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The International Writers Magazine: Ecuador

Searching San Cristóbal
Tyrel Nelson
Breathing in dust and pouring out sweat, I trudged along the sultry gravel road beneath my feet. For various minutes, I pressed on, walking a tightrope on the dirt shoulder, constantly in fear of getting rammed off the island by one of the several silver pickups that almost grazed my left side each time they furiously passed. My scary stroll continued this way until a string of large, white letters finally caught my eye.
"Sendero a Tijeretas," the metal marker indicated.
Investigating the leafy opening next to this green highway sign, I saw a rugged path, engulfed by various trees, shrubs, and vines. I knew that my sandals weren’t the ideal footwear for this craggy walkway, but I refused to go back to the sand and resume watching the water with my girlfriend, Amanda. Therefore, I took one step onto the petrous, rust-colored trail and was immediately swallowed by the brush.

As I zigzagged my way over the dimpled and jagged rocks, I was amazed by the varied vegetation that overwhelmed my route. A plethora of different-sized bushes and trees, all showing different shades of green, swamped my walk. In addition, I was really impressed by the tall, thick cactuses that dotted the rocky, yet lush hillside. The prickly plants shot up everywhere I looked.

With perspiration running down my face, I eventually came upon a clearing, which overlooked a red and white pharos resting on a charcoal shore. Even though the beach was ugly, the far-reaching, dark blue Pacific that surrounded the lighthouse’s peninsula was magnificent. Moreover, I was refreshed by the cool breeze that came off the water and flowed into my vantage point. It was a nice break from the trail.

Reentering the trees, I pulled my Twins baseball cap down as far as I could to block the intense sun, which somehow managed to redden my face through the branches overhead. Upward bound, I continued ascending the ridged terrain, pursuing views similar to the one I had just witnessed. The next lookout, however, was nothing like the previous. Snaking its way back to the cliff’s edge, the path led me to…a cannon. Strangely stationed, this large weapon looked like it should have been on a battleship’s deck, not poking its way through a green hillside in the Galápagos.

Mounted on a rotating base, this decaying artillery gun was aimed towards the big drink. I was undoubtedly puzzled by this barrel’s placement and, consequently, read a nearby plaque to clear up my confusion. In truth, I learned that the Ecuadorian Navy lugged the cannon to this post for military practices during the 1970s. The weapon was well out of commission nonetheless; its use dying out with disco.

With my curiosity satisfied, I turned around and noticed a wooden deck protruding from a distant hilltop. That remote viewpoint was my goal, but it seemed unreachable at the moment. Thirsty and tiring fast, all I saw was the forest that dominated the foreground of the far off hill. And although I absolutely hated backtracking, I definitely needed my tennis shoes as well as a second wind. I also thought Amanda should see the view and, therefore, decided to double back
Retracing my steps out of Frigatebird Trail, I walked many minutes back down the dusty road to find my porcelain-skinned girlfriend taking pictures of her feet at Playa Mann, a miniscule beach just north of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (capital of the Galápagos Islands). It wasn’t hard to tell that Amanda was bored, so I asked her to join me for round two. Quickly accepting, she then returned with me to our nearby cabin to gear up for the next venture into San Cristóbal’s wilderness.

Given that I was already familiar with a portion of the pathway, Amanda and I breezed by the two scenic overlooks I had stumbled upon earlier. And as we hiked further into the highland, the two of us rapidly emptied our water bottles due to the overbearing afternoon heat. Despite our ever-increasing fatigue, my blue-eyed sidekick and I nonetheless reached another lookout point, only to realize that there was someone waiting. It was Mr. Charles Darwin himself.

Accompanied by large recreations of a tortoise, iguana, and sea lion at his feet, the balding statue of the famous Englishman stood a few meters tall. Holding a gigantic notebook against his stomach with his left hand, the evolutionist looked like he was pondering his next journal entry, raising a pen to the air with his other paw. Still, the bay over which the renowned naturalist stood was more appealing.

Skirted by gray boulders and a light green forest, the huge, egg-shaped inlet had an opening almost as wide as the top of its oval outline. Furthermore, brown pelicans loitered around the silent sound’s coarse cliffs while a tiny tour boat quickly circled the haven and exited. I stared at the relaxing teal waters far below and couldn’t blame Charles for taking notes in such a tranquil place.

Leaving Darwin in the dust, Amanda and I were determined to reach the viewpoint that loomed high above the opposite end of the bay. With sweat fogging my sunglasses and soaking my T-shirt, I subsequently marched alongside Amanda until we ran into the bottom steps of a wooden staircase. After glancing up at our prize, I then made eye contact with my strawberry-haired companion. She was ready.

Legs burning all the way, the two of us ascended the endless planks ‘til we were almost out of breath. Finally, with hardly any energy left, Amanda and I practically collapsed onto a dark brown platform. We had reached the top.

At last, my girlfriend and I found out what made this location so alluring. Not only could Amanda and I see San Cristóbal’s beaches, bays, and bluffs, we were also rewarded with an excellent view of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The two of us scanned the light-colored city and observed its active harbor. In fact, we studied various vessels, from mammoth cargo ships to small fishing boats, floating throughout the turquoise inlet. It was fascinating to watch the port in action.
Even more gratifying, though, was sharing this experience with Amanda. Backtracking wasn’t so bad after all.

© Tyrel Nelson October 2008

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A Hike in Girón
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Life was good. I was recently reunited with my girlfriend, Amanda, who I hadn’t seen in over 5 months, and we were in a place that many people only get to visit in their dreams.
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