The spectacle of a tour group: the filing, filling, one-by-one like ants, past Nature, her props and objects, and the little flecks of her consciousness: a curious tortoise, one of the present day’s better guesses at what a dinosaur could have been (Iknowbirdsaredinosaursshutthehellup!), clamps down on a patch of grass and chews with its mouth open: doesn’t he know that’s rude? Or are we rude for watching him eat? Are we more rude for not asking to come into his house? We donned new rubber boots, though: we’d be remiss to not remove our shoes and take his mud home with us. Better to borrow new boots and redistribute the high mud in low places. We’ll level out his house for him, because we’ve nothing else to do except take pictures of him enjoying lunch. With his mouth open.
One of the older ladies in the group crouches down next to one of the tortoises. It’s bigger than she is, but it’s a herbivore and very slow, so she is not afraid. Her husband takes a picture of her. The are on holiday from one of the island nations that shares a common tongue with my own country—Great Britain or Australia, I can’t remember which (IknowAustraliaisn'tanislandit'sawholedamncontinentshutthehellup!). But it’s nice that we can communicate, though we come from different sides of the oceans.
I thought the tourism board was exaggerating when they told me that the wildlife got close, and that they didn’t mind the presence of humans the way wildlife seems to care everywhere else in the world when approached by humans: “Your ancestors hunted my ancestors! You are hunting me now! I will run away now, to preserve the existence of my kind!” The tortoises and mockingbirds and sea lions of the Galápagos Islands do not have this complex. But they probably all wonder what the hell we eat, if we’re not hunting them.
The iguanas aboard these silly land-ships love crawling all over each other and lying down on top of each other, like teenagers on a public beach in Italy. Penguins lay on their bellies atop small coastal cliffs, projectile-shitting into the surf below in some obscure distance contest. Frigate birds pine for position above the boat's gunwale, waiting for the kitchen to dump table scraps out the window. It’s the boat, they squawk to each other. They’re eating the boat, from the inside out!
Below deck, at the dining room tables, we’re scarfing down dinner, talking to each other and recapping the day, comparing notes, even though we mostly saw the same things at the same times. We’re talking, and chewing with our mouths open.