Jeanette and I disagreed on how to approach the Galapagos. We agreed that a five or six day cruise was the best way to see the islands, but she preferred to wait for last minute deals, and I was afraid of wasting a day sifting through limited options. In the end, we waited. And we were both right. The prices were lower, but we couldn’t find a departure that fit our schedule. Indeed, the first day was wasted trying to decipher cryptic cruise packages and disarm every variety of salesman. So I changed my flight, booked an eight day cruise leaving five days later, and spent the interim getting my open water scuba license. Ironically, Jeanette’s approach caused me to spend more money than I anticipated, but I ended up with an itinerary that seemed better than anything I’d have planned for myself in advance. To her credit, I got my eight day cruise for about the standard five day price.
The SCUBA diving was was incredible. Unbelievable, really. After only 15 minutes of basic training, I was swimming under 45 feet of water with dozens of sharks and countless varieties of fish. I got four dives in, and each had a few memorable moments - like swimming through a shoal two million strong with a curious and playful sea lion. At another point, we were surrounded by hundreds of colorful fish, a few large turtles, a school of 20 hammerhead sharks and their escort of sting rays.
Between dives, I didn’t mind relaxing in Puerto Ayora, studying the SCUBA manual. It’s a charming town, with a mix of backpackers and the kind of tourists that buy Galapagos t-shirts at the airport, wear pocketed vests, and carry $6,000 telephoto lenses. It’s a less expensive, more livable town than I expected, and my time there was all the more enjoyable thanks to the unexpected company of a pair of friends I’d made in Bogota. The world of backpackers is small. It’s funny, in 15 years of living in Los Angeles I’ve had less chance encounters than I have in just 10 months of bouncing around all of South America. It turns out that when you reduce 12 countries to a collection of better known destinations and popular hostels, the likelihood that you will see someone you met elsewhere is high. When I saw Saadia and Carl walking down the street toward the school I later learned they were volunteering at - it marked at least the fourth time I’ve seen someone in a different country than where I met them. We spent my last night in town sitting on a dock amongst sea lions, crabs, and marine iguanas, sipping on beers and chatting long enough to watch the tide rise.