By Kaylin Hetrick, RMU Student.
My first solo trip out of the United States was just this past October. Many times I invited some friends and wanted them to start saving to come with on this great adventure. Needless to say, everyone backed out. There was no way I was, though. There’s a website I visit often, sometimes too often, that has great deals on adventure packages. I decided to book my trip to the Galapagos Islands. My package included hiking the world’s second largest active volcano and visiting Santa Cruz and Isabella Island for seven days.
Travel is a passion that will never escape me. I love going to the airport to check in, go through security with efficiency, and then wait at the gate patiently. It’s almost like a meditative process knowing that I am about to embark to an unknown place with unknown people.
When I first arrived at the “airport” on Baltra Island, Galapagos, the plane taxied straight up to the only building on the island. I felt like a VIP. I didn’t have to walk but fifty yards to find out my luggage didn’t make it out of Miami where my connecting flight had been. This never fazed me though. When I’m on vacation, I don’t need any material things, just my legs to walk and my eyes to see.
The first Island to explore was Santa Cruz; it is the most populated with 17,000 inhabitants out of the total population of 30,000. The mission was to drive from one side of the island to the other, which is only about thirty minutes. At first the island looked barren with short shrubs and no trees. The sun beat down on this side of the island. Then, finally with a slight elevation towards the middle of the island it was completely different. The area became foggy and misty with no sun. All around trees were everywhere and the grass seemed to be glowing green. Along the way two huge craters came out of nowhere. Over two million years ago the craters were huge lava tunnels that had since caved in, and greenery had set in the craters to make it more scenic.
As traveling continued, the opposite side of the island became alive. This was where all the people lived. Next to the water there were many shops and people walking outside. The smell of the ocean was calming. The sounds of the birds, sea lions, and clicks and clacks of the crabs on the rocks were the sounds of nature.
The Galapaganians are the only people who can inhabit the four of fourteen islands. Most students and tourists can only get a visa for three of less months at a time when visiting. The only other way to stay indefinitely is if you marry someone that is from the Galapagos. What’s so fascinating about the people is that they have a depth of respect for each other and all the creatures on the islands. Many times while in a vehicle driving to and from a destination, if there was a bird in the road the driver would honk, and even slow down to ensure the animal would not be in danger. It was forbidden to take anything from the islands, even a small rock or shell. No one may touch any of the creatures or try to harm anything. I loved the respect the people had for their land.
After a couple days on the main island, I got in a boat and traveled to Isabella Island. This is the largest, yet youngest, island of the Galapagos. Isabella Island is less developed and only has a population of about 2,000. This is also the location of Volcán Sierra Negra. I hiked that volcano for ten hours. It was worth it. Similar to the other island the climate changes drastically. Ascending the weather was foggy and wet with mist. Sometimes the sun would show through, but the sun was dangerous at such an altitude. Towards the top of the volcano, about three hours into the hike, a clearing came through.
The volcano was vast and looked like a pit of black sharp rock. The volcano peak is 12 kilometers across. A million years earlier, lava was flowing violently down the side of this dangerous place creating new surfaces of this island. On the side the lava flowed you could see the path it took all the way to the ocean. Only the areas where the lava didn’t touch had greenery. The other areas were covered with sharp, rough volcanic rock. I could even feel the heat coming through my feet from the lava that still flows way below the surface. It was incredible.
My trip wasn’t long enough, but what adventurous trip is? The islands in the Galapagos over time will shift and fall back into the ocean. There are five humungous volcanoes under the surface that create the islands that are visible today. The tectonic plates continuously move and after several million years more islands surface from below the ocean. How cool it that? I think it’s pretty awesome.