I don’t think two weeks have ever flown by as fast as these past couple in the Galapagos. We were greeted at the airport by Geovanni, our new project leader, and multiple white pickup trucks (the taxi vehicles on the island) to escort us to our home here called Hacienda Tranquila. Since we arrived on a Saturday, we were fortunate enough to have a couple of days to enjoy the island before the volunteering started. We explored the town a bit on our first day on San Cristobal, and we all quickly fell in love with it here as we watched the sunset on the seal-covered beach.
On Sunday, we woke up early enough to catch a bus to Puerto Chino where we had an absolutely stunning beach all to ourselves for the day. Some people got a little carried away by the sudden change of temperature though, as H.J., George, James, and Jack were looking extra “roasty toasty” for the next few days.
Monday morning was our first day of volunteering. How it works here is usually we volunteer from about 8am-11am, have a couple hours of “siesta” and eat lunch, and then work again from 2pm-4pm. During our couple weeks of volunteering, we helped eradicate some of the invasive species on the island (blackberry bushes) by using machetes– something we’re all quite equipped with after the past few communities! We also collected seeds and replanted them so that they can be distributed to local farms. Most other days, we hiked to different spots in the area where we tended to the gardens by weeding and using hoes.
One of my favorite projects we got to partake in was horse therapy, which Geovanni has been helping to grow for the past couple of years. It’s free to children on the island who suffer from a disability, but the main problem currently is transportation, as many kids who would benefit from the horse therapy live far away. Even though we had a small turnout, Olivia and Tori were definitely in their element as they helped assist with the riding.
After our first week of volunteering, we were all excited for our four-day weekend of island hopping! We started by spending a day on the island of Santa Cruz, where we explored the town and got to participate in the big yearly festival. By the end of the night, we were all drenched in grape-scented silly string, and Eden and H.J. were even lucky enough to end the night covered in eggs and black paint!
Our next stop was Isabela island, which is known for its outrageously beautiful beaches. We started the day by going on a hunt for flamingos, but were only able to spot one. It’s still pretty cool to say we saw a wild flamingo in the Galapagos, though! After that, Eden, Rhian, Sarah, and John rented surf boards, and Eden taught them a bit of her California skills. Later on, they caught up with the rest of us who were busy enjoying a full day of beach-bumming from morning until dark.
We headed back to Santa Cruz the next day. Some of us woke up at 6am to make the most of our last day by starting with the Charles Darwin Museum, while others had a bit of a lie-in. Most of us then spent the remainder of our time on the nearby beach, except Eden and H.J., who made the trek to the famous Tortuga Bay. I’m not envious of their hour-long hike there and back in the boiling sun, but according to their pictures, it definitely seemed worth it in the end.
One thing that’s different about our time in the Galapagos compared to the past communities is that we are in charge of our own meals here. It’s been so fun to see everyone’s daily concoctions– I think the award for craziest dish definitely goes to Chris! His pasta dinner one night included cinnamon, cucumbers, BBQ sauce, sausages, mayonnaise, basil, and oregano.
Chris may have some daring tastebuds, but at least he, unlike James, knows that you need to boil the pasta before you can fry it in a pan. It’s a good thing James invested in some bread and an extra large jar of Nutella, because that’s pretty much how he survived these past couple weeks with his extremely comical cooking talents (or lack there of)! Jack comes in a close second for the title of “Worst Cook in the Galapagos”, as he needed someone to explain the art of cracking an egg to him. Lucky for them though, there’s pizza night once a week here at Hacienda Tranquila. One of our leaders, Pepe, helps us make the dough and cheese before firing up the outdoor pizza oven. It’s funny how after eight weeks of being together, you still learn something new about each other every day. Rhian’s secret pizza-making talent showed its true colors as she helped us all roll out our dough. She then created one of the best “double-decker” pizzas any of us have ever seen!
There have been so many incredible moments during our weeks of island-living, but I think my favorite day of all was our boat trip we went on this past Saturday. After much deliberation amongst the group, we all agreed on a trip called “360”, where basically, you sail around our island of San Cristobal and stop along the way at different beaches and snorkeling spots. Our first snorkeling stop (and definitely my favorite) was at a place called Kicker Rock. Sharks, turtles, and sting rays swam beneath us as we snorkeled through what felt like a cave.
We then spent some time on a small beach all to ourselves that’s also a wild conservation area for sea turtles. After visiting another snorkeling spot, this time a lagoon, we had an amazing freshly caught tuna for lunch. On our way back to the port, we heard the boat driver yell for us all to come to the side of the boat. Literally a mere foot away from us were over a dozen dolphins jumping around. We couldn’t possibly have imagined a better way to end the day.
I don’t think a single one of us is ready to leave the island tomorrow. It’s so crazy to think that nine weeks have already come and gone, and by this time next week, we’ll be saying our goodbyes to each other. We’re trying not to think of that though yet, as we still have one more week to go. I’ll send in my final blog next week after our last bit of adventures together– so bittersweet! Until then, keep us in your minds during the coldness of winter as we enjoy our final week here in Ecuador
exploring the Amazon Rainforest!