On the National Geographic Endeavor II...
my fellow guests were Doctors, lawyers, CFO’s, realtors, pharmaceutical researchers, IT Wizards, Board of Director members, college professors, factory owners and than...there was Me.
My shipmates wore age appropriate clothing. They owned grownup luggage. I on the other hemisphere sported baggy black shorts, a tank top and carried a sweat stained backpack. Once again, this Jewish Gringo sort of stood out.
With a five-figure per guest price tag, I shouldn’t have been too surprised. My Blue Collar ways and net worth were more in tune with the Crew than the Clientele. So...I decided to be an Equal Opportunity Grinner and chant English or Espanol salutations to all. I didn’t want the other 93 guests (mostly families and couples) or 62 crew members to make me take a long walk off a short plank. I swim as well as a barbell.
Before boarding, I read the brochure Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic sent to all us Darwin wannabes. It promised that “in no time, the ship will feel like home.” I had my doubts. First off, my old home didn’t sway with the ocean’s currents. Secondly, I envisioned my cabin to be a tiny affair with a miniature porthole for my ocean view. I wondered if my bed would be a hammock strung out between the walls. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect.
Well, I’ll say it now. Everything about this weeklong surf and turf trip was way beyond my lowball expectations. For a change, all the hype was justified. I hadn’t been this pampered since my Mom (May she RIP) spoon fed me chicken soup. My cabin was cleaned three times a day. (including a turning down the bed service. Yes! There was chocolate on my pillow too.) The meals were lovingly prepared. The ingredients were fresh and locally produced. The desserts added a kilo to my waistline just by looking at them. The diet starts manana. It was all so sinful.
I established a routine of waking up early to score some quiet time. At 5 am, it was just me, the coffee machine and the crew members going about their chores.(They really did swab the decks and polish the brass.) I’d then gag my way through a few pages of the NY Times to catch up on the latest news emanating from the United States of Dark Ages. (Did the Commander in Tweet really call a Continent’s worth of countries and then some “shit holes”?) By sunrise, I’d be on the Observation Deck drinking more coffee with my graceful Frigate Bird Buddies. I highly recommend this as a way to start your day-minus reading the News.
After breakfast the activities on the Galápagos Islands would begin. There was snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, glass bottom boat tours, beach bumming venues and Zodiac boat rides. The few hikes were more a mellow mosey than lung burners. (The stop and go pace was challenging for me). All events included a knowledgeable guide who spoke at great lengths about the breeding habits of all Galápagos creatures great and small.
Seeing the not-so-wild wildlife was the primary reason for my journey to these remote volcanic islands. With little effort, every photographer can score an up-close and in-their-face image of the unique residents. IE: flightless cormorants, ocean going iguanas, giant tortoises, booby birds with red or blue stomping feet and the only species of penguin found in the northern hemisphere.
The animals are incredibly photogenic. They don’t move! It’s not rare to hear someone shout out a warning. “Don’t step on the iguana!” or “Don’t trip over that sea lion!” Personally, I think they are all stoned on some Equatorial grown drug. The whole week was similar to an episode of “Best of Animal Planet.” Once again, the reality outperformed the hype.
Which leads us somehow to Darwin!
Charles was sort of a rich slacker who hitched a ride on the HMS Beagle as the ship’s Naturalist. In 1835, he spent five weeks on the Islands taking wildlife samples, making observations, looking at rocks and pondering the subtle differences of finches and other animals occupying the isolated islands in this vast archipelago. Darwin was no Speed Demon when it came to putting pen to paper. It wasn’t until 1859, when his game changing “On the Origin of the Species” was published.
On the 100th anniversary of the book’s printing, Ecuador established the Galápagos Islands National Park. Coincidence? I think not.
I’m still up after a Quito to Fort Lauderdale Red Eye,
No sleep for this blogger.
I’m missing my Frigate Bird Buddies.
Spend the money and visit the Galápagos. It lives up to the hype.
Cheers from West Palm Beach with an IPA Happy Hour,
Last photo: that’s me with Obama. It’s his fault there’s Evolution.