Gusts onboard Silversea’s Silver Galapagos had a bit of a Groundhog Day moment this morning as we dropped anchor off Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the eastern Galapagos island of San Cristobal. It’s also the same place we embarked Silver Galapagos at last Saturday, which felt like a bit of an odd homecoming. There’s the harbour, crowded with new and derelict boats alike, book-ended by the town and the airport where we touched down.
Most guests won’t have this deja-vu experience. Our voyage is unique in that it embarked in San Cristobal following Silver Galapagos’ extensive drydock on Panama. All other voyages will embark and disembark guests in Baltra, where we’ll be on Saturday.
In order to depart the ship at 7:30 a.m. this morning, I filled out the Room Service card last night and hung it on my door as requested before 11:00 p.m. I requested a delivery time of between 7:00 and 7:30, and my butler Alvaro arrived right at 7:00 on-the-dot with a silver tray filled with my food.
Alvaro set the entire table up in typical Silversea style, missing no detail. He ran over the order again for me to ensure he’d gotten it right – he had. Orange juice, cappuccino, plain yogurt, grilled peaches with honey, and white toast with marmalade were all mine for the taking – in the comfort of my suite.
Breakfast devoured, I was off the ship, into the zodiac, and back on the odd little mini-busses that had brought us from the airport to the ship six days ago. Our destination this time, though, was a little different: we were headed to La Galapaguera – a giant tortoise reserve spread out over 12 hectares of forest.
There’s a bit of a hidden danger here: bordering almost the entire length of the trail are Poison Apple Trees. They produce apples that look and smell like real apples, but there’s a difference: these ones will kill you if ingested.
Complicating matters is the fact that the tree’s milky sap is poisonous and can cause quite the skin irritation if brushed against. So you’ve really got to keep your arms in and watch where you’re walking.
The stars, of course, are the giant tortoises. Typically slow moving, they can actually speed up quite a bit when provoked by another tortoise – something we saw on more than one occasion. Besides being fabulous to look at, they also gave the Galapagos Islands their name. The word Galapago is a Spanish term for a saddle shaped like the shell of a tortoise.
You have to admire the ironic beauty of 15 fully-grown adults, all standing around watching a creature that moves at a blistering 0.5 kilometres an hour. The highlight of the morning was when the massive tortoise suddenly stopped, strained his neck, and defecated all over the ground behind him. Someone snapped a photo with their iPhone. Others chatted in a manner-of-fact way about the relative size and consistency of it. Darwin would be proud.
I, on the other hand, didn’t give much notice to this, as I was too busy swatting away the largest bees I have ever seen in my life. Take your average garden-variety beetle, triple his size, strap some wings on him, and you’ve got what I saw flying around the immensely-poisonous apple trees. The scenario played out in my head: writer sees bees. Writer freaks out. Writer falls into deadly tree and gets equally-deadly sap all over him. Writer swells. Writer tries desperately to get up but ultra-poisonous apple falls in writer’s mouth. Bee stings writer to finish the job.
This, of course, didn’t happen, but you do have to admire the sort of ‘funhouse of terror’ quality nature can have to it. Interestingly, the poisonous tree is used by the massive tortoises, who gnaw on it and use it as a sort of laxative to clear out their internal plumbing.