Disagreeing with Charles Darwin

We were soon decamping at San Cristobal airport in the company of our Galapagos co-ordinator, Paulina.

She hailed a cab.

“When you get a cab round here you don’t need to give a street,” she advised.

“Just say the name of the family. Everyone knows everyone.”

 There was a slight pause.

“It’s a small island,” she grinned.

Small it may be, but it was gloriously hot.

The streets were sweltering, with houses dotted at random – all different shapes – and dogs and children wandering happily.

Almost immediately we arrived at a large white colonial home, perched at the top of one dusty street.

We were greeted by a small boy. He was clutching a puppy, which was shaped like a teddy bear.

It transpired that our new ‘parents’, Milton and his wife, were away holidaying in Europe.

The only people home were their 23-year-old daughter, Jhosellyn, her son, Camilo and his new puppy, Bobby.

Jhosellyn showed us to our new bedroom, upstairs at the front of the house with four huge windows.

“Do you mind sharing until I make up the other room?” she asked casually. 

“Not at all,” we smiled back.

She was the definition of chilled.

“When are your parents back?” I asked.

“No idea,” she shrugged.

“Fancy a trip to the beach?”

The beach looked glorious – all huge crashing waves, black volcanic rock and trails of flowering greenery inching its way towards the sand.

We stared as Jhosellyn, a tour guide by trade, pointed out tiny lava lizards and huge marine iguanas, their dark imposing forms framed against the frothy white spray.

“Do you have any sealions?” Pippa asked eventually.

Joss glanced at her sideways.

“Er, yeah,” she said, raising one eyebrow. She pointed at the rocks.

“Right there.”

Eight or nine sandy dozing forms appeared, as if from nowhere.

“Do you mind if we…” we said in unison.

Joss nodded.

Of course we couldn’t resist it. The sealions were stretched alternately on their backs and sides, enjoying the last of the sun’s rays.

Their faces were all scrunched up and occasionally they opened one huge black eye to study us sleepily.

They looked exactly how I suspect I look in the morning, when I don’t want to get out of bed and I’m not sure whether it’s a new day or an unpleasant trick.

“Come on,” Joss called, with the expression one normally reserves for tourists caught photographing pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

And there proceeded an afternoon so beautiful it exceeds the limit of my descriptive ability.

The sun shone. The sea lions lolled. Joss pointed out all manner of birds including my all-time favourite, a pelican, fishing lazily out to sea.

The hours slid past until it was almost dark.

Darwin apparently said his first glimpse of San Cristobal island – with all its baking, angular lava rocks – mirrored his exact expectation of hell.

Rubbish.

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