Galapagos Islands Travel Adventures
Gail Howard's Adventures in the Galapagos Islands
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We spent two nights at Islas Plazas before heading back to Santa Cruz. Terry and I and Soto Mayor zippered into our sleeping bags fairly early, while Friedel and Eddy put out a line from above the deck for food for the next day. Nearby, Mike and Zouzou’s boat rocked quietly. The two nights that Mike Castro’s boat was harbored near ours, field glasses were being focused on our boat.

Evidently Eddy and Friedel did more than fish while they fished. The day after we returned to Santa Cruz, Castro’s wife, Zouzou, stormed over to Friedel’s house and railed at her for carrying on with Eddy. She gave Friedel a blow-by-blow description of every action she had witnessed through her field glasses. Zouzou never spoke to Eddy again after that.

Small island living turns an entire community into a possessive extended family, with little privacy and lots of time for gossip and minding other peoples’ business.


Friedel led us on a six-mile hike arriba (up in the highlands) to introduce us to her mother and father, Elfriede and Jacob Horneman. After climbing for a couple of hours, we came to a cliff formed of a mass of rocks, a landmark that meant we were two-thirds of the way there. The path became muddier the higher we went.

In Bella Vista village, the mud was knee deep in places. Clapboard houses built on stilts were scattered haphazardly with paths crisscrossing from one house to another. Turkeys, dogs, and pigs wandered aimlessly or slept under the houses.

We turned onto a path strewn with shiny leaves from a forest of avocado trees on either side. The sound of wood chopping grew louder. After three hours of battling the mud, we arrived at the Horneman house. The stilts on the lower level were filled in with cement.

Mrs. Horneman came out to greet us, shook our hands firmly and led us to an outside water faucet to wash off our mud-caked legs. Inside, we met Mr. Horneman, a 71-year-old Norwegian with a thick white beard. A tight, wool knit cap was cocked over one ear.

Jacob Horneman was one of the first settlers to arrive in the Galapagos in 1926. He was a mining engineer and geologist in the Chilean desert before he settled in Santa Cruz. After two failed marriages, he went to Europe to find a wife. In London, his landlady at the rooming house told him about an adventurous single woman who was in the city on vacation from Germany. She was secretary to a newspaper editor in Frankfurt.

They were introduced.

The first time they met, Mr. Horneman asked her directly, “Would you like to go to the Galapagos?”

She answered, just as directly, “Yes, I would like that.”

The second time they met, she consented to marry him.

In 1938, Horneman returned to Santa Cruz with his third wife, who was 20 years younger than he. Two years later, Friedel was born, and five years after that, their son, Sigvart, was born. Friedel learned Norwegian from her father, German and French from her mother, English from both, and Spanish from her Ecuadorian friends.

The Horneman kitchen was large, European, and cozy. A big wood stove, a wedding gift from friends in Germany, had been taken apart, hauled up from the beach through miles of thick brush, and reassembled arriba.

Views from their windows were beautiful. One could see miles of green over the treetops. On clear days the sea is visible and a couple of other islands. While we were there, it often rained or had a heavy garua mist, which is a cold dripping fog.

On their large farm, the Hornemans grew bananas, pineapple, papaya, beans, carrots, turnips, potatoes, lettuce and coffee. Everything grows fast and wild. “The soil up here is too fertile,” Mrs. Horneman said, “If you drop a coffee bean anywhere, it will quickly grow into a tree.” Growing season is short for most of the food, except for avocados which are available almost year round. They lived on avocados, as we did every meal—in salads, or filled with papaya jam, sugar, or lemon. Their pigs, donkeys, and cats lived on avocados, too.

At every meal, a couple of cats were passed around from lap to lap to pet.

Mr. Horneman, a Victorian-looking gentleman, cultivated and obviously well-educated, invited us upstairs to show us two rooms lined with books and magazines in German, French, Norwegian, Spanish, and English. All of his books were underlined and marked with red and blue pencils.

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© Copyright 2006-. Gail Howard.

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