a little too high. She was satisfied on the promise of the real one upon our return to either America or England, depending on which country has the cheapest prices (okay, so I do like to watch my pennies sometimes!).
After finally watching the Cheshire grin disappear from my girlfriends face half an hour later we decided to walk along the whole stretch of beach. It amazed me the variety of tourists that venture to the Galapagos Islands. You have blond haired girls with the bodies of supermodels prancing around to the mesmerising gazes of toned athletic surfers, bodies of which I can only dream of. You have rich Western families, who I presume are oblivious to the importance of the islands and are only there to impress their neighbours with tales and photos of what they have seen and witnessed. Their children, even worse, running past huge signs (in English I may add) that warn of nesting baby turtles in the vicinity. Of course to their uneducated and ignorant youthful minds, not getting rugby tackled by your brother is far more important than the lives and future of a species that has made the islands famous. There's the hippies, animal enthusiasts, loners, party animals, and genuine people who have saved for this once in a lifetime trip for years and still can't believe they are fulfilling their dream. There's also the tourists who like to walk around in as little clothing as possible, their blatant bright pot bellies on show for the whole world to see. Frankly something that should be taken to the safety of a nudist beach where no doubt they would wear even less. To be honest I don't think my personality fits into any of these. I was just here for the ride.
As we reached the far end of Tortuga Bay, we came face to face with our first marine iguana, happily floating around in the shallow waters. After taking enough photos to bore my mothers' glass eye to sleep I quickly realised that this marine iguana wasn't alone. Iguanas were everywhere you looked, along with enough Sally Lightfoot crabs to feed the whole population of Ethiopia and Sudan combined for a good three years. This was the Galapagos I had read about and wanted to experience so badly (I suppose you could therefore class me as an animal enthusiast then, but hopefully without the stereotypical geekyness that comes with such a statement). I felt I had finally arrived in the Galapagos and for a few seconds the events that had taken place only an hour or so previous evaporated from my conscience, especially after entering the cactus forest at the end of the beach, a size and dominance I have never witnessed before in my life.
Sadly the trip to Tortuga Bay had to be cut short after realising the last drops of water had just been polished off, and it was deemed wise to head back through the heavily populated lava lizard territory to the entrance where it was possible to replenish our supplies. As we past the same marine iguanas basking in the sun, cooking their tasty seaweed meal in their stomachs in the process, it was strange to realise how the tameness of the animals here becomes the norm so quickly.
It was a good job we left early as stopping off quickly at our hotel room, I realised a rather expensive looking mistake that the airline we had flown with, TAME, had made. I had initially requested for us to be flown out on the 16th March and return back to mainland Ecuador on the 25th March. I presume as the lady booked our tickets at lightning speed the day before, to make sure we boarded the flight, she decided it would save vital seconds to put our return date the same as out departing date. This meant that we had already missed our return flight home, a flight we had both paid the nice sum of $197.51 for.
The rest of the afternoon was annoyingly spent at the TAME offices, where half the population of Puerto Ayora were also located, all having similar problems. After waiting almost 2 hours to be dealt with, the glaring music of Bob Marley pumping at suicidal decibels from the Limon y Cafe bar opposite, our problem was finally eradicated. Well not quite eradicated, as the return flight was now fully booked and we would have to spend another day to fly back home. It's a harsh life sometimes! Before leaving we were informed that it was of the utmost importance to return a few days later to reconfirm the booking. I understand the importance of such a task, but after blowing a good chunk of the afternoon on one incident and now having to do the same thing again, then I am quite happy to have the extra day here.
To celebrate the events of the day, and look forward to what shall certainly be a new beginning in my short life, my girlfriend and I shared a few drinks and stayed out until the ridiculous late hour of 9.30pm living the high life. You would have thought with such behaviour that we had already been married for 35 years and were approaching our retirement. Sadly not, but in my defense the heat here really does exhaust you fast.