Galapagos Islands Travel Adventures
Gail Howard's Adventures in the Galapagos Islands
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In spite of living on a desolate island for more than 30 years, he was well informed on world events—by short-wave radio. After spending half an hour with Mr. Horneman in his rooms filled with books, we had him pegged as an idealist and a mystic. He seemed to be searching for a meaning to life.

Starved for conversation, during meals he flooded us with questions, asking our opinions about things. From the first day we met, he accompanied us wherever we went. Mr. Horneman had a quaint, gentlemanly charm. I loved the way he would pick a wild rose or hyacinth for us as we walked. He had drawing room manners and Thoreau’s love of nature.

His head was always slightly tilted as if listening for something to happen. He stood tall and walked a long gait with knees turned out; hands on his hips when he relaxed. He wore a hat for protection from the sun. He went bald when he was in Africa because of the sun.

Mr. Horneman no longer worked in the fields. He never liked it and would rather be a student all his life. His jaw had been infected for years causing dizzy spells, so he could no longer bend down. His sentences began with a few erh-erh-erhs. His favorite expression: "Why indeed, I would be most happy to join you."

The highlands had many caves and tunnels formed by volcanic eruptions. The tunnels were long bubbles of lava. Mr. Horneman showed them to us in the manner of a nobleman inviting guests to survey his castle. He brought along his son Sigvart, and Roget, a hired hand, to light our way with lanterns.

Although they had climbed into this particular tunnel many times, never before had they walked all the way to the end. It was decided that today we would keep walking until we reached either a wall or an opening. Roget had to lift us down through the hole because it was steep and filled with big lava boulders.

We were warned not to say a word and to walk carefully because any vibration might cause a landslide. As we walked through the darkness, Roget raised his lantern to show us where a mass of rock had fallen, leaving a black hole in the vaulted ceiling and a heap of debris ahead of us. The walls were smooth and sheer as if plastered. If one leaned against a wall, the weight of an arm could break it.

We stepped cautiously to prevent vibrations from shattering delicate walls, the lanterns swinging incredible glowing patterns across the high vaulted chamber. The scene was a vast natural cathedral, awesome in its immensity, and breathlessly still.

Periodically we whispered to one another, asking if anyone had a headache. A headache meant there was no air and that we had better turn back. No headaches, but we were getting tired, and feeling a bit claustrophobic.

Just as we were about to turn back, we saw a tiny hole of light. When we reached it, Roget deftly lifted us out, as if he were a big crane. We stood blinking in the sunlight. We had been underground for over an hour.

Mr. Horneman brought us to a neighboring farm to meet Alf Kastdalen. At the gate, police dogs barked fiercely. Alf opened the gate. He was a big, blonde Norwegian with penetrating blue eyes. His handshake was long and warm. He probably hadn’t seen a young woman for a long time. We followed him through his formally landscaped garden, to a neat wooden house.

There we met Tanta Lalla Christoffersen, a fragile, pale little woman with white hair bound in a bun. Her sister, Alf’s mother, was a cheery large-boned, husky woman who worked in the fields all day. Alf’s father, Thorvald, was a big man, a bit reserved. His parents came here in 1935 when Alf was a child. Alf’s father had been a carpenter. Both he and his wife wanted to get away from civilization.

Alf knew more about the flora and fauna of this island than anyone living there. Conscientious and quiet, Alf grew up under the watchful eyes of two mothers. His life was his farm and his only distraction was playing host to visiting scientists and corresponding with them.

He now was almost a recluse as far as women were concerned.

Parents on both sides had tried to promote a love affair between Alf and Friedel. When Friedel decided on her own that she was attracted to Alf, they became engaged.

Then Forrest Nelson sailed in on his yacht. A visiting boat was a big event. Word traveled fast that Forrest was from California, unmarried (divorced) and eligible. Friedel jokingly said she was going to swim out to the yacht. Alf threatened that if she swam out to the yacht, their engagement was broken. Friedel swam to the yacht, had a big romance with Forrest and married him. She and Alf had seen each other only twice since then, with just a passing greeting.

Alf spent one month in Guayaquil looking for a wife, but was unsuccessful. Others did find mates there. One Swiss found his wife through a love magazine. Heinie, another Swiss, ordered an Ecuadorian wife from Guayaquil. She arrived as a passenger with us on the Cristobal Carrier. She was young, tall and pretty. Heinie was old, an excellent carpenter with a large house.

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© Copyright 2006-. Gail Howard.

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