The Gorgona Trip – in the camp and around the island

In the afternoon, Graeme and I decided to try out the hammock.  This yellow net had been provided by Chris, one of Graeme’s English friends in Cali, and we were all thumbs trying to get the thing set up, but eventually we had it strung, albeit lowly, between two palms and I spent most of the afternoon dreaming away.  Graeme went to sleep beside me and the lap lap lap of the breakers soon made me drift off also…

The sun was already setting when we roused and we left the hammock hanging.  After dinner, where we chatted to many of the guests and I gave them an update on the state of my hand, to which they all replied in the usual manner in their only English.

We read in the community room after dinner.  There was no TV in the camp and no organised events to keep us occupied, so we just amused ourselves in the wide-open room (where at least there was electricity).  Graeme and I set ourselves up sitting astride one of the large low window sills to the room.  It was just slightly uncomfortable for us to sit there, but you stretched your legs and got used to it.  We sat, one leg in the light of the room, one in the dark outside and played Backgammon.  Graeme had brought a pocket set from home in Cali and we had some good battles, fairly evenly matched.  We were so absorbed in the game that nothing else seemed to matter.  Some of the kids from one of the families were playing some form of tag game out in the dark, and I became aware that there was a bit of a commotion among one of the groups.  A French woman from our party came across to us, and said, in English, “You do realise that your foot is right next to a snake”.  I smiled, misunderstanding her completely because of her accent.  Graeme seemed to have comprehended more easily and repeated her words verbatim in English.  I looked to my right to see a head, only slightly smaller than my foot, of a boa constrictor.  It’s huge body trailed off into the night.  It lay there, more or less asleep, but I think quite aware of my presence there.  Graeme and I were too surprised to say anything and resorted to calmly lifting the backgammon board between us and moving our outside feet up very, very carefully.  We balanced the board between us to the other side of the room and placed it carefully on another window ledge.  Then we both screamed.

The next morning, the constrictor was spotted again in the camp and followed rather too avidly by several of our party.  I saw its body disappear into a hedge, I saw over ten feet of it and I’m not sure I saw two thirds.

That day we went on a long expected boat ride around the island.  One thing Gorgona is famous for is being on the migratory route and feeding grounds of several whale species, including, in the right season, Hump backed whales.  We’d seen some whales out far in the bay from the restaurant one lunchtime, but this was the opportunity to get close up.  The weather was not so brilliant again, and the skies were grey and the waves quite large as we boarded on of the little fishing boats.  The trip was a big disappointment  – we saw the island off to the left, and we saw grey waves to the outside, but no whales did we spy and the trip passed off uneventfully.

On a boat trip round the island

On a boat trip round the island

That afternoon, one of the guys who we had befriended, a huge black guy with a shiny shaved head and a wide white smile asked us to join him in his personal quarters, some way off from the camp.  Graeme and I felt very honoured to be asked back there.  He spoke only Spanish, so most of my conversation with him was through sign language and smiles, but Graeme was able to get a stumbling conversation going with him.  There was another disappointment when we got to his little cabin.  Instead of finding some great ecological treasure trove or and insight into island dwelling life, we were shown a television and told we could stay here and watch it.  It polluted Graeme and myself.  For the first time in Colombia, I had been away from all this and it was a rude awakening to see that even here the mindless game shows, soap operas and American import movies were saturating into Gorgona’s supposed paradise.  We stayed as long as it was polite, and when we made our move, the guy showed us some of the little wood carvings he did.  We quite liked the dolphin, and he gave it to us as a present.  I think I’ve lost mine, like I have a hundred other trinkets since, but this was one of the first I received, and partially made up for our embarrassment at not seeming to appreciate the guy’s invitation to see civilisation.