The Galapagos actually has quite a dark history that not many people are aware of. The islands obtained national park status in 1959, but before that they were used for all kinds of purposes. The island of Isabela was used as a penal colony from 1945 until 1959 – and conditions were terrible there – the prisoners were made to build a giant wall – working in the blistering heat all day. The wall had no purpose – it was in the middle of nowhere – and was constructed just so that they would be doing something all day.
Thousands of prisoners died whilst building this 25 metre high wall, and the wall remains standing to this day as a monument to the suffering of the prisoners. It is known as the ‘wall of tears‘ because it supposedly emits the eerie cries of the prisoners….
It’s located around 6km from town, and is one of the sites that can be visited without a guide. It’s inside a national park area, and there are quite a few detours that can be made on the way – to lagoons, mangroves and viewpoints. At the wall itself there is a small trail around the wall and up to a viewpoint.
Most people who don’t go as part of a tour rent bikes – but we like to do things the slow way 🙂 – so we decided to walk. We figured that it was a 12km return journey, plus around 8km of trails and detours – so around 20km in total. We took lunch with us and decided to do most of the detours on the way back – that way if we got too hot and tired we could skip them and do them another day.
The first part of the walk is outside the national park, and follows a sandy track alongside the beach. It was pretty much deserted.
After a couple of kilometres we arrived at the park entrance – where there is a handy sign showing all the detours that you can take along the way.
The road there was very scenic, and we decided that if the detour was really short then we would stop as we went along – but we would still save the long detours for the way back.
We had heard that tortoises were often spotted along the trail – so we were keeping our eyes peeled! After a while we came across a sign telling people not to touch the tortoises – so we knew that there must be some around somewhere!
The trail was mostly flat until towards the end, where it started a gradual uphill ascent and small hills started to appear – one of them was Cerro Orchilla, which had a trail to a lookout point at the top. We decided to leave this one until the way back! 🙂
Finally we arrived at our destination – the wall of tears. The wall itself was large and impressive. There was information about how and why it was constructed, and a memorial plaque to the prisoners that had died building it. To us it did kind of have a slightly eerie feel to it….
Starting from the wall of tears there is a trail that heads steeply up to a viewpoint overlooking the whole area. So of course, off we went!
There was a lovely cool breeze at the top, and we hung around up there for about half an hour taking in the view – feeling satisfied with ourselves 🙂 because the people from the tour group that appeared up there, only had 10 minutes and then they had to go back down…
After we left the mirador, we started making our way back along the road to town – with the first detour being the trip up to the top of Cerro Orchilla.
Most of the detours on the way back were pretty average – but one of them – Playa del Amor had a nice surprise for us! 🙂
Now Playa del Amor looked pretty scenic – but the really cool thing was that we found a load of blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas all hanging out together on the rocks 🙂 Yes, we took lots of pictures of them and hung around for ages… 🙂
After the excitement of Playa del Amor, the rest of the detours were a bit lacking in wildlife for us.
By the time we arrived back in town it was getting on for 4pm – we were fairly exhausted but it had been a GREAT day out.