The Galapagos – Island Paradise or No Man's Land?
This archipelago of volcanic islands 972 kilometres off the coast of mainland Ecuador is famous for inspiring Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, but there are more characters in the Galapagos' history worth knowing about:
"Nothing could be less inviting than first appearance. ...the whole black lava, completely covered by small leafless brushwood and stunted trees, show little signs of life. ...The country was comparable to what one might imagine the cultivated parts of the Infernal regions to be."
I admit Charles Darwin's dismal description of the Galapagos Islands in 1835 – like hell itself – is not travel brochure material. "First appearance" at Baltra Island's airport surround, at least in October, is as barren as Darwin described. However, at higher altitudes the rising, moist air provides enough dampness for a more lush vegetation. Desertscape and grey shrubs give way to Santa Cruz's banana and guava groves, bromeliads and lichen, cornfields and cactus trees. Tall grasses, ferns, bursts of red and yellow blossoms, rich brown soil and rocks line the roadway. Things begin to look better. Nearing the end of the six-month dry season, this is the only green flora present until December rains arrive to spread colour throughout the lower altitudes. The good news is there are few mosquitoes...
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