We launched ourselves ashore at Floreana Island, striding up a sunlit beach, then falling into single file to follow a narrow, sandy path. Soon we would be feeling into our sand-lined pockets for our postcards picturing cheerful locals, a marine iguana or another native of the Galapagos islands, perhaps a sea lion, a giant tortoise or a blue-footed booby.
The night before our arrival at Floreana - one of four islands visited during our five-day cruise - we'd been handed a blank postcard onto which we had penned a few lines before carefully addressing it to our cruise companion. Our bronzed native guide, performing his usual pre-dinner briefing, explained the nature of the activity, wherein we would visit "Post Office Bay" in order to post our card to our companion… then try and guess which of us would be the first to receive it in our home countries... in my case and in Josie's case, Turkey?... or Australia? We were wondering which of the two of us would be lucky enough to have a traveller come by from our country, find the postcard, take it back home, affix a stamp to the corner and mail it - or better still, deliver it by hand!
Gone were the days when each and every letter was hand delivered by the crew members of whaling ships, who while making supplies stops on Floreana Island, would make a visit to the single post box in Post Office Bay, drop off their letters to family and pick up any mail addressed to other sailors' families in ports for which they were bound. Partaking in something with such a long tradition attached sounded like fun, so we had eagerly awaited the excursion hoping there might be a postcard addressed to someone back home.
We rounded a last corner to see a strange looking "post box" surrounded by a collection of well-weathered wooden artifacts, some of which were obviously pieces of driftwood that had been collected and inscribed with the names of yachts which had made a stop here... leaving behind a memento of their commemorative pilgrimage. A few of these caught my attention immediately, such as "KAYITSIZ III", whose owner and builder, Ozkan Gulkaynak, had completed a solo circumnavigation between 2006 and 2009. Ozkan went on to write a book about his travels, something I discovered while flicking through a Turkish Airlines magazine heading home from this fabulous cruise I'd won just two months prior... but more about that another time.
I now had more of the yacht's name and all of the "TURKEY" was visible. My curiosity piqued, I had to know the name of the yacht.
It was all very amusing. There were items that also resembled name boards, but which were not made of timber, and as I looked closer to see if I could make out their names and their home ports, I saw a broken slab of concrete carved with capital letters that were filled in with red paint. Reading the letters on the fragment, "ISKA"… and "KEY"... I was keen to see if there were other fragments lying about. I was certain that this sign had been left behind by a yacht from Turkey. I started to sort and sift through the planks and boards, carved tree roots and plaquards, finding a second piece, and spotting a third. I dragged the second piece across and placed the two side by side. I now had more of the yacht's name and all of the "TURKEY" was visible. My curiosity piqued, I had to know the name of the yacht.
Piece by piece, fragments came to light, some lying half-buried in the sand and others quite a distance from the original piece of block. This discovery created quite a bit of excitement and soon my fellow travellers were pitching in. When we had finally fixed the pieces together, we could read, S/Y DERISKA TURKEY and the date, 22/4/90. "Oh...", I'd said, "...DERISKA is somehow familiar!".
It turned out that the sailing yacht, DERISKA had been featured in a magazine we had at home, the "Global Sailing Magazine" published by Deniz Karamanoğlu of the Global Sailing Academy in Karacasogut. Deniz, her brother Derin, and their parents, Haluk and Christina, had completed their circumnavigation of the globe aboard DERISKA in 1993. It was a 5-year, 42,000 mile journey which saw the Karamanoğlu's make headlines in Turkey for being the second Turkish family to have completed a circumnavigation. We had joined the Karamanoglu's mailing list as my older son had attended two of their summer camps, learning how to sail in an Optimist!
I received my postcard a month later... a Turkish person living in Sweden presumably took my card and posted it from his hometown in Sweden. I was so happy to have made someone's day in the Galapagos because of my Turkish address, just as the DERISKA find had made my visit so special. Oh, and my girlfriend, Josie in Australia, was given her surprise when she received her postcard some 7 months later... ah, the pleasures of travel.
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