Ecuador Day 8 – Galapagos Islands

Woke up feeling slightly worse for wear after we’d decided to take the party up to the open deck and get stuck into cuba libres the night before under a cloudy yet glorious Galapagos sky. I realised once more how much less well I can feel after a few beers, and thought of the highs of the last few booze-free days. Never mind, it was only a mild hangover, and I was sure I’d feel better after a couple of cups of tea at breakfast, followed by a stroll around a lava field.

Today we were off to Isla Isabella – a small island that seemed to be populated exclusively by marine iguanas. Prehistoric things, they grow to over a metre in length, and are heavy creatures too. They have spines running from the crown of their heads to the end of their bodies, and from there begins a long tail narrowing in width until the end. Their dry scaly skin comes in shades of greens, browns and greys, and they have big feet with sharp claws at the end, and a set of sharp teeth they reveal when they open their mouths along with a pink tongue. When they close their mouths they have a black mark like lipstick along their mouths, and it can resemble a mouth sewn shut by black thread. They look a bit like the joker from batman, and would indeed resemble the comic book villain quite disturbingly if the lips were red and not black. They are mean looking things, and now is breeding season for them, so the males walk around fighting each other other females, over basking space, and over food, just like in any UK town really. They fight like bulls, heads together, pushing each other back and forth. They spit too, and have poor hygiene judging by the smell rising from the island. It was incredible to walk here amongst these prehistoric reptiles. They rule here, that’s for sure.

After a snack it was time again for the ‘snorkelling activity,’ (as Martha Chica are guide kept saying) and it didn’t disappoint. We came across a couple of huge turtles, swimming gracefully in the sea. We snorkelled near the mangroves, and I saw three seals playing in the water right in front of me. It was incredible to see. A special snorkel for me.

After this we had lunch, and then we all headed over to the mainland, to the port city on Isla Isabella. From the port we boarded a death-trap bus, and headed to the start of a walking trail. We were here today to take a walk through the mangroves, and then on to a tortoise breeding centre where we learnt how the young ones are reared, although of course none of us will ever see young tortoises grown to full adult size ourselves, as they live to over 150 years old. It was an interesting experience, and it seems the islands are really doing a good job in trying to protect endemic species, and to encourage their number to increase. Our reward for the long afternoon was an ice-cream from the gift shop, and a magnum has never tasted so good.!

We went to a place called the Wall of Tears, a little later then planned due to the giant tortoise who ambled across the road, right in front of the bus, taking its time, not a care in the world. The all of Tears has an interesting story, it was built by prisoners who were forced to do so on the long days far away from any kind of civilisation. Between 1946 and 1959 the island was a penal colony with some 300 of Equador’s worst (and sometimes just unlucky) criminals, and 30 guards. It’s some 100 metres in length and 7 metres high, and many people died making it. Locals claim to hear cries emanating from the wall, and the place does indeed have an eerie atmosphere. Horrible. We walked around snapping a few pics, and climbed to the top of the wall for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape, then headed back to the bus, which dropped us off in town, where, of the 20,000 people who live on Galapagos, 2,200 live. Isabella is the only island in the archipelago crossed by the equatorial line too. We would cross this line quite a number of times on our journey. on We had some time to kill now, an hour to be precise, so while the rest of the group headed straight to the bar, I took the opportunity to wander the town taking snaps of the peaceful place; of the children playing marbles, of the kids riding bikes, of groups of men playing volleyball. Here they were, on this tiny island, sustaining life and a small community. There was even a disco here, the fantastic ‘Disotec Millenium’. It was certainly well-developed, much more than I’d imagined. I joined the others, who were sat at a bar watching the sunset and drinking beers, and they had by now bonded well. I took a few snaps of the bunch for the memory banks, for they were a good set of people and we were lucky to have such a good group. I got back on the boat and had a few nice beers to cool me down on deck, then we all headed to bed early, for the sea was rough and the journey to the next spot, Isla Fernandina, next to the northern part of Isla Isabella, was 11 hours in tough seas. A great day.

Author: Neil

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