Page 8 - January 2020
P. 8

An adventure on the Galapagos Islands
As experienced by Under Warden Dr Nicole Hoffman
I was very fortunate to have recently visited the Galapagos islands. But instead of going on a more typical holiday arranged by a tour operator, I instead embarked on trip with a difference offered by a volunteering and intern service provider, in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Service. Though my mind likes to think I am still in my 20’s, I know that my body might have to say something about that, and instead opted for the over 50’s trip.
A group of 10 ‘youngsters’ arrived on San Cristobal island from all over the world; UK, Ireland, Netherlands, USA, Canada and Botswana. It is one of four inhabited islands out of the 12 forming the archipelago. We were given weekly timetables of our activities and volunteering work, both in schools; in the class rooms and maintenance of the grounds, as well as the National Park itself; clearing undergrowth of the tortoises’ centre with machetes,
cleaning and feeding the tortoises, counting and studying the sea lions, through to weeding and planting in the Otoy plantation (tortoises love to eat this plant).
Inspired by Under Warden in Waiting David Holt and my friend Sophie Washington; who is currently touring around South America including visits to fire stations (see, I thought I add a bit of busman’s holiday flavour to the trip and asked our local organiser William Puga, if he had any contact details of
the local fire brigade. Not only did he have those but was also best friend with the chief of the brigade; Carlos Gonzales Bajana. Small world, or rather island. So, my plan was starting to take shape, and a meeting was planned.
My instructions by William for the day were to spend the morning as usual with the team and do our planned activities, then to stay on the school bus whilst everyone else was dropped off at
our accommodation, as I would be taken directly to the fire station. William would join us there, so that he could be the translator. Note to myself – learn Spanish.
Reflecting on my instructions, I hereby would like to apologise for my appearance in the photos. The morning activity was weeding and planting in the Otoy plantation. And as you can see it involved a lot of kneeling and getting your trousers dirty. But it is good honest dirt.
Carlos explained that he started
the fire and rescue service on San Cristobal around 20 years ago with the arrival of a fire engine donated by the Ecuadorian Government. Then as now; the San Cristobal FRS is very reliant on local volunteers including his own son and, as I discovered after the visit, our own host ad tour guide Manolo at the accommodation.
I was given a full tour around the fire station that has been created and pulled together over the years.
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