I’m still on Galapagos time and now apparently the clocks have gone back. I’m very confused.
Still, I must admit I’m glad to be back home. Don’t get me wrong, I would go back to Santa Cruz faster than you can say ‘origin of species’ but I still get a little bit excited everytime I look at the trees starting to change colour. One thing I have noticed about Britain though is that so far I have been staring out of my window for twenty minutes and have not seen one bird. Not even a blackbird. It shows me how isolated from nature we’ve become in Britain, how we’ve distanced ourselves from it. In Galapagos, people need to step over a sea lion to get to their boat. Back here we run screaming if there’s a spider in the bath. If I was still in Galapagos, I would be tripping over finches by now (no harm intended).
We all expected Isabella to be more developed than Santa Cruz, so we were surprised to find that the population of the ‘town’ is only 2,ooo people (nearly a fifth of the population of my home village). Walking around the main area doesn’t take more than an afternoon. It was difficult to adjust to the quieter and slower pace where the only constant sound was the waves crashing against the shore. We did have a few highlights though. Seeing an unusually high number of flamingoes in one lagoon made us feel privelleged. For the ‘Fact Fans’, there are roughly 435 (correct me if I’m wrong) flamingoes left and we saw around 14 in two days. According to our guide, this is very rare.
Another highlight was climbing the Sierra Negra volcano. Walking up the side of the volcano in the cool, misty morning was exciting as we clambered through different layers of plant life and we all felt a massive sense of achievement when we reached the top. To top it off, we saw not only one but four Galapagos hawks, a species that is said to be close to extinction. We saw two babies included in the total number, which gave us slight hope that maybe they’ll continue for longer than anticipated. Again, our guide said we were very lucky. However, the way back down was not as fun. The sun was directly above us (being on the equator and all) and temperatures reached around 30-35 degrees C. We no longer strode, we trudged. I think it was possibly the most physically challenging thing I’ve done, purely because of the heat. By the end, we didn’t even have the strength to talk to each other because it might take away some of the little energy we had left to plod along. That morning, and this will come as a shock to anyone who knows me well, I was wearing a light beige outfit. When I reached the hotel that afternoon, I was orangey-brown. Not just my clothes but my hair, face, skin, everything. Charlotte started the day with black walking boots; they are now orangey-brown as well.
Sadly, illness from various members of the group, myself included, impeded the last few days on the island. Thankfully, the warriors among us managed to make it out for our final day trip to Tintoreras Bay. Definitely survival of the fittest. It cheered us all up when we saw sea lions playing next to our boat. We were also completely surprised to find the shark canal. I expected it to be a large river with possibly one sharking lurking around. Instead, it was a tiny stream with dozens of white-tipped reef sharks swimming back and forth. Amazing!
It was good to end the week on a high, after so many lows, seeing as we faced the prospect of four plane journeys over the next few days.
Well, four turned into three as the little five-seater plane we were meant to take from Isabella to Baltra broke down before we were due to travel. Thankfully, before not during. Cue a two-and-a-half hour impromptu speed boat journey. As I’ve found out this on this trip, I don’t travel well but that jumpy, jerky, borderline dangerous speed boat journey was probably the best one. Me and Jess had to sit on the floor on a cushion to make the back of the boat lighter which felt quite surreal. The only way we got through it was to laugh. After many giggles and bruises caused by being tossed around, we reached Baltra airport. Run through check in and off we set. Bye bye, Galapagos.
Eventually, around 30 hours and four different time zones later, we reached Britain. Much rejoicing and excitement as we got the mini bus home, all eager to see our families so we could start the story telling and a shower was desperately needed after nearly three days without one.
Washed, fed and exhausted, the jet lag set in. This is what I had to come home to:
Now, as it drizzles outside and Sunday dinner bubbles away inside, it’s hard not to think about ‘this time last week’. Galapagos is the most interesting, amazing, outstanding, beautiful place in the world and nothing will ever compare to some of the experiences I have seen this past fortnight. Even though I’ve been in a sleepy/alert/sleepy/alert cycle for the past few days and am still not completely sure what time I should go by, I wouldn’t change it.
But I still haven’t seen a bird.