Murals 17 and 18 in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

One of my earliest adventures was a trip to the Galapagos Islands.  And, after years and years of travel, it still ranks up there as one of my best trips.  Of course, there was that photo in National Geographic.  My small group of explorers traveled to remote places like you'd expect National Geographic photographers to visit.  In fact, there were three Geographic men we met in several locations.  However, I didn't know that in addition to all the animals, they also took photos of us!  Yes, in the centennial issue of National Geographic, January 1988, there we are among a group of sea lions on the beach.  Yep, that's me on page 146 with the blue and white stripped shorts.  It's one of my best claims to fame.  So, it's easy to see why the Galapagos Islands hold a special place in my memories.  And, I wanted to return.

I researched the Charles Darwin Foundation and saw that there was a volunteer program.  I just wasn't sure if I was the kind of volunteer they wanted.  But, I learned a long time ago that it never hurts to ask.  It didn't take long to get the answer either.  I was a fit!  And, I was on my way back to the islands.

The Charles Darwin Foundation has an educational department.  Plans were for me to work with them.  They would help me paint murals on three different islands and I would create illustrations for educational materials they developed.  Everyone was happy.  For the first murals, on the island of Santa Cruz, they wanted murals that depicted living in harmony with nature, conserving water, and recycling.

Although the Galapagos Islands are on the equator, it isn't always hot.  The waters are cooled by the Humboldt current that flows up from Antarctic.  They have hot weather three months of the year.  And, just my luck, I arrived smack in the middle of blistering heat.  The first morning of painting the mural at Escula Galo Plaza Lasso (a local school) was torture.  I'd hoped for a little bit of a break from the broiling sun before 11:00 A.M., but that didn't happen.  At 8:00 AM I was overheating and over-stressing.  One woman from the Darwin Foundation suggested we try later in the day at 4:00 PM.  Hopefully, the worst of the heat would be past then.

She was right too.  Gloriously right!  We worked for two hours in blissful shade.  It was so much easier.  However, to be perfectly honest, it wasn't one hundred percent blissful shade.  Any place with shade in the Galapagos Islands seemed to attract mosquitoes.  This mural was no exception and I have always been a mosquito magnet.  I tried to just endure it, thinking I'd just bring my spray along the next day.  After thirty minutes, I couldn't stand it any more!  I located a pharmacy -- and in my very pathetic Spanish, I let the woman behind the counter know that I needed some mosquito repellent.  Then, finally, during the last hour and a half of painting I had my bliss.

Once you iron out the kinks on day one, the rest of the mural is easy.  We only painted in the afternoon and always had mosquito repellent.  Piece of cake!  -- or, in this case, a mural or two!

Exterior murals don't have a long shelf-life.  Sunshine, weather, and people cause their share of damage over time.  The wall was pristine -- so long ago -- when the two murals were created.  A friend from Australia visited the site a decade later.  The paint faded and the walls were not even close to pristine.  I did appreciate, however, that the graffiti "artists" respected the murals enough to avoid covering them.