On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
This series was created by Alain Chamot (1971-2020).
I’m not sure I’ll ever travel as much as I used to, in whatever our post-pandemic world turns out to be, but if I can, the two places I would most love to return to are Antarctica and the Galapagos. Unfortunately, you really have to travel by ship for both destinations. They’re not the huge cruise ships with thousands of passengers, but smaller expedition vessels; even so, it will be a long time before that feels safe to me. In the meantime I have the memories – and the pictures.
I went to the Galapagos in 2013 with National Geographic. We spent one night in Guyaquil, Ecuador (where I had a memorable experience replacing the USB cable for my camera at a mall surrounded by armed guards) before flying to the Galapagos and meeting the ship in Barquerizo Moreno.
The main street in Barquerizo Moreno. On the way to the marina, the bus stopped abruptly to allow a large sea lion to waddle across the road.
There were dozens more sea lions passed out on every bench like drunks recovering from a bender.
Obviously it was a rough night.
After getting settled on the ship, and having an orientation going over the very stringent rules for visiting the islands, we had our first shore excursion.
Cerro Brujo is where tradition has it that Darwin first set foot in the Galapagos in 1835. He was not impressed. This is the quote from The Voyage of the Beagle that you find in every guidebook:
In the morning (17th) we landed on Chatham Island, which, like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline, broken here and there by scattered hillocks, the remains of former craters. Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of black basaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves, and crossed by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life.
Looking up the beach. That’s our ship in the background.
The beach was full of sea lions, dozens and dozens of sea lions. Most of them were asleep, recuperating from their last hunt; it’s not easy to catch fish with your teeth. They sprawled out on the sand in long oblivious rows, or curled into piles of fur. Some of them had track marks where other sea lions had just waddled over them.
We were supposed to stay at least six feet away from the wildlife, but the sea lions were curious about us and our cameras, and more than once I backed away from one sea lion only to almost step on another who’d come up behind me. We weren’t supposed to talk to the animals or make noises to get their attention, but more than once I caught myself babbling baby talk to the pups. Because they were just so cute.
One of the Sally Lightfoot crabs that were all over the beach. They reminded me of the brightly painted metal toys I used to cut my fingers on when I was a kid.