During my time in Ecuador I have woken up on many a morning with the taste of rotten egg burps protruding from my mouth, a sure sign that little parasites are waging a war on my stomach. Imagine my surprise when waking up on this fine cloudless morning and having the taste of cerviche in my mouth instead. Definitely an improvement. I'm still not sure whether cerviche, seafood in citrus juices, complimented with a salsa of tomatoes and onions and a side of plantain chips tickles my taste buds, but I still seem to get through my fair share.
Another early start was needed today for another day trip this time to Isla Daphne Major. This trip was rearranged from the previous weekend and it soon became apparent that my girlfriend and I had been, to say it nicely, screwed over by the tour agency, Ninfa Tours, that we had booked with. Upon arriving at our meeting point, there seemed to be a large number of school children, a little too energetic for this early hour, all playing with stylish cell phones and making fun at anyone who would dare get too close to them.
My worst nightmare was confirmed when our transport to the opposite side of the island started boarding the tour group, and with God laughing down on us, the only people to catch the bus, apart from the group of schoolchildren were my girlfriend and I. It was more than obvious that this was a fieldtrip specifically designed for annoying school children and we had just been slotted on to make the tour company a little extra money. To make matters worse, the guide only spoke Spanish and had the wildlife knowledge of a 4 year old, with 'sea lion', 'blue-footed boobie' and 'pelican' his only words.
I hate being the needle in the haystack and I really wouldn't have had a problem if the solo teacher had at all tried to keep them under control, instead of continuously filming them for the trips duration. I wouldn't have cared if the school children were even mildly obedient and showed signs of respect to others. Sadly they didn't. They were spoilt, ignorant and obnoxious. Two of the most important lessons that children can be taught, are respect and discipline, and these children had neither.
To cap it all off, on the outward journey to Daphne Major one girl sitting next to me repeatedly called my girlfriend 'ugly' in Spanish, expecting us not to understand. Up until now I thought I'd done a good job at controlling my emotions after being screwed over and ripped off, but I finally snapped at these insults. I know it's neither big or clever to return abuse to a six year old girl, but I decided this girl, under the circumstances deserved a taste of her own medicine. As she finished off her latest round of 'ugly' chants, impressing her laughing friends, I started chanting back in Spanish her exact words. The only difference was a little poetic license and the word 'whore'. I understand letting such a young girl get under your skin is quite pathetic, but the retaliation was a success and the girl soon shut up, disappearing to the back of the boat, allowing my girlfriend and I to finally get some peace and quiet and a small piece of relaxation.
I had read in my guide book that the landing at Daphne Major was one of the most difficult throughout the islands and included scrambling from a moving boat up a near vertical rock face. What I had failed to read and something that the tour company also failed in telling us as they happily showed us pictures of the bird life inside the volcano crater on Daphne Major was that only a handful of boats now disembark on the island due to high levels of erosion, and if you are lucky then you might be able to find only one or two a month. It soon dawned on me that with so many young children on board such a task was impossible.
There was no hike to the summit of the island to see the thousands of Nazca boobies and Darwin finches. Instead, a lap of the island in our boat was basically all that our $45 per person bought on this day trip. The wildlife viewing was so poor, managing to spot only a handful of seabirds and sea lions, all of which could have easily been seen for free at Pelican Bay on Santa Cruz, a five minute walk from my hotel. The only positive I can think of was getting an ideal glimpse of how perfectly formed the volcano cone that makes up the island of Daphne Major is, the steep sides sloping towards the islands high rocky cliffs.
At this point I was hugely disappointed with the tour and even the sighting of a huge Galapagos shark in the waters did little to satisfy me. I would have rather spent the day walking around Puerto Ayora, or took another visit to Tortuga Bay, where much more fun would have been had. As we started slowly sailing away from Daphne Major, returning in the direction of Santa Cruz, I thoroughly hoped that we were nearing the end of our trip. Sadly this wasn't the case. Instead we stopped off for ninety minutes at a deserted beach on the nearby island of Baltra. After taking a few pictures of nesting baby pelicans in the mangroves surrounding the beach, finally we were able to escape the school children (you would never guess I was a school teacher!) with a spot of snorkeling. The waters were far too shallow to see much of interest, and just as the masks were placed over our faces, another four boats packed full of day trippers arrived and before you knew it, the beach was crowded.
This was one day trip I wasn't upset about finishing in a hurry and as we arrived back onto Santa Cruz, knowing the ordeal was over a relieved smile formed on my face. Before we could return to Puerto Ayora and board the bus, all of the children crossed their legs and declared their bladders were in no position to last the forty-five minute bus journey. Something that managed to take another twenty minutes.
This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as out of nowhere boats full of reporters, cameramen and very important looking officials arrived at the dock, obviously there to follow up and report on the 'Galapagos Aggression' between the coastguards and the army, something that was now national news. As they were quickly hustled onto a waiting bus it was time to call an end to the days rather disappointing tour and head back to joys of Puerto Ayora, where the afternoon was spent resting and sleeping and trying to avoid the afternoon heat.
After waking from my slumber I decided to try and end the day in a positive way by spending my already depleted financial resources on souvenirs. After buying enough blue-footed boobie miniatures to treat every refugee the world over, I decided to call it a night and looked forward to the following day, a day full of tortoise fun at the Charles Darwin Research Station. It will be nice to have a brake from travelling the breadth of the island for a day trip.