Sunday, 12 January 2020

There Are Stars Up Above

This is not a trip for those who tend toward the lazy. We have not stopped moving since we got on the plane in Miami. Every minute has been choreographed right down to the last minute. Sleep has been a luxury and has been grabbed in small snatches on planes, buses, and a few precious hotel hours.

We were on the move today from Quito to the Gal├ípagos Islands. A two-hour plane ride saw us land on Baltra Island just before noon. As we disembarked onto the tarmac, the high heat was a stark change from the cool temperatures and breezes of Quito. While Ecuador's capital remains at moderate temperatures of between 10°C-20°C all year round because of its high altitude, the Gal├ípagos are in the low to mid-30s in what they still insist is the rainy season. We shall see but honestly, I have my doubts about any cooling trend.

I am so impressed by the care taken by the Ecuadorian government with visitors to these islands. There was more cleaning for foreign organisms on luggage, shoes, and other items coming in than most of us probably do in our own homes. They even made us stay in our seats on the plane while the flight attendants sprayed something in an aerosol can on our carry-ons. This government is so worried about invasive species that no food from the outside is allowed on the islands and the transfer of seeds and pollen is taken very seriously.

The Celebrity Flora is unlike any cruise ship we have ever sailed on before. It is small, only one-hundred passengers, and yet it feels very roomy. There is no jostling for position from passengers and everybody is quite content. We were all fitted for our snorkelling gear today, complete with wetsuits and while I am still not certain how much of this activity I may partake in, the experience of the fitting is one to behold. You really haven't lived until you've seen a mid-western MAGA blowhard with a few too many cheeseburgers in his history, try to squeeze into a shorty wetsuit. There was way too much there that wasn't left to the imagination. I will say that my trying to find fins that fit my size 4 1/2s was exciting. They finally gifted me with the kids' pair.

We did a quick circumnavigation around Daphne Major and Daphne Minor this afternoon. The volcanic islands were teeming with so many species of native birds that I lost count. The mouth of the volcano on Major was gorgeous in the afternoon sun and the sea lions frolicked at its shoreline.

My favourite part of today though was our first glimpse at the stars down here. It is a startling sight, to say the least. When we were at the Equator Museum yesterday, our guide told us about the ability to see constellations from both hemispheres in perfect alignment. And so it is, that this evening we were able to view the Big Dipper, Orion, and the Southern Cross all next to each other. The Milky Way was in full view and the night sky was positively mesmerizing. We will try and get a few photos tomorrow.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, oseh ma-aseh beresheit.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who makes the Work of Creation.

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