The Galapagos Affair
Floreana, Galapagos; Monday, March 12, 2018
Floreana might be the coolest Galapagos island you’ve never heard of. This morning, Lindblad Expeditons-National Geographic National Geographic Endeavour II was at anchor off a landing site known as Punta Cormorant, just in time for an early morning walk that disembarked at 6:30am.
When you go ashore, you have to move two little pegs on a board at the stern of the ship by the zodiac embarkation platform. This lets the crew know you’re either “onboard” or “ashore”, as the ship operates on a keyless system. You don’t even need a key for your stateroom door, as doors are left unlocked (but can be locked from the inside).
The Walk of Life
Hot, humid and sticky, the sun had barely broke over the horizon when we set out on the ship’s zodiacs for shore. Despite the early hour, this walk was quite well-attended, and it served as an excellent way to start the day. Someone remarked that it was Monday morning. If only every Monday could begin this way.
An easy 400-metre long trail leads to a secluded beach area, where giant sea turtles lay their eggs. I didn’t see any, though once again, evidence that they’d been there is easy to find. In the case of the giant sea turtle, it leaves tracks that look like a Caterpillar Bulldozer came through the beachhead just before us. These disappear into nothingness as the tide erases them from the sand, leaving the turtles to escape from our prying eyes and clicking cameras.
This gorgeous early-morning walk also stopped at a lagoon along the trail’s halfway point, where dozens of pink flamingos were lazily ambling about its brackish (though highly-reflective) waters. You’ll want your binoculars or telephoto lenses for this one, as the flamingos are quite a way off.
We came back onboard just as breakfast was starting at 8:00am in the Restaurant, and I had time for a quick shower before popping downstairs for some fruit and an omelette. Breakfasts onboard are fantastic, with a great selection of hot and cold items, served up with at least one local specialty each and every day. I really appreciate that little touch of authenticity.
After breakfast, most guests hit the waters for some snorkeling, though I admit I stayed onboard to read my book. And that’s okay – you’re free to opt in or out of activities as you see fit. And the choices for this morning were plenty: guests could take in a glass-bottomed boat ride; go for a Zodiac cruise along the shoreline to search for wildlife; or go deep-water snorkelling in Champion Islet.
I popped up onto the ship’s upper Sun Deck to watch the action. National Geographic Endeavour II has one of the best sundecks. Simple and uncluttered, it provides plenty of seating and sun tanning opportunities, as well as great views forward, aft, and on either side.
I also enjoyed re-acquainting myself with Floreana’s bizarre history.
The Baroness of Floreana
In 1929, Dr. Fredrich Ritter ran off with his lover, Dore Strauch, and left Berlin, bound for Floreana. Both wanted to leave the civilized world, and the remote, barren confines of Floreana offered just such an escape. Apparently unconcerned about the sun, the two walked around naked frequently, only dressing when visitors came. And visitors did come.
Word made it back to Europe that the good Doctor and his lover were living a freewheeling lifestyle in the remote Galapagos, and newspapers of the time lured other curiosity-seekers to the island.
One of the new arrivals was an eccentric Austrian woman named Eloise Wagner de Bousquet. Highly unbalanced, she arrived with an entourage of farm animals and her two lovers, Rudolf Lorenz and Robert Philippson. She promptly declared herself “The Baroness” and began parading around the island with a pistol and a bullwhip and little else.
When she wasn’t terrorizing Dr. Ritter, The Baroness was coming up with half-baked plans to build a resort on the island for the ultra-rich. Construction started, but the entire job was done in a hasty and slipshod manner and eventually consisted of just four posts and a tarp roof. She continued to antagonize Ritter and Strauch and the few other inhabitants on Floreana and played her two lovers off each other for her affections.
In 1934, just as she was really ratcheting up the crazy, The Baroness disappeared, along with her boy-toy Philippson. They were never seen or heard from again, and their remains have never been found.
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