Galapagos trip – what the hell happened?

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A hammerhead shark in Galapagos. A star attraction.

The great expectations bucket list trip. The take-money-out-of-the savings-account trip. The trip of a lifetime. Or maybe not.

My excitement turned to jitters a few months before my December 2016 departure. During a visit with my orthodontist. A wonderful friend and highly trained scuba diver who’d just returned from the identical Galapagos scuba trip. Same liveaboard yacht – same trip on which I was about to embark.

Our conversation left me feeling uneasy. He’s level headed and not one to exaggerate. He calmly described crazy strong Galapagos currents – so strong a diver needed to hold onto the rocks for dear life or risk being swept away. He described the challenges his dive buddy – a small woman like me – had in the currents. As well, he spoke of rocks so sharp they could rip a hole and flood your drysuit (a drowning hazard). Don’t take an elaborate camera set up, he said. You could lose it and besides you need free hands to hold onto the rocks.20161219-thumb_img_8684_1024

The most worrying bit of info: that a woman diver on the yacht had drowned about a year earlier in November 2015.

What had I gotten myself into?

The Galapagos is known for its tough diving conditions – among the toughest in the world. Cold water and strong currents. I trained in cold water and dive in a drysuit. Wasn’t concerned about that so much.

As for the currents, what exactly is a ‘strong current’?  Surely, I was experienced enough. I’d done dives in extremely strong currents in the Sea of Cortez, Cozumel, Bali, and in Palau at the Blue Corner dive site. Where we had to hook ourselves onto the rocks. I handled all of it like a champ.

Of course, I’d be okay in the Galapagos. I met the experience criteria outlined by the liveaboard operator and then some. As well, I planned to carry ALL the recommended safety gear, which I’d also practiced using. I’d been running and weight training. What possibly could go wrong?

Quite a few things, it turned out.

To be continued…

 

 

Tank tries her hand at journalism

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A pic from TV reporting days. One of two good hair days in my life. The other was when I was in grade 12.

Okay. I’m going to pretend I’m a news reporter and no I don’t miss reporting. Or newsrooms. Or the people who manage newsrooms.

I’ve been assigned a story to write. About a personal experience (read: nightmare) someone had. Concerns a roommate who had to be endured for seven nights in very tight quarters. A roommate whose personality was creepy and unpredictable. A roommate who hadn’t heard of TMI.

These are facts to be included in the story. Includes quotes from roommate:

  • Roommate is rich. A business owner (for real, Tank fact checked). Possibly self made. Maybe divorce settlement money. Is no dummy, but so clueless and thoughtless.
  • Four times divorced. Married third husband at age 27. Has restraining order preventing fourth husband from contact. Apparently tried to kill her. Lives alone. Usually spends Christmas alone. Has full-time housekeeper.
  • A Stepford Wife. Wanders around in a trace-like state, clutching a cup of tea. Asks you a question. You answer it. Looks blankly at you. Then, re-asks the question. As if she didn’t hear your answer the first time she asked.
  • Spends $1500+ USD per month for injectable human growth hormone. Also takes hormone replacement and testosterone. “I have the body of a 35-year old.” Botox, restylane, juvederm. Puffy Lisa Rinna-esque lips. “I Brazilian wax.”
  • Has a “lifetime commitment” with a probably married travel-industry employee who lives in another city. Describes her beau as a spoiled, demanding whiny baby. When they fight he disappears for months. When he told her he hated her dogs she got rid of them.
  • Has adult children she said she didn’t really raise. For their own good. “I always had nannies.” Estranged from two step-children, whose childhood antics include laying down a sheet of gunpowder on the hardwood floor in the house. Then, lighting it. Then, ending up in hospital.
  • Has daughter in her early 40’s married to a pension-aged rich guy with adult children. Together, they have pre-school aged twins, “monsters who throw their toys in your face.”

“Surely Tank, you’re making up these facts,” you say.
TaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnk is NOT a fiction writer.

 

No bitching when dream trip a bust

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So, my long anticipated trip to the Galapagos in Ecuador didn’t go exactly as, well, anticipated.

What I didn’t expect turned out to be the highlight. What I had expected didn’t pan out.

To be clear, I’m grateful to be able to travel. Lucky too. Travel has enriched my life. I’m fortunate beyond belief.

I started planning my December 2016 trip in October 2015, when I put down a deposit on a seven night scuba dive trip aboard a yacht. A bucket-lister, take-money-out-of-savings kind of trip.

Long story short (for now – I’ll cover in more detail in the coming weeks), the diving was disappointing. I expected schools of hammerheads, sun fish, and marine iguanas. The Galapagos bills itself as the best diving in the world.

What I got was poor visibility (so not much to see) crazy strong currents (strong beyond what I’ve seen described in the marketing material) and laxity, in my opinion, in safe diving best practices.

I also could have done without Avianca failing to put my luggage on the plane on which I was travelling and having to wait two days for it to arrive. Note to self: pack a change of clothes in carry-on.

Still, the trip was marvellous for reasons I didn’t expect. San Cristobal, where I spent a few days before and after boarding the ship, was alive with critters. Sea lions everywhere, barking and being cute, marine iguanas, and grapsus crabs. Finches joined me for breakfast each day – enjoying as much of my meal as I did.

The people of San Cristobal were helpful and wonderful and I loved the food.

There were two other highlights: a shore visit to a tortoise reserve and our zodiac boat (aka panga) being surrounded by dolphins.

I won’t return to the Galapagos as a diver. Perhaps a land-based excursion next time. Because this really is an amazing place.