So during the night the Samba travelled about 4 hours south to a part of Floreana I have not yet seen. We anchored in a bay known as Punta Cormorant and after breakfast did a wet landing for a hike to see flamingos. As we approached the rocks we spotted a female frigate as well as a blue footed booby hanging out on the rocks.
Once we landed, we hiked along a narrow little trail to reach the. brackish waters, which Harry told us is sea water combined with fresh water), where we spotted four flamingos dining on briney shrimp. And this, according to Harry, is what gives the Galapagos flamingos their pinkish colour. So with the sun shining, we were able to take some brilliant pictures of the flamingos and the reflection against the water.
After taking in the flamingos we continued our hike up over rocks and a sandy path to reach the other side of the peninsula where we were able to see a number of sea turtles floating in the waters just offshore. It is the middle of nesting season for the sea turtles so the shoreline was filled with sandy mounds where the turtles had laid their eggs and we could see the turtle tracks from the beach to the nests. It was pretty cool to see.
After relaxing on the beach for a bit and watching the turtles we doubled back and took the zodiacs to the boat so we could get ready for our morning snorkel at a location about a half hour away. While everyone else on the boat was fitted for snorkeling gear, I donned my wet suit and got ready to go. We then loaded into the zodiacs, which took us closer to the shoreline for our first snorkeling of the trip.
Once in the water, I spotted a school of colourful fish and followed them for quite a bit. Unfortunately, the water was colder than I had experienced in the past and I could feel my toes cramping up. Time to get out of the water. I moved towards the zodiac and let them know I had a cramp, but when I went to get on the ladder to climb into the zodiac, both legs and feet started cramping and getting worse.
Harry and our zodiac driver, Arnie, managed to lift me into the boat and at that point the cramping went to level 10. I was in a great deal of pain and by this time was screaming for help. Lisset and Guillermo got out of the water and into our zodiac to try and help me by massaging my legs, but nothing was helping so they moved the zodiac to the boat all the while Lisset and Guillermo continued to massage my legs. Unfortunately, the cramping kept coming in waves from my toes all the way up to my groin. I was close to hysterics at this point due to the pain.
Once the zodiac was close to the boat, a backboard was lowered to the zodiac to transfer me to the boat since at this point, I couldn’t even stand. Once on board, the cramping continued with no let up. Lizette gave me a pill to try and relax my muscles but that did not help. In the mean time, Lisset, Guillermo kept massaging my legs and feet with Vicky now joining in, but the cramping wouldn’t let up. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life (and those who know me know that this is saying a lot).
By now, the others had come back to the boat and were trying to help. One of the brought oxygen out for me as I had begun to hyperventilate from the pain. Lisset gave me a shot to try and relax me, but the cramping continued. Harry then told me that there was a doctor on a nearby boat who was going to come on our ship and give me an IV for fluids in hopes that would help. In the meantime, Lisset, Guillermo and Vicky continued to massage my legs while Enrique, our engineer held my hand. I was in agony.
At this point, it was going on an hour of solid cramping and nothing was making it better. Vicky brought me two bottles of hydration fluids, but the cramping continued. When the doctor finally came on board she gave me a shot in my thigh to try and relax the muscles while a nurse who had accompanied her immediately hooked me up to an IV. The doctor told the captain that I needed to be evacuated to make sure there was nothing else going on given my kidney transplant so the plan was to head about a half hour south to the town of Floreana where a helicopter would airlift me to the nearest hospital in San Cristobol. At this point I broke down as I thought my trip was over, but Harry reassured me that the ship was passing by San Cristobol tomorrow around noon and would pick me up if the doctors gave me the clearance. So I would miss the visit to Espanola, but that would be it.
While we motored towards Floreana, the nurse stayed with me and hooked me up to a second IV while Harry continued to stay by my side. By now, the cramping was subsiding and I was finally able to sit up. And although the cramping was diminishing, I was told they still wanted to evacuate me to the hospital so once we reached Floreana, the nurse, Harry and Jairon, one of the crew members, helped me to a waiting truck that took me to the local clinic where they tested my glucose level (it was fine) and measured by blood pressure (elevated).
When the helicopter arrived, they loaded me on a gurney and carried me to the navy helicopter where I met the pilot (who looked like George Clooney) and who reassured me that I was in good hands. Within minutes I was airborne with the nurse and Jairon who was going to stay with me until the boat arrived the next day. And while the flight was quick, it was terribly unnerving lying flat on my back looking at the ceiling and trying to answer questions from the nurse who was accompanying me.
When we landed, there was an ambulance waiting to take me to the hospital. By now I had lost all track of time, but with the sun setting, I figured it had to be close to 6:00. Once we reached the hospital, I was met by Gian Carlos, a representative of CNH, the agency I booked my trip through, who told me that they were going to run some tests and if all was clear, he would be taking me to a hotel for the night and then I could rejoin the ship tomorrow.
I was moved to a bed in the emergency room and given yet another IV and run through a battery of tests. All were negative with the conclusion that I was severely dehydrated. However, the doctor wanted to keep me overnight for observation so Gian Carlos told me he would come by in the morning with breakfast and to take me to the hotel where I would wait for the ship to arrive.
In the meantime, CNH had contacted my sister and told her I had a seizure and was unconscious. Yes. You read that right. Good God! I can’t imagine the pain my family must have gone through, And how severe leg cramps translated into a seizure and unconsciousness is beyond me, but I felt horrible for what my sister and family must have gone through in the hours this was all going on. Fortunately, they straightened out the situation a couple hours later, but in the mean time, my family was put through hell.
Anyway, I had a pretty good night’s sleep and shortly before 8:00 a.m., Jairon arrived to see how I was, and to advise me that the boat would be picking us up a 4:00 not noon. Gian Carlos then came by with breakfast and by 8:30 we were
on our way in a taxi to the center of town where I would spend the day at Hostel Emmanuel. Once in my room, I rested for a bit and then got bored so I wandered the main center of town, did a little shopping and then came back to the hotel for lunch.
After lunch, I wandered the town again and ran into Phil and Penny from the first week of my cruise. As luck would have it, Penny had left her glasses on the boat so my side trip to San Cristobol did have an upside in that Penny got her glasses back.
So after a brief chat with Phil and Penny, I went searching for an ice cream shop, but couldn’t find one open so wandered back to the hotel. By now it was after 3:00 so I got ready to go only to receive a telephone call from Juan Salcido, who apparently is one of the boat owners, who said he needed my medical clearance form in order for me to get back on the ship. HUH? No one gave me any form except my admitting form. When I explained I did not have it, this guy started to tell me that I could not get back on the boat without it. When I challenged him on this, told him all my tests had come back negative, that the only issue was I was dehydrated, and what medical qualifications did he have to question my health, he changed his tune and then said I would have to sign a waiver form to be allowed back on the ship. Fine by me. Then he started in on me about how much paperwork he had to go through because of the medical emergency. He told me I should be grateful that I was OK thanks to the Ecuadorian government, and I should reconsider continuing the trip. When I told him I was more than appreciative of the assistance I had been given, but that I was not appreciating his call, this horse’s ass accused me of being defensive. Dude. I may be a lot of things, but I have never been accused of being defensive. This idiot was clearly looking for a reason to keep me off the boat. I finally ended the call by telling him to either give me my money back or let me on the boat at which point he said I just needed to sign the waiver. I reiterated that I was happy to whatever waiver they put in front of me, which all you non lawyers should know is about as useless as the paper it is written on so it really didn’t matter what I signed. Anyway, all in all, this call had been a completely unnecessary and terribly unpleasant in the face of the countless number of people who had gone above and beyond to help me. Why this guy wanted to taint the experience is beyond me.
After the call I gathered my things and went down to the lobby where I met Jairon. Four o’clock came and went with no sign of the boat. And after this, the arrival became a moving target. Gian Carlos showed up and next told us the boat would arrive around 5, then it was 6, then it was 7 and then it was 8. I had no idea what was going on, but suspect that the horse’s ass who called me was insisting on a medical clearance form and was holding up the ship until he received it.
In the meantime, while Jairon and I waiting in the lobby, we were endlessly entertained first by the throngs of people crowded around TVs in the nearby bars and shops watching the Ecuador-Brazil World Cup qualifier (Ecuador tied 1-1 much to the delight of the crowds) and second by the desk manager of the hotel, Diego.
Now Diego clearly marched to the beat of his own drum. Character doesn’t begin to describe him. Flamboyant, funny and self assured, he entertained us with music, funny stories and self deprecating humor. Hell I laughed at him even when he was speaking Spanish. And while Jairon and I grew increasingly frustrated with the delay, Diego continued to lift our spirits. He was awesome.
Finally, shortly before 8:00 p.m. a contingent from the boat arrived to escort us back to the ship. There was Harry, the captain, Enrique and Arnie. Turns out they were all there to witness my signing of the waiver. Good God. You would have thought I was signing a peace treaty. It was ridiculous.
Anyway, shortly before 8:30, I was finally in the zodiac and when I reached the boat, my fellow ship mates gave me a rousing cheer. And I could not thank them or the incredible Samba staff enough for all of their assistance and support from the previous day and in particular Lisset, Guillermo and Vicky who stayed with me and did whatever they could to help me and my savior Jairon, who stayed by my side the entire time. They were all absolutely incredible! (And for those wondering, travel insurance covered all the costs – so buy travel insurance!). And with this behind me, it was time to continue with the trip.