This week in the Galapagos Islands has been action-packed, highlighted by opportunities to capture the story of our Hawaiian delegation interacting and learning from the people and places of these islands.
Today started at 6 AM with getting our media gear prepped and our team documenters out the door. Bryson went with their guide Nicoto to free dive some sites similar to yesterday’s, and I went to scuba at a more remote location about one and a half hours out of Baltra. The additional media content we’ve gathered with crewmembers out in the ocean is a crescendo to an already exciting stay at this amazing place. More sea lions, more sharks, more fish, more, more, and yet more. We returned to the hotel burnt, spent and ready to retire for the evening, though it was barely 4 PM.
But tonight was a time that we set aside to share a meal with our hosts her in the Galapagos. We drove the quick 20 minutes to the highlands to a small farm owned by Scott Henderson and his family. Scott, in his official capacity, assisted us in getting here as he works alongside with our crewmember ʻAulani Wilhelm at Conservation International. But as we learned up at Scott’s place, he also has a bunch of “hobbies.” These range from farming his 40 acres in the highlands, to sustainably harvesting some of the hardwoods on the island, to starting a school here. When I say farming, I really mean attempting to keep the habitat to what it might have been before humans arrived about a century ago, while also supplying food to his family and community. This organic farm blew me away: Scott has 55-gallon drums that are set up for growing basil, lettuce, kale, and the list goes on. The small greenhouses are scattered throughout the landscape: as his hobby grew so it seems did the need for more structures to support Scott’s habit.
The largest crop on the property is coffee. What started off as as few bushes, grew to about 30 acres in cultivation. Tourists and residents alike consume everything Scott can grow here in the islands. The availability of water is really the limiting element. He said that he emptied his reservoir this year and had to truck water onto the property or risk losing the seasons harvest. Nothing is wasted on the property. The pulp, or the fruity part of the coffee, is churned into these huge bins and mixed with other components to be used as fertilizer for the fields. The beans are dried over 5-7 days in a greenhouse where the sun is plentiful and free to use.
It took us some time to get up to the house that Scott and his family have built on the property. Everything from the view of the island, to the feel of the residence was reminded me of home. The slippers and shoes were stacked at the door in a pile big enough to signal a pretty big gathering. The open deck was only separated by a set of screens to hold back the prehistoric bugs of Galapagos from entering the living room and the kitchen area. Speaking of the kitchen, it was booming with activity. There were friends from Santa Cruz cooking up more dishes than I could count. Just like we would be having at a paʻina in Hawaiʻi, our crew pitched in to make a pretty big selection of raw fish dishes. The smells coming from the pots on the gas stove matched the happy chatter of those in full meal production, together, as one group so as to celebrate this short but important time together.
And so as the night bore on, a proliferation of conversations continued through the night across different parts of the property until the all familiar Ua Hiti E rang out by the crew calling everyone everyone together. Nainoa took some time to talk about why we were here with the canoe and how important this stop is on the Worldwide Voyage. He spoke of the effort to voyage her from a world away, to the friends we have made, to the important perspectives of the Galapagos: conservation, resilience and education. It was clear that this was a stop that had changed everyone who participated.
Nainoa’s words of praise were for everyone who aided in getting the canoe to the Galapagos. This effort included one of the most grueling permitting processes on the planet. Protective measures that exist for good reason: the Galapagos has more to lose than to gain if a vessel introduces invasive plants or animals. And so when the National Park director responded to Nainoa, it was clear to all of us that the risk of coming was worth the reward of new connections that will continue to grow in the years to come. He talked about the message of the canoe being an inspiring one for the people in the conservation work here as Hōkūleʻa herself is a story of conservation and success. Conservation of a culture almost lost, conservation of a knowledge set on the brink of extinction, and conservation of a history that binds Polynesia together. While stories of success and hope in this arena are sometimes few and far between, they are also the ones that inspire us to move forward in this work.
I’m not sure who from the crew started singing Hawaiʻi Aloha at the end of all the speeches but it was a moment that I will never forget. The voices of our crew rang out in the darkness together with a slight echo against the great trees behind us; hand-in-hand, we sang with love and aloha for our home, from the sands of our birth. Not everyone knew the words, but these voices resonating as one made it clear of the aloha we share for all the places we call home.
Standing by 72, Naʻalehu Anthony
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