We woke to a 5:30 a.m. alarm, shoveled in our oatmeal and hailed a water taxi. We had a long day ahead of us, hiking eight miles in one direction to see two large volcanoes. Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands, and one of only two islands with live volcanic activity. The two volcanos we were going to see erupted most recently in 1979 and another in 2005. A volcano we saw in the distance erupted just a year ago. As we arrived at the trail head, it was clear the travel-Gods were smiling upon us today: the usual dark clouds that hang over the volcanos had cleared off and we could see hundreds of miles in every direction. We could see Santa Cruz Island, Floreana Island, and all five volcanos present on Isabela.
We started the hike in lush, green jungle with Galapagos jungle trees, the wild (and invasive) guava trees, ferns, flowers, jungle birds and sugar cane.
Soon, we came upon an enormous crater filed with fresh black lava. You could see in the distance where the eruption started and ran down into the crater that had collapsed thousands of years before.
This eventually gave way to an area that looked like Mars. The black lava is fresh, the red lava is older. Lava turns red after some years because it is filled with iron. When it is exposed to the sea spray and air, it rusts and turns red.
The ground beneath our feet was molten lava, frozen into waves, peaks, lava-falls, and rivers, or it was black embers hardened into stone. It felt like walking over a briquette barbecue.
The entire landscape is dusted with a fine black soot hardened into rock called pyroclastic material. While it was rock, it had a strange spongy texture. It shimmered with iridescence in the sun.
Andrew and I have hiked in areas formed by volcanic activity before, but usually they are already grown over with plants and animals taking advantage of the rich volcanic soil. This volcanic activity happened so recently that we weren’t hiking on what used to be a volcano, but something that currently is a volcano. It was fascinating.
After that hike, we returned to town but it was even more quiet than on Saturday. We sat at the beach with a coconut ice cream, wandered through the shuttered businesses, and headed to the other side of town. I had a plan in place, but I didn’t mention it to Andrew.
Earlier that day, I spotted the lagoon where flamingos congregate. I wanted to go see them, but I wanted to do it around sunset when the lighting would be just perfect for photographs. Andrew was pretty tired from our hike, and he wanted a beer. But I knew if I could just get him moving in the right direction momentum would take over and we would be at the flamingo lagoon before he realized it. My plan worked (*Insert Evil Laughter*) and we arrived at the flamingo lagoon just in time.
Like all the animals here, the Flamingos did not disappoint. They are more vibrantly pink than I ever expected, and in so many ways they resembled a congregation of ballet dancers dressed in pink leotards. Some group up in little cliques that move from one spot of the lagoon to the other, always together. They preen and pluck their feathers, then smooth them down by rubbing their own head across their back. When they move, they move in formation like a carefully choreographed routine.
It seems when one or the other of the group has something unpleasant to say, it “ruffles their feathers.”
There was one baby in the group, smaller and slightly less pink than its mother.
Others are loners, spending the entire time with their head buried in the water eating whatever it is they are finding in the mud. We watched one nibble on the shoreline for the full hour we were there. He was the only bird eating this way, and you could hear him chomping through the mud from where we sat. Another loner spent time dancing with her feet and her head under water, slowly spinning in a circle.
Regardless, they are all incredibly photogenic from every angle.
We spent the evening with our toes in the sand, again. We watched a trio of 10 year old Ecuadorian boys attempt to fly using two large palm fronds. They never achieved lift off, but they were giving it a solid effort.
We caught the last water taxi of the night at 9:30 p.m. Father, mother, and baby brother accompanied our fifteen year old water taxi driver. We sped into utter blackness, with only the stars to light our path. The father called out instructions to his son, and we weaved our way over and around rocks and shallow spots. Andrew and I hopped off the taxi just as the boy popped the engine into reverse and landed the taxi inches from Sonrisa's hull. We are all getting to be experts, learning together.