The War With Portugal


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, November 23, 2003 was originally posted on November 29, 2003.

DAY 36: I was up on deck at sunrise before the others.  Manuel was there doing morning chores and I rapped with him for a bit.  We exchanged English and Spanish words until he saw something off the starboard side.

“Mira, hay tortugas que haciendo sexo.”  (“Look, there are turtles having sex.”)

And thus began my second day on a boat trip of the Galapagos.  (Others started by jumping off the side of the boat for a morning swim.)

“HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO THE MOON?” Mauricio opened in a briefing, probably for the hundredth time to yet another tour group.  It was his way of introducing us to Bartolome, a small volcanic island off the shore of Isla Santiago, known for its “moonscape” of craters and jagged rock formations.  Tatjiana said that one of these kind of rock formations are so sharp that they are known as “Ah Ah” rocks because that’s the sound you make when you walk on them barefoot.

Bartolome is easily recognizable by its monumental Pinnacle Rock, a massive pointy rock that juts out of the bay.  A short hike up a mountain through the moonscape brought us up to a lookout point of Pinnacle Rock, which also overlooked out to a narrow piece of land in between two beautiful bays (picture above).  Along the way we also saw the endemic lava cacti, plants that have somehow managed to root themselves in lava rocks which look like dildos with prickly spines on them.  (Girls, don’t try this at home.)  We also saw the endemic lava lizard, which is the only lizard in the world that can regenerate its tail should it be bitten off by a Galapagos hawk or other predator. 

TWENTY MINUTES AWAY BY BOAT lies Cousins Rock, which looks like a huge bird dropping floating in the ocean.  Almost completely white from bird poo, it is the resting place — and bathroom — of many sea birds.  Rather than walk around in the shit, we went underwater and snorkerled around the big turd.  Sea lions also convene here and it was fun chasing them and finding them hiding in nooks in the submerged rock wall — that is, until I felt this incredible and excruciating pain on my right wrist.  A blue bottle jellyfish — otherwise known as a Portuguese Man of War (which is weird because they don’t look like men or speak Portuguese) — had wrapped its blue stinger tail around my wrist.  After freaking out for a bit, I had stupidly managed to not only get the pain on my right wrist, but on my left arm and face.  In retrospect, I thought perhaps it was trying to mate with the blue rubber band I had on there that was connected to my underwater camera. 

The pain pulsed stronger and I felt it go up my arm.  I waved down a dingy and the guy rushed me back to the ship, despite the fact that blue bottle stings aren’t poisonous — just painful and very annoying.  A clear pattern of white lesions started swelling up around my wrist, and everyone recommended that I rub vinegar on it to alleviate the pain, so I went to the galley and asked Victor the chef for some.  He didn’t have any, but cut me a slice of papaya and told me that it would be medicinal as well.  I smeared the fruit all over my face and all over my hands and arms and made quite a mess of myself.

“I got stung by a jellyfish,” I told Sonya who was sitting on deck.

“Oh, I just thought you were a slob.”

Birgit the Dane also got stung on her shoulder so I gave her a piece of what was left of my papaya.  The fruit only did so much, so I soaked some tissues in some sugar cane rum and used that.  As painful as it was, it was a shame to waste good liquor on something like that, but luckily an Australian guy had some antiseptic.  It felt a lot better — to drink the liquor instead I mean.

ON OUR WAY BACK TO THE SHORES OF BARTOLOME, we found some penguins drying out on the rocks.  They didn’t hang around for long, so we landed near the mangroves and walked to the other bay to observe the sally lightfoot crabs, Galapagos hawks and sea turtles swimming near shore.  Portuguese Men of War washed up on shore with their blue stinger tails stuck in the sand without a tide to take them back to sea. 

“Oh, these are the guys!” Birgit exclaimed.  A sally lightfoot found one of the blue bottles and grabbed it in its claws and took it away for dinner.  “Good,” Birgit said.

Score one for our team in the battle against the Portuguese Men of War.

DURING A SNORKEL, we swam around Pinnacle Rock through enormous schools of tropical fish and through underground tunnels (before running out of breath.)  A sand dollar shell fell from above suddenly and a sea lion picked it up off the floor like a dog playing fetch and showed it to me.

As the sun set, Tatjiana stopped being a guide for a while and just sat on the beach with me.  We chatted together about our lives and speculated on whether or not Keanu Reeves is gay (not that there’s anything wrong with it) and it was a nice way to spend a sunset — until the sun was really getting low and the dingys weren’t coming to pick us up.  Mauricio tried to whistle them down — because carrying a two-way radio would just be silly — but there was no movement from the boat about 1,000 feet away off shore. 

“There’s one way to get them,” Andre said.  He threw me his towel.  “Bring my bag?” he asked me quicker than I could comprehend what was going on.  Soon it was clear; he jumped in the ocean and swam the long way to the ship.  We met him there ten minutes later — and completely dry.

MANUEL WAS FOLDING NAPKINS into fans when we reboarded the ship.  I sat with him for a bit and shared my mango juice and rum with him as he, by Spanish and the use of his index finger, told me how he has a real boner for blondes.  Navid came by to join us and asked what was going on and Manuel just smiled and said, “Las chicas rubias!” (“Blonde chicks!”)  He was saddened when I told him that I found out that Birgit already had a fairly serious boyfriend that was going to meet her in Quito after her trip to the Galapagos.

I started getting pretty seasick with the rocking of the boat and popped a seasick pill.  The problem with seasickness pills is that you have to take them before you get sick, which sucks when you’re on the verge of vomitting.  (I neglected to take it because I was fine for the first two days.)  The only thing to do at this point is just go to sleep and hope you don’t vomit on your cabinmate on the lower bunk.

(I didn’t.)

Next entry: The Dating Game

Previous entry: See Crabs and Sea Lions

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Comments for “The War With Portugal”

  • Welcome back!!

    Amazing pics as always… when I read that you got stung by a jellyfish, first thing that popped into my mind was golden shower.. yuck!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/29  at  03:03 PM

  • ooww, that must be painful. i thought the man of wars were poisonous. or that some kid had died due to an reaction to the sting. oh well. glad to see you are ok though.  i like that seal that showed you it’s sand dollar. so cute… and no, i don’t think keanu reeves is gay. he just likes to keep to himself. he had a girlfriend who died in a car accident. very sad.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/29  at  06:02 PM

  • OUCH!! sounds painful…

    jenn - golden shower”! that’s the first thing i thought of
    good thing for papaya!

    penguins!!! did you put on your tux? ha:)

    i’m glad you didn’t puke..otherwise, i’m sure it would have been photographed. yuck.

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/29  at  08:56 PM

  • Did they warn you about the men of war?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  04:22 AM

  • glad to see you didnt’ lose the battle w/ the Man of War. It would’ve been sad if you got a beat down by creature that looks like jello.

    btw, great pic of the 2 ppl jumping off ship.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  12:57 PM

  • did your face look like your wrist?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  03:00 PM

  • I thought a good remedy for jelly-fish stings was urine.  Remember that “Friends” episode?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  03:53 PM

  • So I guess you got that underwater camera after all. EXCELLENT!! (a la Bill & Ted).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  04:22 PM

  • TD0T:  warning?  not really…

    Cheryl:  no, my face just got a little on it…  but my hand/wrist still swells up from time to time, 5 days later…

    RISA:  yes, i forgot…i should have peed.. and taken a picture!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  09:35 PM

  • Did you learn anything from me about seasickness??!! Always take them before, unless you WANT to feed the fish.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/01  at  02:00 PM

  • Dtella:  no need to feed the fish…they are EVERYWHERE!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  12:50 AM

  • Complete agreement - the picture of the people jumping off the ship is AWESOME!!
    I can’t read your blog without getting jealous.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  06:46 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 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.

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Next entry:
The Dating Game

Previous entry:
See Crabs and Sea Lions


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