It had been a long, interesting road up to this point—not just the trip, but life in itself. Six people standing on a roof drinking a beer overlooking not only the most exotic place they have visited in their lives, but possibly one of the most exotic places in the world. It felt like we had been drugged. The light looked different, the trees looked different. Strange beetles swarmed around us, and strange birds cawed as they circled us, landing too close for comfort and looking at us like we were the strangers. It sounded like a million dogs were barking in the background.
Words & Photos by Sam McGuire
We were on San Cristobal Island, one of the many islands that compromise the Galapagos archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. It's world-renowned for the beautiful landscape and exotic animals who have miraculously not developed a fear of humans, and now, well, us—six skaters holding beers standing on a beach completely surrounded by sea lions barking at us in curiosity.
It was 1831 when Charles Darwin set off on a five-year voyage that he encountered the Galapagos Islands. Previously, back in his home of England, Darwin studied medicine, then theology, neither of which he enjoyed, so he took off on his legendary journey where he encountered the Galapagos and the fascinating wildlife there. Curious as to how this tiny island had become so diverse with animals from around the globe, Darwin honed possibly one of the greatest scientific theories in history: the Theory of Natural Selection.
The Galapagos being an Ecuadorian island, you can only fly to it from Ecuador—go to Quito, head to Guayaquil, and then on to the Galapagos. Willy Akers, Rob Gonyon, Silvester Eduardo, friend of 5Boro Vladik Scholz, and I all had sort of rough flights flying into Quito. The capital of Ecuador is also the highest capital altitude-wise in the world. Breathing is no easy task in Quito, towering at 9,350 feet. It has some of the best spots, thanks to Rob Tula and the Dale Skateboards crew, and the most scenic views, but some of the hardest spots to skate because one or two tries in and you get to be too winded to try again. But I highly recommend this city—great spots and dramatic views all around.
In contrast, we flew into Guayaquil, and while the thick air was relieving, it was extremely hot, extremely crowded, fast paced, and extremely dangerous. We struggled to find some good spots for the first few days, and getting around was a bit exhausting until we got help from local skater/filmer/photograher Greko Mejia. He told us to meet up at a park, so we took a cab there and the driver refused to leave us there alone and said he would stay with us all day for very cheap. A private driver and the best tour guide made the last two days in Guayaquil really good.
As good as Quito and Guayaquil were, everyone was chomping at the bit to get to the Galapagos. We'd all been reading up on it—the animals, the places to see, the things to experience—but nothing had prepared us for what we stumbled upon. The first thing you notice is sea lions everywhere: in the street, on a bus bench, sleeping under a car—they are basically like dogs on Galapagos, waddling around and barking at everything. Then birds. Birds like you have never seen in your life flying around, landing right next to you, and staring at you as if you were something they had never seen in their life. Black crabs, crazy scorpions—it was overwhelming, to be honest. One of the days we went snorkeling, and while we were chasing wild giant turtles, massive birds dived into the water after exotic fish we had never seen before. It was beautiful wildlife chaos; we existed in their world, not them in ours.
We had no idea if there would be anything to skate on the island, but, I suppose much like Darwin, we were all fascinated enough with this place that we felt it was worth the risk. Admittedly, I would say our findings weren't as culturally impactful as his, but it still evolved into one hell of a trip.