Visiting Isla Isabela in the Galápagos Archipelago

Volcano Trip On Horseback (continued)

A candelabra cactus growing on the volcanic rubble. The brown volcanic rocks are older than the black volcanic rocks, so plants have had more time to establish themselves on the brown rocks.   The dry husk of a dead candelabra cactus.

Richar, our guide, discussing the endemic species found on the volcano.   Volcanic cinder cones littering the landscape.

We observed two distinct types of lava while walking around the hilly and uneven volcanic terrain. The most prevalent type was a'a lava (pronounced ah-ah), which is a Hawaiian term for very coarse, rough, angular lava. This type of lava is so uneven and sharp it is difficult to walk across. There was one prominent a'a lava field on the side of a sloping volcano cone where it was easy to see how the lava flowed downhill and around curves. The other type of lava was pahoehoe, which flowed smoothly and looks ropy or even like blobs of mud. The lava came in two basic color ranges. Basic black lava was from the most recent eruption and was about 25 years old. Brownish or reddish-brown lava was about 50 years old, and in that time some of the iron minerals have had time to oxidize and produce other colors besides black.

We walked around the stark hummocky moonscape in the pouring rain, but unfortunately due to the rain, I only took a few pictures. At one point, we walked past a vent and you could feel hot air coming out of the toaster-sized hole in the ground. At another location, we walked around the rim of a steaming fumarole and could look down into the deep house-sized hole. Despite the inhospitable environment, there were rich green ferns growing on the inner wall of the fumarole. The constant steam provides a steady source of moisture for the ferns. Around another automobile-sized pit in the ground, we saw multicolored deposits of sulfur, ranging from brown and yellow to red and white. The whole landscape was surreal and otherworldly. Although the volcano is now dormant, it was abundantly clear that the volcano had been very active in the recent past. The whole area must have been an image of hell back then, with red-hot rocks, spattering and flowing lava, smoke and flames, and incendiary heat. And a mere 25-years later, adults and children are scampering about in the pouring rain, taking it all in. Back then, we would have been incinerated in seconds had we dared set foot on the site.

The whole time we were there, we were guided and instructed by Richar, who followed discreet white paint marks and occasional wooden stakes. Unlike American parks, there were no fences or warning signs. You could get as close as you wanted to the edge of the huge, deep, steaming fumarole, and you could even fall in unless you were constantly careful. The little boy who belonged to the other cruisers was a little troublesome because he didn't pay attention to frequent verbal warnings.

An example of pahoehoe lava; it looks like blobs of mud.   Looking up at an overhanging volcanic cliff. As you can see it's now pouring rain; I wasn't able to take many more pictures.

A large steaming fumarole with ferns growing inside. The ferns are supported by the constant moisture from the steam.  

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