Just before sunset, baboons climb up the trees to roost, stay warm and get away from predators. Ancient Egyptians thought this was an act of devotion to the sun; that they watched it set and rise again. To protect it and show it affection.
That is how the baboon became the protector of the sun.
I have been living as a baboon, I think, during the past month or so – or more appropriately, a Lobos marinas (sea lion), known simply as Lobos here. How they love the sun! They park themselves on benches, beaches, boats, roadsides, and damn well any place they can point their noses to the sky and roll around in the glazed warmth. And I love the sun too.
But it has become a bad thing, a tacky thing, a dangerous thing to love the sun. The sun burns our skin and makes us uncomfortable with sweat; it makes us thirst, dry up like prunes, crisp like lobsters. It reminds us of fake tan, Brits on package holidays and superficiality. But I found my group of baboons, and we spent every minute we could basking in heat and light. My very self photosynthesised under the baking glow in the sky, my skin turning a deep gold-brown and my hair bleaching more every day. I am unashamedly happier in the sun, and I worship such external, powerful forces of joy.
So it is with sadness that I depart this paradise, and as the sun sets on my time on the Galápagos, I am grateful for the warmth I’ve found – both in the air and in the people around me. The hardest part of travelling is always the goodbyes, but I also know in my heart that bidding farewell is instrumental in pushing my personal boundaries and forcing emotional exploration. Why, after all, do we get so attached to people in such a short space of time? How does that influence me as I continue my onward journey?
I’m glad I spent a month on the Islands on the first leg of my journey. I met a truly wonderful host family who will remain in my heart forever; I learned some basic Spanish from them so I am not totally out of my depth. I spent time in the safest of places preparing for greater challenges on the mainland continent, and made the acquaintance of a group of crazy and brilliant girls with whom I could share happiness, hope and positivity. They represent a bubble of vivacity which has put me at ease.
I have arrived at my Guayaquil hostel internally becalmed and mentally exuberant. I am ready for what comes next.