Alone in the Dark without Jesus

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This blog entry about the events of Monday, November 17, 2003 was originally posted on November 18, 2003.

DAY 30: Andre was up by six to get the 7:15 shuttle bus & ferry back to Isla Baltra (where the airport is), to hop on his boat from there.  I assumed he got on the same bus as Chris as I stayed in bed for another hour.

After breakfast, Navid and I walked down the road to the Charles Darwin Station, the headquarters for most of the research of the Galapagos Islands.  There we saw an exhibit of the conservation efforts, including a video presentation with dramatic reality-tv-news-type music to “scare” people into donating.  And I thought the mandatory $100 entry fee to the islands they took from me as soon as I touched down at the airport was enough.

The Darwin Station compound harbors an impressive turtle sanctuary, with turtles of all ages:  toddlers, disgruntled teens, adults that are sloppy eaters, and old-timers.  A walking trail allowed us to walk near them, and the closer we got the more they would hide in their shells — except for this one turtle that wouldn’t stop yawning.  Perhaps he was bored since we weren’t turtle-y enough for the turtle club.


NAVID AND I RENTED BIKES in the afternoon to ride the 9km up the road to the underground lava-formed tunnels mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide.  Nine kilometers isn’t a lot on a bike, but it seems a lot longer when it’s all up a slight incline and the bike store guy gives you a bike with sketchy gear shifting.  Navid was struggling and huffing and puffing, but I always tried to wait up for him.  At a certain point, Navid just said, “Just go ahead, I’ll catch up with you.”

I cycled up the road to the small village of Bellavista, an island community untouched by the big tour groups.  I waited at the intersection so Navid would know where to turn left.  At a nearby bodega, I got two Gatorades — one for me, one to wait for Navid after his struggle up the hill.  I sat on the sidewalk and watched Galapagosian life go by.  There wasn’t much hustle about it; kids met up to play soccer, store owners leaned out their windows to people watch.  I drank my drink slowly, waiting for Navid and then bought some crackers and waited some more.  After about half an hour, I just caved in and drank Navid’s Gatorade.

I rode back down the road to the bend to see if he was coming, and with no trace of him, I assume he went back.  I followed his words to just go ahead and just went to the lava tubes myself.


THE ENTRANCE TO THE LAVA TUBES was on the outskirts of town, behind a shabby and deserted-looking wooden house.  The sign outside read, “Los Tuneles del Amor” (“The Tunnels of Love”) and it looked like a roadside tourist trap you’d see on a road trip of the U.S.A.  I rang the cowbell at the gate and was greeted by a middle-aged man who let me sit with him on the front porch for a chat while I waited one last time for Navid to catch up.

The man’s name was Jesus — pronounced Hey Zeus — and he had been living in the house by himself to run the business while his family lived back on the mainland in Machala.  I managed to converse with him in Spanish because he was really laid back — which meant he spoke very slooowllly.  For the sake of brevity, let me translate part of it:

“[I’m waiting for my friend, but if he doesn’t come, can I go alone?]” I asked.

“[No, it’s not safe.  You should have a friend with you.  It’s dark,]” he said.  I didn’t know if he was trying to prevent me from going solo or building up suspense.  He was hard to read; he wasn’t pushing like a salesman at all; he had the nonchalance of the Pepperidge Farm guy, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch.  I was hoping he’d offer me some Milano cookies.

We sat in our chairs and talked while waiting another twenty minutes.  He seemed like to be happy to have any sort of company since no one was around. 

“[I think my friend returned to Puerto Ayora,]” I said, finally giving up on Navid.  “[Can I go, just me?]”

“[Yes, if you don’t think you will be scared.]”

“[Maybe I can go with you?]”

“[I have to be here in case people come.]”

I strapped on my headlamp and paid my two dollar admission.  Jesus led me down a path to the back where the tunnel started.  It looked like an underground bat cave or something — I don’t mean that in the millionaire playboy-turned-crime fighter kind of way.  Once at the start of the tunnel, I looked ahead and saw nothing.  It was so pitch black that my camcorder’s night vision didn’t even pick up anything unless I shined a little light on an upcoming rock (picture above). 

I stumbled alone through the two story-high, one-mile long tunnel with my headlamp and night vision-enabled camcorder, wondering what was coming up or what was behind me or will anyone notice that I just farted?  The childhood fear of the dark that I’ve overcome and supressed as an adult suddenly came back, as I knew that I was somewhere under the ground on a volcanic island with half a mile of darkness in both directions.  With my lamp, visibility was only about 20 feet, and I managed to I climb over some rocks while trying not to slip off of other wet ones.  I was on the look out for skeletons or other things they might have put in the tunnel to scare the tourists, but there was nothing.  I even entertained the thought that I’d find two lovers making out or having sex since it was the “Tunnel of Love” after all, but nothing. 

After about forty minutes wandering alone through the dark nothingness, I found the light at the end of the tunnel and walked back to Jesus.  Navid never showed up.


BACK IN PUERTO AYORA, I went looking for Navid but couldn’t find him.  I assumed he was fine since the bike store guy said he returned the bike hours before.  Hungry, I went to a local family restaurant for some arroz con pulpo as two local girls were playing a pretty lame version of hide and seek.  (They would just hide under a nearby table or around the corner all the time.)  However, it was fun to help them cheat by telling the girl that was “it” where the other girl was.

I finally bumped into Navid, who told me that he had given up on the bikes and the lava tubes to take a nap.  We went to a cafe with a collection of books to browse through, including Charles Darwin’s famous The Origin of Species, of which the Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection was introduced.  I tried to get into it — hoping to get an answer of what exactly happened on these islands that ultimately led to the hundreds of cars in America with Darwin “fish with legs” bumper stickers on them — but it was long and old and sort of boring.

“Look at this book,” Navid said, bringing over a children’s book complete with pictures.  “I think this one is a lot better.”  It was just at my reading level.

I read the entire book — and looked at all the pictures! — which summarized Darwin’s whole process that led up to his famous theory.  (i.e. “Turtles on this island have longer necks since they have to reach higher for food!  They must have evolved that way out of necessity!” etc.)  One interesting thing that I learned from the children’s book is that Charles Darwin — the revolutionary of modern biology and the poster child of atheists everywhere — created his famous theory that species evolved over long periods of time, based on a trip to the Galapagos that only lasted a short period of five days.  (Something to ponder…)

When I eventually leave the Galapagos, I will have been here for two weeks — more than twice than Darwin’s stay here.  Perhaps I can come up with some of my own theories by then, which will lead to other bumper stickers in the future.  For now, all I know is, when you’re stuck underground, alone in the dark in a lava tube, farts sure do echo.






Next entry: Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

Previous entry: God Vs. Darwin




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Comments for “Alone in the Dark without Jesus”

  • turtle turtle….i am the master of disguise…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  04:57 PM


  • dood. you’re alot braver than me. i would’ve pissed and cried all over myself in the “tunnel of love”.

    great pics and awesome title.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  05:14 PM


  • I absolutely love the disgruntled teens! I laughed out loud. Great pics of critters… for the record, more critter pics, less poo. And maybe that other guy wasn’t yawning, perhaps he was evolving right before your eyes… stretching his neck and jaw so he could nibble on an unsuspecting tourist. What gives with the $100 landing fee? Shouldn’t they just be content that they GET tourists? Now I understand the need for the fund-drive. Yikes.  Good stuff, keep it coming!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  06:31 PM


  • Erik-
    I’m loving the blog- minus pictures of poop.  I thought you were kidding about that until I actually clicked and saw it (as did everyone in my row at work)
    Anyway, just wanted to let you know I have been reading religiously.
    BTW- I posted this before but in a previous entry….what kind of computer do you have?  I wanna get a laptop that’s fairly lightweight and one with enough capabilities to do some good editing (flash, adobe, etc)
    Yours seems great…whatever it is.  Would you recommend it?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  07:05 PM


  • twice as long as darwin, eh? i’m def going to require some new theories there buddy. as for news from home, michael jackson was arrested on one count of child abuse today, but then, i guess the king of pop is probably world news already. have fun darlin’!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/18  at  10:00 PM


  • no more poop.
    The teenage turtles look positively evil! I want to see pics of you discussing evolution with.. chicas calientes!

    It’s 12:42 am. Nov 20th in JC. Just got back from watching “Wicked” on broadway. The play rocks! Got drenched in tonight’s downpour.

    WWJD?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  04:29 AM


  • As Adults (and I use the term loosely) we convince yourselves that we’ve abandoned the foolish ways of childhood and all that goes with it, including fear of the dark. But in reality, I know that despite my best efforts, I will always be afraid of the dark, and I suspect I?m not alone.

    However, I?ve promised myself that I will not allow such fears to prevent me from experiencing things like the ?Tunnel of Love? but that promises has yet to be put to the test. So hats off to you Erik, for confronting my fear!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  04:40 AM


  • The turtles are cute =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  12:04 PM


  • the disgruntled teens look like the comic book teenage mutant ninja turtles….that’s the way i like it…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  01:33 PM


  • Those teen turtles look tough.  I’m surprised they didn’t try and jump you in the Tunnel of Love.

    Posted by matto  on  11/19  at  02:13 PM


  • I’m not sure what’s worse, walking in that scary tunnel by myself…or walking in the tunnel with you FARTING?!?  Love the stories.  Keep it up!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  02:28 PM


  • Okay, okay…no more poo!

    JEN102:  I have the old 12” iBook from Apple…  They make lighter ones now though…  As for bringing a laptop on the road, I would actually discourage it unless you absolutely need it for work and stuff.  Internet (as you can see) is pretty much everywhere, so you’ll always have access to a computer without bringing one.  However, if you are really determined to write everyday, then maybe it will be worth the extra weight…

    RISA:  the farting is scarier. wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  03:47 PM


  • i guess i was only 2 stories behind.

    they had a “tunnel of love” at the cango caves in s. africa too.  yours looks scarier though… too bad navid missed out…but hey, you met jesus!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/20  at  01:27 AM


  • Great story - How much to travel to the Galapagos by the way?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  04:35 AM


  • BVELL:  Galapagos is pricey…the best bet is to do what I did and don’t book anything on the mainland, and definitely not from the States…  get a flight to Isla Batra, take the shuttle to Puerto Ayora and book from there…  you can hassle a price down too.  I got my 6 day tour for $540, minus diving which was $60/dive…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  09:58 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

Previous entry:
God Vs. Darwin




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