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Galápagos Islands mail mystery solved after phone call from stranger

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ESQUIMALT, B.C. -

When Sherry Kirkvold played the voicemail message from a stranger – which began with, “Hi. This is kind of a random message for you. This one’s been a while.” – she couldn’t have been more surprised.

“That made my day,” Sherry recalls with a laugh.

To appreciate why she was so pleased, we need to go back to her first trip to the Galápagos Islands in 1991.

“There were blue-footed boobies with bright blue feet,” the long-time naturalist says, pointing to a picture of the bird, before showing others of giant tortoises, orange iguanas, and pink flamingos.

Sherry’s album also includes images from Floreana Island’s Post Office Bay, which features old oil barrels where visitors had been dropping off letters for centuries, so others heading in the direction they were addressed could hand-deliver them.

“I really wanted to participate,” Sherry smiles. “So I wrote myself a postcard.”

On the front of the card was a picture of a pair of giant tortoises. On the back, Sherry wrote a message wondering if it might be delivered to Canada at a tortoise pace.

“So it really was prophetic,” Sherry laughs.

Because the card didn’t arrive a few months later. Nor a couple years.

“And then I forgot about it,” Sherry says.

Until she received that voicemail message from Susan Fanning.

“We love nature,” Susan says over Zoom from her home in Strathmore, Alta. “We love adventure.”

And Susan loved — when she was six months pregnant — visiting the Galápagos with her husband in 1991, leaving a letter in an oil barrel addressed to their unborn child.

“We hoped she’d receive the letter before she was 18,” Susan laughs.

While their letter arrived before the baby was born, the postcard with the two tortoise on the front that they picked-up to hand-deliver when they returned to Canada, would take much longer to deliver.

“We went to the address that was on the card,” Sharon says of one trip from Alberta to B.C. to visit relatives. “Someone who came to the door said (Sherry) no longer lived there."

But Susan didn’t give up. Whenever she’d visit family in Victoria, she’d bring the card and keep sleuthing. But during the pre-internet early '90s, that proved to be a challenge

“So I brought it home again,” Susan says. “And into the china cabinet it went!”

And there is stayed – until Susan recently re-discovered it, searched for Sherry online, and made contact.

“It just felt joyful,” Susan smiles.

Susan mailed the card, and it arrived in Victoria a few days later, more than three decades after it was first sent.

“It was 33 years,” Susan laughs. “And six weeks!”

While Sherry feels thankful for Susan’s dedication, she’s even more grateful to be forming a long-distance friendship with her.

“Travel is about the people you meet and the connections you make,” Sherry smiles.

And this card connection, the new friends say, is proving to be about preserving tradition, being persistent, and staying hopeful.

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