Thursday 27 August 2009

Thar she blows

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, it's 7 o'clock on a beautiful day and there are whales off the back of the boat."

That's a pretty good way to start a day, and a fine excuse to jump into shorts and a fleece (no time for underwear) and rush to get into the inflatable. We spent half an hour buzzing around in the bay here at Bartolome in the Galapagos Islands, watching for the oval of smooth water that's the whale's 'footprint' and shows where it's heading and where it's likely to surface. We had the slightly alarming thrill of leaning over the side and seeing the luminous blue of the whale's white underside passing right beneath the boat, just below in the clear water.

It was a humpback whale and her calf, and they hung around for ages, quite unperturbed, and even doing a bit of breaching later when we'd gone back to the ship, La Pinta, for breakfast. They were still in the bay when we returned from climbing Bartolome's stark, barren summit, crunching over volcanic scoria and spotting lava lizards.

Later we stepped over immobile marine iguanas, snorkelled past penguins, watched hawks and frigate birds soaring overhead, and got sniffed by a disconsolate sea lion cub on a red beach, who was crying for his mother, we presumed, before giving it up as a bad job and going to sleep on the sand.

All very wonderful - but now, after dinner, I'm in the library alongside the bar listening to an American family thrashing the karaoke machine: Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson and Queen. Sublime to ridiculous, I reckon.

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