One of those days where you really want to wake up…lying in bed waiting for the first light to illuminate a dark and cool room. But this room isn’t your average, it’s curved, the bunks are snug, you can’t stand up completely and it calmly rocks and rolls throughout the night. I slowly creep out of bed, hold on to the bunk as my legs adjust to the movement, then make my way onto the deck. The cool grey of first light is yet to be interrupted by the orange hues of daybreak. I sit, listen to the ocean lap, watch the frigates swooping low across the water and marvel at the rich navy that fades into turquoise at the shore.

Most of my days in the Galapagos feel this way. Not too much chatter or traffic in my mind, just the sights sounds and (unfortunately sometimes) smells of this paradise. It’s easy to be like this, for the first time in a long time, everything is taken care of for me, there is schedule of activities, meals are prepared for me and the captain delivers new horizons each night as I sleep. I’m still travelling, but my mind isn’t.

Now I’d like to take a moment here to discuss the difference, in my mind at least, between travelling and holidays. To the untrained eye they may look the same. Both modes involve being away from home. Both will take you to the places of your dreams. But what is the difference! The holidayer (not a word, I know, just roll with it) has a sense of entitlement, they deserve to be here, whereas the traveller feels lucky. The traveller is not going to miss an opportunity, the traveller will get the most out of every day, eating every last scrap of food, taking every one of those 120minutes of snorkelling in the morning to explore and using every bit of the daylight to their best ability. The holidayer in contrast lets moments pass, they sit back sigh and wonder when lunch will be ready, tans and thinks of things at home. They are here, but not here. They walk a trail and look ahead, even though they know whats there, because he just looked a second ago. What they are looking for, what they want, is all around them, but they don’t want that, because it’s all around them. They are still imagining the place they were going to be as external, distant and wonderful as it was when they sat in their cubical at work.

I realised this while on the Encantada, a bright red 45 year old sailing boat which was my home for 5 days, with two Americans on board that we’re on a father-daughter holiday. It’s commonly and boringly said that travel broadens the mind, but a few conditions must be met for that to hold true. Firstly, you need to have a mind. Most people scrape a pass on this one, though we have to set the bar pretty low for this to be so. Secondly, you have to travel with an open mind. Now why I say these two were on holidays, not travelling is because they pass neither of these basic requirements. Their closemindedness was only outshone by their stupidity and obliviousness.

But apart from the human ugliness the Galapagos was pristine. I can’t say what exactly made me fall in love with it. The place maintains its wonder that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. However, it goes without saying that it has changed since Darwin’s day. For a long time it was a secluded haven for Pirates, merchants, sailors and fishermen from all over the world. After a long stint of Ecuadorian dictators, the first democratically elected PM laid claim to the islands for Ecuador in the 20’s, uniting the islands that were split between the French and Spanish for a long time. Then came the second world war when the US posted around 8000 troops as a strategic outpost a training facility on Baltra Island (now the airport), they did their usual damage, bombing some of the outer islands for target practice and eating any wildlife they could get their grubby mitts on. Since then however it has been rightly declared a national park and become the centre of the world for research of wildlife diversity and evolution.

As far as my time went there…I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

See Shanes Pictures HERE

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