Exotic Animals, Rikishi and 2 mentions of Whores

Trip Start Feb 22, 2007
Trip End Aug 22, 2007

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, April 2, 2007


I´m cheap. Anyone who knows me, knows this. For those who don´t, let me expand:

1) I´ve been dating Sara for 6 years and the most expensive gift (birthday, Christmas, just-because) she´s ever received from me was 2 seasons of the hit television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

2) I switch off all the lights when I leave my apartment and don´t turn on the heat in the winter (ghost of Ernie Dominey nods head approvingly).

3) I managed to save enough money to travel for 6 months on a TSN story editor´s salary (a shocked silence envelops the newroom).

4) Lived under the gayest bar in Toronto (Rosales knows the place) in an apartment where the dog was trained to shit indoors (in fairness, it´s a small dog)....and this has been my best pad yet.

5) You know dining & dashing? I did the equivalent to a whore in Hong Kong. Just kidding, that prostitute & shoot never happened, I always pay my hookers in full (Charlie Sheen nods head approvingly).

This thriftiness is what made visiting the Galapagos Islands so hard. If Charles Darwin got bent over this hard, there´s no way he would´ve gone. And it´s hard to believe, but if that was the case, people would still think the world began with Adam and Eve. (Someone whispers in my ear)....Oh right, well anyway....    

Let's run down the cost of an 8 day trip to the Galapagos, shall we:

Cruise (First Class, of course): $1300
Plane Ticket from Quito to the Galapagos: $400
Park Fee you must pay upon arrival in the Galapagos: $100
Tips for crew: $70 (probably cheap) 

That´s almost $1900 US each...one-fifth of the proposed budget for this whole damn trip (Sidenote: Send money soon, mommy).

But I reluctantly part with my hard-earned money (did I mention I lived below a gay bar) and we leave Quito on Monday, March 25th. And who do we run into during a stopover at the Guayaquil Airport, but an island in himself. Former WWF superstar Rikishi, who´s busy scarfing down fried chicken and fries and doesn´t want to be bothered. So while waiting patiently to get a picture, we actually almost miss our flight.

Loudspeaker: ¨Last call for Aerogal Flight 34.¨
Sara: ¨Let's go.¨
Me: ¨But he´s almost done.¨
Sara: ¨Let's go.¨
Me: ¨C´mon, just another minute, it´s Rikishi.¨
                                              Sara: ¨Who the *%^* is Rikishi?¨

So we´re on the plane, we´re right on time, we´re ready to touch down, and... ¨Due to bad weather, we´re unable to land, we´ll be redirecting the flight to San Cristobal, thanks for your patience (actually this part was in spanish).¨ 

What. Why? There´s no rain, no snow, nothing but clouds in the air. And that is, in fact, the problem. They´re not working with the same kind of equipment over here obviously, so we´re stuck in a wooden shack in nearby San Cristobal with a plane full of wheezing old people. I think I even spotted Bob Cole at one point.

In the middle of this we have an Ecuadorian guide stealing the ¨under-the-breath¨ schtick of a popular female comedian from 10 years ago (I don´t remember her name) while making announcements:

¨Our plane is leaving with other passengers now, we´ll be boarding another plane....eventually.¨

And .... ¨A plane will arrive in one hour, we´ll depart a half-hour after that....weather depending.¨

3 hours later, we finally arrive in the Galapagos. Let´s meet the 8 person crew shall we:

We have Marcelo the captain, Wilmer the chef, Juan the engineer, Cecil the cabin boy, then... Luis the assistant chef, Luis the bartender, Luis the sailor, and last but not least, Luis the other sailor. Stranger still, our travel agent was named Luis.   

But the most important person to introduce you to is our guide Wilo (pronounced: Willow). I liked this man immediately. Some might even say a slight man-crush developed. We´re not talking about a full-out Michael Harrison John Daly Boner here, but a man-crush all the same. 

Here´s a run-down of his greatest hits (must imagine with spanish accent):

-- Talking about an older Aussie couple on the boat: ¨I think he wears the pants, but shares the pants with her (big smile), I wouldn´t want to be in his shoes huh.¨ 

-- Middle-aged lady from the States complains about her cabin not having air-conditioning for what had to be 20-minutes. After answering and re-answering her, Wilo calmly says, ¨You know, my room was very cold last night, lots of air conditioning, I didn´t notice (shoots big smile at me).¨

-- Sara asks him if he can have relations with the passengers (I can only assume this question arose out of genuine curiousity). His answer, ¨I say, don´t touch the endemic species.¨   

--  Described himself as an ¨Albatross¨ because he only goes after younger women. I have no idea if Albatross actually do this.

-- The crew always spent their nights listening to salsa music and watching cheesy American videos from the  80´s. During one night of dancing, he instructs me on how to dance drunk. This involves putting his hands on the bar, putting his ass out and shaking it. Follows this by casting fishing lines for the female passengers, reeling them in and dancing close with them. This is the man Esteban always dreamed of becoming.

So, already I'm regretting not learning how to salsa. But never fear, I´ve developed a foolproof back-up plan.

When I return to Canada, I´ll first move to the inner-city (or say Scarborough). I´ll enroll in a rough school where the students seem to have no hope until one day, a teacher arrives and starts up a dance class. Let's call him Antonio Banderas. At first, the other students and I laugh him out of class, but through sheer persistence, he wins our hearts. A couple of montages later, I´m dancing salsa, tango and the merengue competitively. It´s foolproof. At the very least, I´ll know how to Stomp the Yard.

Anyway, as a way of gaining the necessary courage to dance, I drank. Oh, how I drank. But it was probably Wilo´s fault.

When we first arrived, Wilo made special note of how Sara and I were assigned the honeymoon suite:

¨Marcus, you´re in cabin 3, Lisa in cabin 5, and Steve and Sara, ooh, you´re in the honeymoon (sweeeeeeeeet). He´s a very happy man huh,¨ with trademark huge smile.

Then he continued to call Sara my wife for the entire trip, even insisting on me asking her permission to do things like drink. So, we eventually went head to head and after 21 shots of rum, the battle was declared a draw...until the next day.

During the competion, I later found out Wilo was slipping away to eat rice and drink water. I did not do this. So predictably, I lost.

To make matters worse, before this legendary drinking battle, a bunch of us decided to jump off the top of the boat. I performed a variety of jumps, mostly cannon balls, before my fifth try when I decided to take a running start. Bad idea, I slip a bit, then over-rotate, and before I know it, I have a black eye.

If Greg Louganis was on board, he could´ve banged his head off the side of the boat and spilled his tainted supply into the ocean and it still wouldn´t have been any worse.

Anyway, again going back to the day after all this, I find myself on the Galapagos Islands with a black eye, sitting on a rock and puking next to a sea lion. At this moment, I realize the only thing separating myself and Britney is a shaved head.

 But that was only 1 of the 8 days, the rest were great and dare I say it, well worth the money. For you guys out there (especially high rollers like O´Toole), take your wife here. You´ll have complete immunity for the next year. Your girlfriend/wife could catch you with hooker (even a prostitute of Hugh Grant´s choosing) and she´d have no choice but to forgive you.

The Galapagos is like someone opening up the tank at Sea World and telling you to hop in. You are literally inches from the action while you snorkel. Sea lions playing with each other, massive sea turtles floating by, Crocodile Hunter killers just feet below and in one spot, tons of penguins darting past at lightning speed.

It was honestly, just like the under-water scenes in March of the Penguins. At one point, I almost swore I heard Morgan Freeman narrating my snorkel, ¨If there's magic in snorkeling, it's the magic of doing it just one day after puking on a sea lion, just one day after almost detaching a retina. It's the magic of risking everything to see a penguin that nobody sees but you.¨ As always, great job Morgan.

Some snorkels were a bit scarier, however. One day, right before we were set to go in the water, a white-tipped reef shark took a bite out of a sea-lion near the shore.  Of course, we went in anyway. And I don´t know if it was the blood in the water or what, but there were at least 20 sharks patrolling that cove.

Every 5 metres another one would swim right past us, it was unlike anything I´ve ever seen. Even though Wilo told us they wouldn´t bite, all I kept thinking about was that ¨book deal¨ joke I made in the last e-mail.

I pictured Sara getting bitten by a shark, then fighting for her life in a hospital room, when suddenly Frank bursts in, grabs me by the collar and screams, ¨You wanted this to happen you bastard, you wanted this to happen!¨ The vision eventually ends with me paying Frank royalties from the book deal.

Other noteworthy sightings: Dolphins, flamingos, marine and land iguanas, Lonesome George (the last remaining tortoise of his subspecies), the blue-footed boobie (a bird with blue feet), the Magnum P.I. of the sea (a fish that seemingly had a moustache) and a frigate (a bird that puffs its chest out into a big red sack--I´d imagine Millet would particularly enjoy this, saying something such as: ¨Look at his sack, it´s so big and red¨). Sorry, that´s for the Ottawa guys only .

We also managed to squeeze in a soccer game on the Galapagos where I continued my proud tradition of outstanding hockey goaltending. At one point, I even made a diving save and broke out the Dikembe finger wave (Sara´s meaningless editorial note: Steve´s team actually lost 2-1....Steve´s editorial note rebuttal: But I was great, I swear). In this game, I also witnessed an Ecuadorian male plow a young girl right into the bushes. And she was a tourist, so yes, it was competitive.   

So after 8 of the quickest days of my life, the tour wrapped up with Willow telling us we were his 2nd best group of all-time. ¨Imagine, 8 years of doing this and you´re my second best group ever... just imagine,¨ patented smile again spreads across his face.

What a bastard and what an absolutely amazing trip. To read more about it, check out Sara´s blog (click on Next Entry). It has a much more detailed account of the wildlife, without all the pointless mentions of whores. 

And stay tuned to see how I manage to desecrate my next UNESCO site, Machu Picchu. I´ve been told a side-effect to altitude sickness is diarrhea, so it´ll definitely be an explosive episode (already well touched upon in previous blogs) that you can´t afford to miss. 

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