“Reality lies in the greatest enchantment you have ever experienced.”― Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Shadows, 2014, oil on canvas, 76x50 cm(30x20) -

Shadows, 2014, oil on canvas, 76×50 cm(30×20) –

The story continues…….

An overview:

The memories and smells of the Islands rise up and smack me in the face occasionally.  Triggered by some inconsequential, word, sight, smell, it would be as if I was there again in the moment, time traveling back to the land that was apart from time itself.

Anyone who has ever lived on an island knows the feeling, a core memory of belonging to the land, standing still in time as the rest of the world ceases to exist. The memory of Galapagos held no exotic scented flowers or wide white sand beaches, these “Enchanted Islands” as they were known held a course, barren, raw, base memory of salt, sweet rain, baking bread, stale beer, urine, coffee beans drying out on metal rooftops and the unforgettable odor of freshly slaughtered beef in the sun. A memory of ingenuity and strength enabling survival.

Since I was already a permanent resident of Ecuador, and an accredited “Guide”, getting my Colonist card and permission to live on the islands was a simple matter of tons of paperwork accomplished in a miracle of a week.   I took the next available plane out, a TAME airlines DC8 cargo plane delivering supplies to the Ecuadorian Navy who had a long-established base on Baltra Island, a former US base during WWII.  TAME also flew a passenger plane out one a week for tourist.

Baltra Island was nothing more than flat, barren rock with a large shack on the high ground that served as the airport with a runway that could handle jets. Down the high cliffs a large docking area was built for refueling purposes for the Navy and any other boats willing to pay the high price.  Only a few scattered trees struggled to survive on this arid rock amidst the debris of the US base.  The foundations of these remained, the wood having been carried away by local settlers over the years to build their own houses on Santa Cruz or San Cristobal Islands.  Baltra Pine it would be called.

One of the two company boats was anchored at the dock to pick me up and make the 6-hour journey back to Santa Cruz Island.  A 3-mile wide channel separated Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands; but at the time there was no available access from one island to another except by boat,  a 6-10 hour voyage from the Baltra dock, out to ocean, and back to the far end of Santa Cruz Island, safe harbor and town.

The company had also rented me a 2-room house constructed out of lava rock with a detached lavatory connected by a raised walkway.  The house itself was also raised as it was nestled in a grove of mangroves sporting a usable dock. However that dock was only useable at high tide when my house would become an island unto itself.

The first thing I did upon settling in was to remove my shoes.  I would only put them back on once a year when we took the boats back to Guayaquil for a re-fit.  My feet would quickly develop thick calluses enabling me to walk on any surface, including the sharp lava fields.

The mainland travel agency would arrange cruises and inform me what the tourist wanted to see and how many days (or weeks) via Ham radio. (I was HC2WG once I obtained my radio operators license). I would then plan the menu and the itinerary sending the list for both back to the agency.  The tourist would be informed of their itinerary and the ordered food would be shipped out for the cruise on the same plane as the tourist.  There was a cargo freighter that would visit the island once a month or so, bringing canned goods, beer, rice, any vegetable capable of surviving the 10-day trip., building materials, and anything else anyone could buy on the mainland and have shipped out.  We would also receive some basic supplies in this manner but it was costly.   It would take me 4 months of gentle coaxing before I was accepted by the locals thereby giving permission for me to buy locally grown fresh food (eggs, milk, green vegetables, tomatoes, cheese, potatoes, meat, fish, pork) reducing our operating costs.

I would not only be managing the operations/maintenance of the boats and its crew but also serve as guide until both boats were operating, as one boat was still undergoing renovation.

At the time “The Road” as it would come to be known, had not yet been built across the island (enabling a connection between Baltra and Santa Cruz), electricity ran for 4 hours a day, and fresh drinking water was collected from the roofs of individual houses during the rainy season and held in concrete tanks. There were no fresh water wells, even in the misty moisture laden highlands.   (Water filter though the ground and the porous rock to accumulate in  equally porous aquifers that would touched by the sea.)   The main piped water from the town well was brackish, good for toilets and cooking but not much else.  In the center of town near the docks was one bar, one bakery, the port captains office, a small and very dirty hospital with no doctor just a midwife/nurse (usually a doctor would come out every few months for a week), a church, a small tienda (store) selling everything from canned goods to miscellaneous supplies and used items for trade, and the homes of the islands inhabitants. The large bay of Santa Cruz would anchor many fishing boats, sail or powerboat available for hire by tourist to tour the islands and of course the never-ending flow of the traveling cruise yachts headed out across the pacific.  In the highlands where the soil was rich and the climate alluvial, farms flourished, run by immigrants that came from Europe in the late 1930’s.

At the far end of the island was the Darwin station situated in a large bay where the “Beagle” its scientific research boat anchored.  It was populated by a small staff and overrun most of the year with visiting scientist conducting one experiment or another. They had their own generator which enabled them to have what was known as “24 hour magic”.  My house was situated halfway between the center of town and the Station.

A small inlet separated one half of the island from the other, access to which was only by a row-boat, then climbing up rough-hewn steps cut from the lava rock.  This area was known as “the other side” and was inhabited by a fairly large population of German immigrant settlers. Of course from this side, town was also considered “the other side”.

There was only one sand and rock “road” (more like a wide path) that went from town to the highlands and from town out to the Darwin Station. There were a few vehicles on the island, but most belonged to the Darwin Station.

Everyone walked and everyone had a rowboat or speedboat, but most importantly everyone had a good sense of humor, which was key to survival.

Not everyone who came to the islands would stay, they would have difficulty adapting to the harsh conditions the islands imposed.   Only if you were willing to allow the islands to change you, to become enchanted, would the islands give back to you and like the ever evolving resident animals, you would learn to survive to the fullest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. What a beautiful closing. I thoroughly enjoy your writing.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    LIKE THE WILDERNESS…IT BECOMES A PART OF YOU….

    Like

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