After a short tonga ride to the busy town of Santa Cruz, we piled into a bus and drove about 45 minutes to the highlands of the island. We saw various types of vegetation including the coffee bean that grows in the wild. Our guides took us to 2 sink hole areas to show us how the land had just literally sunk down, but the plants and trees continued to grow regularly.
After our short hike in the area, we drove a bit further to the well-known lava tubes, which were tunnels that were naturally made in the ground from hot lava. We put our headlamps on and walked down the stairs past a couple-of-owls and into the entrance of the tunnel. We continued walking through the dark rocky tunnel until we came to an area where a large rock was all but covering the tunnel. We each had to get on our hands and knees and crawl through the small opening to get to the other side. It was entertaining to see Giff whine as he had to get a little dirty crawling on his hands and knees.
After brushing off the dirt from our knees, we jumped back in the bus and headed to the Charles Darwin Station, home to the breeding of giant tortoises. As soon as we arrived, we took off our shoes and slipped into the big rubber boots they provided for us. Then we walked into the big grassy area to find huge tortoises. We have never seen any land tortoises like them before. They weighed up to 880 pounds each, almost 6 ft long and a lifespan of over 100 years. They looked like they had walked straight out of Jurassic park…we walked around trying to avoid the giant piles of poop and taking pictures. We were literally right next to them watching them munch on grass or pull their heads quickly into their shells for protection. They looked ancient with their dark wrinkly skin and hard shells.
Our guides also brought us over to the breeding ground where 100s of baby tortoises are being bred and carefully monitored until it is safe to put them into the wild. The tortoises lay their eggs in the sand on the islands and the eggs are quickly picked up by employees from this breeding station to assist in maturing the egg and growing the tortoise. These giant tortoises were once in danger of being extinct due to the ships that use to visit the islands long ago. The ship crew would gather up as many tortoises as they could cram into their storage room and eat them while at sea. Turtle-meat made sense for the crew because the giant tortoise can actually go up to a year without food or water! However, the ships took too many which drastically impacted their population. In addition, the eggs when buried are eaten by predators thus making reproduction challenging.
The Charles Darwin Station has had an amazing outcome of increasing the population and continues today to make that number even greater. It was so amazing to see the huge tortoises roaming around the grass and then the facility where the tiny tortoises were just starting out. Each baby tortoise is marked by a drop of colored paint which coincides with which island they need to be returned to when ready.
After looking at the various baby turtles and the famous Lonesome George who is the last tortoise of his kind (although they are trying to get him to mate), we walked out of the station and into the little town browsing through the local stores and vendors. There were various little trinkets and souvenirs to be purchased by tourists. After shopping, we found a bar nearby and had a local beer and bowl of popcorn before getting back on the boat for the evening.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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