Christmas Eve

Overnight, Captain Diego motored us 40 miles west, to Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island, where we were going to look for sea turtles, flamingos and stingrays. Cormorants? Not so much. Turns out the area is so named because, if you’re a bored explorer and have run out of saints to name your places after, you can squint at this spit of land in a particular way, and it apparently *looks* like those birds you just saw back at – what was that place called? – Punto Marine Iguana.

Anyhow, like the other islands we’ve visited so far, the flora looks like it’s established itself here to acclimate itself to growing at the gates of hell. Dry, rocky, and hot, hot hot.

Billy led us up the rise along a dirt path that looked out over a salt flat peppered with flamingos. How can something look so graceful and so awkward at the same time? Billy had clearly paid them off, since a flight of eight cooperatively popped their heads up and splashed across the flat in a formation takeoff, orbiting the area in wing-to-wing figure eights, seemingly for a National Geographic photo op.

Down the other side of the hill was sandy beach where… uhh, we saw lots of stuff. Rays, a few turtles. A galapagos penguin (first time I’ve seen Billy excited about seeing someting: “A penguin, guys! Look, a penguin!”). It was a heck of a lot of fun – the snorkling, the eagle rays and finding myself unexpectedly face to face with a sea tortise, but that was… hours ago.

And right now is very different. Because where I am now is alone on the top deck of the Nina, anchored in Puerta Ayora at 10:30 pm on Christmas eve.

Here and now, the red-green lights of the ships anchored around mix with streetlamps from the surrounding town, reflecting off the water like an ufathomably large Christmas ornament. Overhead, the moon is going down, and Orion is standing on his head amid a swath of stars brighter that seems possible. The southern cross is a kite rising to the south amid the masts of bobbing sailboats. The air is filled with an unmistakeable trace of woodsmoke. The diesel thrum of the “Tip Top IV”, anchored a bit closer to us than she should be, muffles the lapping of water against our sides and the harbor breakwater.

Which of my senses could tell me where I am? In how many different ways is this time and place remarkable? Can I count them? Should I? Or should I just tilt my head back and breathe in the wonder of it all? Silly question [end of post :)].

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