Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1, Chapter 14

Hopper continues to look for penguins at the Galapagos Islands, hoping this may be his home. He finds a friend in an old tortoise.

To read from the beginning, click here.


Chapter 14


Isabella Island


The day was late as Hopper approached the shore of Isabella Island. Remembering the turtle’s warning about seals and sea lions, he swam cautiously, not wanting to be spotted by any. He wasn’t sure if they would have connections with those who were after him, but even if they didn’t, they would probably want to make a meal out of him.

Hopper’s plan was to cross the island by scaling the mountain instead of swimming around. The main problem was that it was so hot here compared to what he was used to. The water was cool enough, but the air was getting very hot. After all, the Galapagos Islands are right on the equator. He wasn’t sure if he could last long out of the water. “But I need to get used to it here,” he thought as he surveyed the shore for a good spot to land.

The rocky island grew to a great height above him. The peak called Sierra Negra towered over him. He decided he would traverse the northern side of the peak. He found a spot on the black lava beach where it looked safe to come ashore. No seals were in sight. A few colorful marine iguanas on the rocks watched him with little apparent interest as they sunned themselves with the last rays of the setting sun.

Hopper wasn’t sure if he should talk to them, but he decided to ask them how far it was to penguin territory.

“Aren’t you a penguin?” replied one, somewhat haughtily. “Why do you ask me about such unimportant matters? I am not a penguin, obviously. I am a marine iguana.”

Hopper considered responding, “Pardon me, O magnificent sir, for intruding on the greatness of your presence.” He thought better of it and said nothing, but began his uphill climb.

After climbing a few hours with great difficulty, he found it hard to see where he was going in the, so he crawled under an overhanging rock and fell asleep.

The next morning as he woke with the gradually lightening sky, he could tell the heat would be hard for him to handle. It seemed to rob him of his strength. He looked up at the mountain and still couldn’t see the top of his climb. “I’m so close to home. I’ve got to make it.” He looked up and said, “Help,” as he trudged up and up, slower and slower. He was hungry and thirsty and hot, very hot. “I’ve got to make it,” he repeated.

Then he heard a voice, “You’re new around here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” replied Hopper, looking around for the source of the voice.

“I’m over here,” said the voice. Then he saw him, a great tortoise whose shell blended into the surrounding rocks, making him hard to see.

Hopper was glad to hear a friendly voice and hopped over to the tortoise, who said, “What are you, a penguin?”

Hopper said, “Yes, a Rockhopper penguin. My name is Hopper. What’s yours?”

“I,” said the tortoise, “am Galoppy, a descendant of the great tortoises after whom these islands are named.” Galapagos means “tortoises” in Spanish.

“It’s nice to meet you,” said Hopper, “and a great honor.”

It’s important to note at this point the state of Hopper’s mind concerning where he was and the place he was trying to reach. He knew from the beginning he was supposed to find the Falkland Islands, and that he needed to go north to get there. He had gone much farther than he had expected, and this put doubts in his mind, but they weren’t able to let themselves be heard completely. Galoppy’s last statement about the islands being named after the tortoises was baffling to him, and he was trying to figure out how it fit in with the Falkland Islands when his thoughts were interrupted by the tortoise continuing their conversation.

Galoppy said, “Well, the obvious question is, ‘What is a penguin (such as you) doing up here on a mountain such as this?’ I’ve seen a few penguins in my day, but never known one to climb up here.”

“I’ve heard that penguins live on the other side of this island, and I think they might be the family I’m looking for.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier for you to swim around the island?”

“Yes, it would be much easier, but there are seals in these waters, and for some reason all the seals are after me! Up here they can’t get me. But can you tell me—are there penguins living near here?”

“Yes, indeed, especially on the northwest side of this island and on the next island, Fernandina. They’re little fellows and a friendly sort, but I don’t spend a lot of time down by the ocean. I like it better up here.”

Hopper’s excitement grew within him again, and he asked, “Could you tell me the best way to get there?”

Galoppy answered, “This country is pretty rough to travel, even for us tortoises. I think I’d better show you the way until it’s easier going. Follow me.”

Having a friend and the hope that his journey was nearly over helped our penguin a great deal. It was still hot, and the way was rough, but he plugged along behind his steady companion. Along the way Hopper was able to tell him about his adventures and why he was traveling the way he was. He found out a lot about the tortoise also. He was quite old and very wise.

Galoppy had talked to many different birds as well as swimming animals in his lifetime, and had learned about many different things, although he had never been off this island. He was content to stay here. He was never bored or impatient.

“Some folks are always in a hurry,” he said, “and they don’t live so long either.”

Aside from the discomforts of his situation, Hopper had an enjoyable day. As it began to grow dark, they came upon some puddles that had been left by a recent rain. Hopper was glad to see some water.

Galoppy said, “We’ll spend the night here. Tomorrow we’ll be out of this rough terrain, and you’ll be able to see the way to the territory of the penguins.”

The next morning they resumed their journey in silence. Galoppy seemed deep in thought and didn’t talk as he had the day before. In a few hours they rounded a ridge, and before them was the sea, actually below them and still a good day’s journey away.

“That’s Elizabeth Bay below us,” said Galoppy, “and in the distance is Fernandina Island. The penguins live along the strait between these two islands, to the northwest of us about 40 miles. Once you reach the water it will be an easy swim for you, but you must look out for the seals. I doubt if any of them know about you yet, but they would still like to have you for dinner.

“I will be leaving you soon. You won’t need me the rest of the way, but I have some things to say before I go. I didn’t want to say this at first, because I didn’t want to dampen your enthusiasm, and I wasn’t really sure, but now I’m quite certain your family members aren’t Galapagos penguins. You are not a big penguin, but you are quite a bit bigger than the penguins here. They don’t have the yellow plumage you have…”

Hopper’s yellow plumage bristled, and he blurted out, “This has to be my home! Where else can I go?”

“Well,” said Galoppy, “the Galapagos penguins are very kind and hospitable. I’m sure they would accept you as a friend and as one of their own. But concerning where your true family is, I have a guess as to where that may be, and how you missed getting there. You told me of a storm at the beginning of your trip. That storm, I suspect, blew you completely off course, and the many islands at the southern tip of South America confused you. You continued north, but you were too far to the west. Instead of being on the east side of the South American continent, you ended up on the west. You are now about 4500 miles from your home.”

“Forty-five hundred miles? How can I ever get there? Is it possible you’re wrong? Maybe I am a Galapagos penguin.”

“There is only one who is never wrong, my friend, and I am not that one. But remember it’s the Falkland Islands that you’re trying to find, and these are the Galapagos, and you are a Rockhopper. But don’t worry about how long it will take to get back there if you decide to go. Things take as long as they take. There is a plan. Even in your navigational error there is a plan. I suspect it wasn’t really an error.

“Hopper, my friend, I’ve enjoyed your company, and you have added something to my life. Now I’m being called elsewhere, so I must go. You will be in good hands. Goodbye, my penguin friend.”

Hopper knew it was no use arguing with the tortoise if he was being called elsewhere, so he said, “Goodbye, Galoppy, and thank you.”

The tortoise slowly moved out of sight, and Hopper began his descent toward the bay.

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