• Joanna

Not a Plate in Sight

Yesterday, while enjoying my complimentary breakfast by the pool, I met a really nice American couple from Reno, Nevada.  They were touring around the country looking to see if there was a location that might be perfect for purchasing a home for their retirement.  Ecuador is really becoming quite the hub for retirees!

Anyway- we traded stories of our lives and our travels and they told me that I was an INSPIRATION.


In fact… not only that, but I’m the FIRST inspiration they’ve met so far and they’ve been in Ecuador 8 weeks.  This is definitely going on my resume.


So, as you can imagine, I’m feeling quite chuffed.. thoroughly impressed with myself for being so impressive… I’m walking  down that big nasty dirt hill, on my way to town, head held high, shoulders back… feeling culturally empowered, dignified and enriching…

And then I stepped in dog shit. So that was sobering.


Snapped right back…


I was on my way to do a tour to the Isla de la Plata that I had booked the day before.  I made a little joke on my Facebook about how I had mistaken the word ‘plata’ for ‘plate’  and how disappointed that there wasn’t a plate to be found.  Thank you to all that chimed in to correct me.  It will always be Plate Island to me… in fact, as you read this, I’m off looking for a silver plate right now to commemorate the visit.

I walked by the little store where I had ‘misplaced’ my phone the day prior, and as soon as the grandpa saw me, he started pointing at me and laughing uncontrollably.  That was almost as good as stepping in dog shit at 8am… a close second, for sure.

I have no idea why I tend to think that I am utterly unrecognizable when I put my hair up and wear a different outfit, because clearly I am not.


I reached the tour meeting location, and I was the only one there, which was a little unsettling.  They assured me that there were a LOT more people waiting on the dock… so I hoped, rather than believed.


Then the real fun started.

A loud speaker came on full blast, bellowing out “¡Peligro! ¡Alerta! Deja la playa inmediatamente. Esta es una advertencia de tsunami!


Simple translation... "Alert! Leave the beach immediately. This is a tsunami warning!"

The worst thing was that no one did a single thing.  No one flinched.  Not a soul.


And it just kept going!  On and on with its loud, menacing threats!

As I walked towards the pier with one of the guides, she must have seen the worried look on my face and assured me that it was only a drill.  I guess they’d all received communication about it yesterday.  I didn’t receive communication yesterday. Don’t you think that might be something that might be important to let the hotels know… and in turn, their guests?  Slightly unsettling and I must admit, I kept staring out at the sea, half expecting to see an enormous wave to come barrelling towards me.  I knew if suddenly the dogs disappeared, there would be trouble.

It's not exactly what you want to hear as you’re heading out to sea… but I guess when your time is up, it’s up.


The tour lady was right about one thing… there were a lot more people waiting on the pier.  Thank goodness... to be honest, there was a fleeting moment in my mind where I envisioned myself, alone, on some rickety boat... heading out in to the ocean... surrounded by sharks.  I would be the living, breathing sequel to 'Life of Pi' - a middle aged woman barely survives disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery...

I had strategically placed myself in line at the end as we embarked, so that I could sit at the back of the boat and catch some rays on the way to Plate Island.  As per usual, my shrew little plan didn’t really work in my favour, as I ended up at the front of the boat sitting new to an old hag who's arms were literally wrapped in a 1000 dirty old woven bracelets, and she appeared to have scabies all over her legs.  She was another one if those people with a camera and hogged the entire open window for the entire duration of the journey.


I sat there, fretting as to whether or not she might share the view with me at one point or another… or if she was going to be one of those people who is assigned a seat and refuses to move. 

Anyway... I swear that I saw about 40-50 sharks break the surface of the ocean on the way there, though the guide assured me that I did NOT.  Likely tale.  They’d hardly have people for tours if everyone knew how many sharks were surrounding us.  Right?


When we arrived at Plate Island, I chose to be a part of the English tour crew, as it seemed more fun, more understandable and plus, Scabies Leggies went with the Spanish tour.


The tour was interesting… a lot of walking through very dense and dry vegetation, and once we were up on top, we had fantastic views of the surrounding cliffs.  There were a LOT of Blue Footed Boobies.  This first one intrigued me and I couldn’t take enough photos.  The second lot, equally as interesting… but then by the middle of the walk, my motto was, “You’ve seen one Blue Footed Boobie, you’ve seen em all!’ and I quickly lost interest.


I wanted to see rats… and I think that I was the only one there who didn’t catch a glimpse of one.  

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, a prestigious man and his family inhibited the island, and started introducing new animals to the area - cows, pigs… and along with those, came rats.  Everything else went away when they made it in to a National Park… but they could never get rid of the rats.  Now, as you walk along the trails, there are tubes containing poisoning, meant to try and keep the population at bay…. 

Where’s the Pied Piper when you need him?


Met a few nice people on the trail… met a few slow pokes as well. It doesn’t seem to matter where I am - a busy city during tourist season or on a trail on the Isla de la Plata, I tend to get road rage behind slow people.

THEN… the guide pointed out the Bay of Sharks.  She told us that ‘many’ different sharks frequent this bay and normally we are able to see them from where we are standing… Of course, there were none visible today because the waves were too strong. 'Many??’… ???  Only an hour before, I seemed to recall having being scorned for inquiring about the murderous bastards.  You just can't trust tour guides these days.


From there, off we went to snorkel.  First, of course, lunch on the boat... and not a smidge of rice!  Tuna sandwich, cheese sandwich and a piece of watermelon. Perfect!   Some idiots were throwing the watermelon rinds in to the ocean to attract the wildlife... and they did attract a big turtle... but it was still wrong.  

In regards to the snorkelling part of the day, and I must admit, I was a little sceptical and a whole load scared.  I didn't really know anyone on the tour, so it was going to be very tough to glob on to someone and use them as bait.  I was on my own.  I have to say though... they make those stupid snorkel equipment very badly.


Rubber??? Really?

It pulls at your hair, it's tough to adjust and it's not comfortable when you're trying to be casual in front of 18 strangers, knowing that you're plunging in to your death and you're petrified. I tried to play it cool, while keeping a constant eye on my surroundings.  I was ever watchful of where everyone was, what I looked like under water and where I was headed.  For example: the guides warned us not to rest on the rocks.

Rest on the rocks?  Who was anyone kidding?

God... I felt like I was going to be sucked on to the rocks, the current was so strong.  At one point, I had to pray to Poseidon to make me swim quickly and with force... and to please keep me safe from sharks.  You can never be too careful.


Then I ended up manoeuvering my way through such a large school of fish that I found it almost incompressible that a whale shark didn’t come along, mouth open, and just engulf us all whole.

Quick rant...

Underwater cameras - WHY?

If I want to see a particular fish… I’ll Google Image that shit or I will purchase the National Geographic Underwater Exploration box set.  No one cares about your dumb fish photos.  And as for humans under water?  Most of us are big fat, white beasts adorned in something hideous, tight and unflattering... The water is meant to HIDE us... Let’s leave it that way. But honestly, I was snorkelling... without a buffer.  I was completely alone.  I really did try to relax and just enjoy the fish and the tranquility... but I had this panicked running commentary going through my head the entire time....  The guide had guaranteed NO SHARKS... but honestly, who can guarantee that?  


No one...   I kept thinking that I looked too much like a seal... so then I would freeze and try to stay very still so that any sharks that came upon me would automatically assume that I was a canoe.

Occasionally, I would lift my head up to find the boat and pray that people were heading there so I could "hitch a lift" on their bait wagon.. but I had to wait. There was no way I could swim to the boat alone and just assume I'd be safe.  Finally the group started to return to the homeland and I took the first opportunity to start swimming along with then. THEN SOMETHING BIT ME!


Do NOT ask me what or why... I can only assume that it was the ocean's way of saying "GET OUT" and who was I to argue?  It stung... I was silently & ever-so calmly approaching hysterical breakdown, and in my frenzied mind, I was bleeding out and bloodthirsty sharks were on their way.  I swam faster and faster... almost psychotically... and finally reached the boat... barely alive.

Mentally exhausted and physically exhausted, I kept repeating myself as I boarded, "Something bit me... something really bit me..." and NO ONE even flinched.   They couldn't care less.

No one. Zero. Zero people cared that I had suffered an under-water attack...

Scabies Leggies told me that there was an area on the back of my leg that was a "little bit red, but not a lot."


Wha????

Doesn't matter.... a little bit red or a lot... still means something bit me.  Eventually I had to let it go because obviously no one cared...  Regardless, Scabies Leggies took pity on me and offered me the window seat for the way back, so that was good. We got back in to town around 4pm.  I made my way home, cleaned myself up and headed back to the streets again.

THIS time, as I was making my way down the big, dirty hill, I lost footing and fell... and it hurt something' fierce... and it's ugly AND it messes with my tan. I would have melted in to a river of tears, but some construction guys were watching me, so I had to play it low key & casual, like I fall all the time... (which, I do, actually.) No big deal.


You know those people that travel to 'find themselves'??   To really 'discover who they are' and 'be at one with themselves'???  Ya... I can’t do that. Every time I think that maybe I need to 'find myself' and really just figure out who 'I am', life strikes back immediately... it trips me up & takes me down... It's almost like life mocks me...

“Don't wander off or get any delusions of grandeur… you’re right here and you're not changing, so no need to keep searching!”


PS-I know that plata means silver....

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