San Cristóbal, Galapagos Islands
These first few weeks have been pretty awesome here on San Cristobal, the second most populated island in the Galapagos. I am lucky enough to be staying with a couple of locals, Ashley and Alex. I met Ashley (who is from Holland), 2 years ago while walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. We have kept in contact, and I spent a couple days with her in the winter of 2014 back in the Netherlands. Alex is her husband, who was born and raised here on the island.
Life here is simple, very much family oriented, and quiet. We go to the market and bakery daily to get our food for the day. But, food and other necessities here are expensive! Most of it has to be shipped in. The government does not allow anything non native to be planted and grown here. So, for example, a grilled corn on the cob will cost you $2.50. A regular size bottle of shampoo runs around $9! When the supply ships don’t come or can’t dock because of bad weather and rough seas, the market shelves go bare.
The first week I was here was a leisurely, vacation week of sorts. My volunteer project had been pushed back about a week, so I was just going with the flow. We visited several beaches, swam with sea lions, hiked, and played pool with the locals. Lunch was spent at Lucia’s house, who is Alex’s mother. She cooks a big meal everyday for us and her other 2 kids. Rice is eaten at least 2 times a day, if not 3. We usually have a soup, then a main dish of either fish, chicken, carne, or ceviche, along with rice and maybe a small salad. This first week certainly was a nice introduction to the island way of life.
My first volunteer project was up at an organic farm in Cerro Verde, up in the highlands. Temperatures are a bit cooler up there, and it tends to rain a little more. The first couple of days I was raking… raking up a lot of leafs! About half way through my second day, I inquired about a compost pit. There is a restaurant on the grounds of the farm, and it produces a lot of organic waste, especially when they are making juice. One of the guys, Nico, who works there showed me a space where he wanted to put a compost area… so we went to work! With the help of Ashley, Nico, and Jordy, we got the first compost pit dug in no time. I am fed lunch while up volunteering, and our midday breaks are filled with siestas in the hammocks and games of pool.
The next days we dug another compost pit, and I went hunting for rotten fruit that had fallen from trees to start to filling up the first pit. I found a banana tree that had fallen over, and I thought, “Jackpot”! I walked back to the place where the tools are stored, and found a machete. I headed back and started cutting up the tree and the bunch of bananas. I had a decent size container to fill up, which turned out to be very heavy when full. I got it up on top of my head to carry it, but it didn’t feel quite right, so I set it down.
Man, I am sure glad I set it down when I did. I immediately saw a cockroach, and was thinking, I don’t want that crawling all over my head. So, I pulled out the bananas to cut them up more. On my first cut into the bunch, I must have hit a cockroach nest… about 50 went scattering! Needless to say I was totally creeped out, just thinking these guys could have been all over my head and arms, ewww! I cut the shit out of those bananas to make sure all the cockroaches had left, and continued on my day.
My accommodations are basic, but totally adequate. I have my own room in a space that’s attached to Ashley and Alex’s house. I have a bed, and some nails on the wall to hang up a few items. I have a western toilet, but we don’t have running water. I take all my showers with a bucket, and if we want warm water to wash our hair, we heat water up in a kettle on one of the 2 single burners we have to cook on. I also have to flush my toilet by pouring water from the bucket into the toilet. I am totally accustomed to this style of living, and it’s nice to go back to the basics every now and then. Just makes you appreciate the little things back home.
We celebrated the 4th of July by sharing a few Budweisers, eating burgers out at a restaurant, playing pool, then dancing the night away. I danced with a few locals, and one guy kept nibbling on my neck! I was like, “woah down there buddy, let’s dance a little further apart”. Now my friends here continue to give ma a hard time about it, I think I will hear about the “neck nibbler” the rest of my time here, lol.
I am very thankful that Ashley and Alex have accepted me into their home, and made me feel like a part of their family. Next week we will be clearing out invasive species up in the highlands in an area known as La Soledad. On this land, Ashley and Alex have plans to build a hacienda, and to start up a VolunTravel project in which volunteers will work in the land and live in a local, sustainable way.