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November 21, 2003

A Day at the Beach

DAY 32: Three kilometers west of Puerto Ayora lies Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay), with a white sand beach open to the public. During the high season, I can imagine it being crowded with beachgoers and surfers, but it being the lowest of the low season, I had it all to myself.


A twenty-minute hike along a winding brick path brought me to Turtle Bay, where the surf was big and the waters turquoise. Despite its name, there was no evidence of turtles there, other than one dug-up hole I found where I thought one may have laid eggs since I saw remnants of a turtle egg shell nearby.

It was an overcast day and a bit breezy, but tranquilo. I took my boots off and walked down the shore as the relaxing white noise of ocean waves filled the air. During my stroll, I realized I wasn't alone; marine life was all around me. Orange-footed birds landed near the rocks, where thousands of dark crabs crawled through the crevices. Red crabs searched for food along the sand before crawling back into their perfect holes in the sand. Pelicans soared above the water, searching for a mid-day snack.

Perhaps it was because I was in the national park zone -- where animals aren't threatened by humans -- that I was able to get fairly close to them. The little finches were particularly curious, always approaching me. One of them even stood guard of my bag when I put it down for a bit to take some photos.

I sat for a while and just enjoyed the serenity of it all with my box of Ritz crackers and cheese. I noticed that someone had dropped two seasickness pills and I cleared it off the beach before any of the birds accidentally ingested it, thinking that it may destroy the balance of nature or something. This helped me clear my conscience from the time I was in Antarctica in 2002 and accidentally left two Advil tablets on land -- available to any wandering penguin -- when I used them to form eyeballs for a snowman I made with my friend Sam. I can only hope the Advil only alleviated headaches -- or hangovers -- for two lucky penguins and nothing more.

BEYOND THE MANGROVE TREES lay a walking path through an area of cactus trees between the ocean and a lagoon. The trail was loaded with marine iguanas, either blending in the rocks, letting the ocean waves splash around them, or lounging in the sand. The further I went along the trail, the more and more iguanas I'd see, a lot of them blocking the path so that I couldn't get by as if they were purposely trying to prevent me from going farther. At one point, an iguana actually moved to form a picket line of iguanas across the path, but I just strayed off the path for a bit to go around them. As I trekked further I thought they were trying to protect a treasure or nest or something, but perhaps they were all henchman of the big old fat iguana, who just lay in the path like a mob boss. Inside of giving him an offer he couldn't refuse, I just walked around him.

The path went in a big circle and led me back to the beach, where I just put my hat over my eyes and took a nap for half an hour.

WHEN I WOKE UP, there were a few more people on the beach, some walking back and forth, some sunbathing, some surfing in the water. I walked to the other side of the bay, where the surf crashed into rocks, and ran into my friends from the night before. They were fishing off the shore with just spools of fishing line and hooks in hopes of catching another supply for another barbecue.

Gwen let me use her fishing line for a while in hopes that I would be more lucky than she was. She baited my hook with a piece of eel that they had caught earlier, and I flung my hook, line and sinker into the water. I stood on the rocks, trying not to slip on the wet ones, as hundreds of dark crabs crawled all around me.

"Is today Thursday?" Gwen asked me.

I didn't know the answer until I looked at my watch. "Yeah, Thursday. I probably wouldn't care unless I didn't have a tour on Saturday."

When you spend days just surfing and fishing and nothing else, I suppose that what day it is doesn't matter at all. It's a great feeling.

A PELICAN SWOOPED IN and landed near us, possibly trying to snag our bait. I continued to wait for a bite, but it was hard to distinguish a nibble from the motion of the waves and I kept on pulling up nothing. After a couple of tries, I felt that my hook had been snagged on an underwater rock and after numerous attempts and trying to pull it loose, the only thing to do was go in and retrieve it. I took of my shorts and had my trunks underneath and tried to get it without getting too wet, but the tide was coming in and the waves pushed me out farther and deeper than I wanted. I managed to get the unsnag the hook from under a rock, but not without getting my boots and shirt completely soaked.

Gwen had a go at fishing again, as a marine iguana looked on. She still had no luck, but then Steve came from surfing, cast a line and caught a grouper in about three minutes. Meanwhile on the other side of the rocks, Mike and Sonya (the Dutch couple from the night before) were still struggling for a bite. Mike pulled out his line and got nothing -- not even his hook and sinker.

"I guess it's time to go," he said.

We walked back over the rocks and to the beach. Along the way, Steve would run towards an iguana and catch it by its tail like the Crocodile Hunter, and then pick it up and tickle its belly. Afterwards, the lizard would run away for dear life -- possibly on the lookout for accidental motion sickness pills.

"They probably get sick of all the tourists doing that all the time," Steve said.

WE WALKED BACK THE THREE KILOMETERS into town along the winding brick road, making room for the occasional jogger who was running back and forth. I strayed in the back with Sonya and chatted about travel and New York after Nine Eleven. She was impressed with the fact that I had the capacity to travel alone.

"I don't think that I would be able to travel alone, I'd get too lonely," she said. "But I think it's good because you find things about yourself."

"I haven't found anything about myself yet." I could have told her that one thing I found was that I really don't have any qualms about taking pictures of poo, but I kept that to myself.

WITHOUT ENOUGH FISH FOR ANOTHER COOKOUT, we just went to a ceviche restaurant and bought bowls of lime-marinaded fish instead.

If you enjoy this daily travel blog, please post a comment! Give me suggestions, send me on missions, let me know how things are going back home in the USA. Knowing that I have an audience will only force me to make this blog more entertaining as the days go by. Donīt forget to bookmark it and let a friend know!

Posted by Erik on November 21, 2003 04:35 PM
TrackBack | Category: Ecuador

Ooh, I'm first today! Lovely pics. That beach looks very tranquilo. It's the end of a long week here in corporate USA, aren't you sad you're off galavanting and unaware of the days of the week?! Iguanas everywhere it seems... do they make noises?

Posted by: Christy on November 21, 2003 07:16 PM

the nap picture reminds me of a corona ad..


Posted by: cristina on November 21, 2003 07:18 PM

you inspire me
I need to be shaken up so that I will go out in the world and travel again. I loved the pictures.

Posted by: kelsey on November 21, 2003 08:52 PM

WOW, what great pictures!!!!!! My favorite so far. The beach looks calm and relaxing, I think the fact that the beach was empty just added to the affect, it looked so surreal. Enjoy your 6 day vacation from your vacation, and be prepared to catch us all up! Your fans will be waiting!!


Posted by: Brenda (A.K.A. Da) on November 21, 2003 10:31 PM

Yeah, that nap pic does look like a Corona ad! How fitting... Erik really is "Miles away from ordinary."

Posted by: Td0t on November 21, 2003 11:18 PM

Drooool.. ditto on the corona ad reflection.

Well, if you won't be back from the N.I.Z. before Thanksgiving, happy turkey day! Do they have turkeys down there?

Posted by: oogy on November 22, 2003 12:24 AM

uploaded the new banner gif for erik, so take notice everyone...

want the blogs for 15 more months? pledge the donation drive if you haven't already....hahahah...

tranquilo, tranquilo

WHEAT: be sure to click on "the big old fat iguana" because that's your girl...

Posted by: markyt on November 22, 2003 10:28 AM

CHRISTY: Iguanas don't generally make noises until they sneeze. (I have it on video.)

KELSEY: Glad to be of inspiration... now go pack your bags!

DA: You said it when you say "vacation from your vacation." It will be a whole six-block period without being on a computer... I haven't done that in years!

OOGY: Yup, for Thanksgiving I'll be on a cruise in the Galapagos instead of being at the kiddie table at family dinner!

Posted by: Erik on November 22, 2003 11:58 AM

Beatiful pics.

But as an animal lover I'd have to say to Steve he should never pick a iguana up by the tail. It could easily break off and it doesn't grow back. They also need their tails especially in the wild cause it's how they defend themselves, they use it like a whip.

Posted by: Rina on November 22, 2003 12:11 PM

He's keeping a watchful eye on you. :-)

Posted by: Dtella on November 23, 2003 10:50 AM

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