Mon Nov 1st

I’m home and back down on Earth, my mind being disconnected from my body  for the last 2 days. I’ve unpacked, filled the washing machine a few times, caught up with family (life-changing events have happened here too!), washed the lava dust from my walking socks, slept and regained my appetite. I’ve eaten the Marmite sandwich I craved for. I’ve hung the woven wall hanging of Galapagos animals bought as a souvenir.

The return journey was quite an adventure in itself – a rapid 2-hour plus speed boat ride between islands; three plane journeys; elevators, an underground train ride and power walking between terminals at Madrid; and finally a remarkably quick and easy minibus ride from Heathrow to home. We had a short stop in Guayaquil, long enough to be taken through the busy traffic to the modern riverfront development where we were able to grab a drink in a fast food outlet. What a contrast to Isabela – Julio, our guide, had told me that young people from the Galapagos migrating to the Equador mainland have problems adjusting and often move back – no wonder.  (In this city, when you park on the roadside, your car is lifted and pushed, nose to tail with the car in front. If the car in front is still there when you wish to leave, the cars ahead are pushed forward until you have room to manoeuvre out.)

So, some moments of reflection:

Most surprising: the very large numbers of marine iguana; finding plants on the slopes of the volcano which are weeds in my garden; how little sunscreen I needed to use; how few insects seen; a glossy-coated Welsh collie out with its owner on Isabela

Most memorable animal sighting (so many to choose from): blue-footed booby posing on a rock Tortuga Bay; large turtle slowly rising from the sea bed when snorkeling off Isabela; frigate bird stealing a fish from a sea lion; marine iguana feeding and swimming

Scariest animal sighting: very large spider on reception window at Hotel Sol Isabela

Most colourful animal sighting: vermilion flycatcher; flamingos

Cutest: baby sea lion suckling

Most striking plant life: tan and black bark of the large Opuntia cacti; the young spiky bracts of the fruit of the Galapagos passionflower; the very tall luxuriant ferns  on Isabela

Most visually beautiful: sunset on Isabela; sand, sea and sky at Tortuga Bay

Most frustrating: 1.00am when live South American music was still (after 3 hours)  blaring out from the hotel opposite on Santa Cruz

Quietist: on top of Sierra Negra (volcano on Isabela) when our guide asked us to sit in silence; 1.10am when the music stopped

Most pleasant sound: crashing of Pacific Ocean waves; spitting of a marine iguana; Eleri laughing

Most infuriating sound: Sound of Silence live on the pan pipes 3 nights running, whilst we were eating

Smelliest: waste from masses of marine iguana and a dead sea lion, Tortuga Bay

Dirtiest: descending the slopes of Sierra Negra covered in sweat and orange lava dust

Tastiest: drinking fresh fruit juices

Most relaxing: lying in a hammock underneath a coconut palm; sharing life with a young seal Concha de Perla

Most grateful: when Eleri, Jess, Charlotte and Backy adopted a ‘get up and go’ spirit allowing me to play a bit part as the large black rubber bottom in the snorkelling movie

Most heart-wrenching: young girl with baby begging in Quito

Most regretful: not swimming with the sea lions

I must record my heartfelt thanks to my travel companions and all others in the UK and the Galapagos involved in providing this trip of a lifetime and to my husband for putting up with my stresses before leaving. Without the hard work of Jess, Charlotte, Becky and Eleri and the support of Nick, there would have been no trip for St Cyres. The girls are a great credit to their parents and the school. Amy T (Ignite futures) led the trip so expertly. Amy S developed the idea of Survival Rivals and the competition at the Wellcome Trust and Karen proposed Galapagos Live. I have been so very fortunate, have learnt much, filled my head with vivid images and lived the dream.