Galapagos- a dream destination?

The Galapagos. Bucket list territory for me over many years. So when I won some money on a raffle, it seemed like a moment of opportunity.  I could add it to my meagre pension savings. Or I could do something memorable.

You can stay on the main island, Santa Cruz, and take day tours, or you can take a boat tour, which travels the eastern islands for seven days and the western isles for the same time. I couldn’t afford both so I opted for the western islands, aboard the Mary Anne, an old-fashioned sailing boat, with its own tale to tell, of which more later. My other half gets sea-sick in the bath, so he declined to accompany me on this occasion. So this was a Big Solo Adventure.

The Galapagos is a collection of volcanoes erupted over millions of years from the Pacific Ocean floor, in a hotspot where tectonic plates meet. The islands each comprise one volcano (apart from Isabela which is a conglomeration of six) and they drift inexorably eastwards away from the hotspot over thousands of years where the volcanoes eventually fade and go extinct. For this reason the hierarchy of age moves more or less from east to west: San Cristobal and Espanol at somewhere between 2.5 and 4 million years old, through to Isabela and Fernandina, relative babies at around 700,000 years. These two are still active: the last eruption was from Wolf volcano on Isabela, in June 2015.

The collapsed half of the caldera of Volcano Ecuador, Isabela.
The collapsed half of the caldera of Volcano Ecuador, Isabela.

This geology is one factor which makes the Galapagos so unique; another is the different currents which bring a huge diversity of sea-life to the islands, including penguins, sharks, sea-turtles and fur-seals as well as all those beautiful shoals of exotic little fishes you see in Disney cartoons. For me, the main draw was the Darwin legacy: all that history, all that research, all that incredible science. Turns out he was only 26 when he visited the Galapagos, and he was not impressed, writing as the Beagle landed: ‘Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. We fancied even the bushes smelt unpleasantly.’

I beg to differ. Arriving on Santa Cruz, I was prepared for the barren landscape, the flatlands of lava flows and ash, but not for the lush highlands where we were immediately whisked off to see  – it had to be – giant tortoises.


Giant tortoise (Geochelone nigrita) wallowing in the muddy margins of the Red Lake, Laguna Roja, in the highlands of Santa Cruz, Galapagos. 

February is the end of the rainy season, so I was lucky to catch the islands in possibly their greenest state, although this varies from year to year. The tortoises were literally awesome, roaming around in their wild habitat with little or no regard to their human gawpers, basking in the mud of a pool, chomping on grass, and generally doing tortoise-like things. It was great to see this on the first day, almost to take the pressure off – it felt like this was the one ‘must-see’ in the Galapagos; now I could relax, anything else was a bonus.

The Mary Anne seen from Post Office Bay, Floreana. Vocanic lava rock in the foreground.

We joined the Mary Anne in the early evening, the second contingent of the group who would be travelling together for the next seven days. This was not ideal, as the first party had already been together for a week, leaving me feeling a bit of an incomer, but I was really lucky with the group; everyone already there was very welcoming and inclusive, and us newbies soon bonded over a beer or three. So end of day one, exhausted, excited, and everso slightly anxious for the whole living-on-a-boat thing: would I be seasick? sleepless? dizzy? dehydrated? Time would tell.

See my website for more Galapagos images or contact me for licensing. All words and images ©Annie Green-Armytage. Re-blogging and link-sharing on social media is permitted with full accreditation; no other reproduction of any kind permitted without written permission.

Focus, woman, focus

I have been silent on this blog for a while now, partly because, as I suspected it would, real life got in the way, and partly because I have been trying to decide whether/where to go with it.

Although my expressed intent was to share all sides of me and what I do, after a couple of posts it seemed to me, I don’t know, a bit directionless. So, as this year is a sabbatical from the Matthew Project, and all about travelling and developing that side of my photography, that’s where I’m going with it.

In particular, I am asking the question: can I be a 50-something woman who’s not particularly strong or brave, travelling around largely on my own, lugging around camera equipment and suitcases? Or perhaps, what do I need to do this successfully?

To be or not to be.. the greatest choice of all?

No, this isn’t a post about suicide, or even suicidal thoughts. Although in your case it might be. It’s a post inspired by the words of another blogger, , who wrote ‘I would rather bleed from the choices I make then be hurt by what someone choose for  me.’ It’s a post about making choices.

As a humanistic psychotherapist I often see people with anger issues. People  who tell me they can’t control what they say in arguments with loved ones, or lash out verbally at their children and are instantly remorseful. People who tell me about the ‘red mist’ coming down.

There are practical tips all over the webosphere for controlling anger, and these are (mostly) helpful. But my first suggestion to a client is that the next time they are in a situation where they find themselves getting angry, they might try to just notice what’s going on. How they are physically in their body, what’s going through their mind, how they are feeling.

Because by noticing how they are when their anger is triggered, the next time they might notice a bit sooner in the process. And that is key. If I don’t notice I’m angry until I’m exploding, then I’m on autopilot. I’m reacting. If I notice as the anger builds, then I can decide how to act. I am responding. I have a choice.

This is clearly only part of the process of the therapy; finding out together why it happens and what may be underlying the anger is the real work. But that’s another story. Choice is part of the taking back of control in our lives. When we allow others to make choices for us – as we do when we let someone wind us up to the point of explosion – then we are giving up our power. We can’t help feeling emotions like anger, sadness and fear. But we can choose what we do with them.

Have a great weekend.