Galapagos by Land

Trip Start Sep 08, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Thursday, November 15, 2012

After a series of frustrating events involving lost luggage, a reservation mix up, getting the "South American" runaround, and a three hour wait at the Baltra airport, we finally arrived in Puerto Ayora on the Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos Archipelago. The good news: we were greeted by the very kind lodge staff who brought us lunch almost immediately. Our server even looked a bit like JGL in a tropical shirt... ah-dorable! 

After lunch we headed up to our fancy upgraded room, where a bottle of red and a plate of meat and cheeses were waiting for us along with a well-crafted sorry note. The luggage still hadn't arrived but there was Casiello Del Diablo wine, which was indeed something. 

That night we enjoyed a presentation about the history of the Galapagos. The talk was focused mostly around pirates with Charles Darwin making cameo appearances here and there. It is said that both Daniel Defoe and Herman Melville found inspiration for their characters via the Galapagos area pirates. And apparently Captain Ahab was based on a seafaring cannibal...arghhh. 

The next morning we headed to the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRC) for a really great tour. The CDRC is operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation, an international research and conservation NPO. They're doing loads of great work, check out the links for more detail. 

On our tour we heard the "real" story of how Lonesome George died. Lonesome George was a rock star on the conservation scene and was internationally known (on the microphone) as the spokestortoise for the Galapagos. Unfortunately, like many rocks stars before him, it was drugs that ultimately claimed his life. LG was taken away from us much too early at only 100. The papers said it was "old age" (100 is more like middle age for a tortoise) but the word on the street is that scientists were playing God...again. They fed LG with lots of vitamins which were supposed to help stimulate mating activity but instead stimulated a heart attack. He was the last of the Pinta Island giant tortoise subspecies and a lot of effort was being put into the survival of said subspecies. 

Maybe Lonesome George was just fine not reproducing? Maybe there was too much pressure to get it on with his female cohabiters? Perhaps he was gay? Just throwing that one out there for fun. Wouldn't that have been AWESOME? Maybe it's as simple as a species coming and going, like they have always done since the "Intelligent Designer" drew up the floor plan and built the Galapagos Islands for Charles Darwin to later visit and come up with that theory of his? It's all a mystery really. Without mystery life would be really boring. 

Now Diego is the new sheriff in town and boy has he been busy behind the scenes (he's been making up for LGs lack of progress in the ninos department). From what I gather, Diego is about 130 years old and has 1,000 times more kids than a Boston Irish Catholic family in the 1950s. Impressive! Diego has inherited the thrown since LG's passing and is adjusting to his new responsibilities quite nicely... so nicely that perhaps the God-playing scientists need to lay of his daily multivitamin dose and let nature do it's thing without all that pesky nurturing. 

After our CDRC tour, we drove up into the highlands of Santa Cruz to see Los Gemelos (the "twins" in English). Los Gemelos are two huge collapsed sites of the same giant magma chamber. The site reminded me a bit of some of the caves in Oregon and I smiled thinking about my favorite west coast state. 

Our third stop on the tour was a visit to the tortoise refuge where we could walk among the giants. The tortoises reminded me of theme park animatronics in the way they (very, very slowly) moved about, making strange growling noises (due to the compression of air in their lungs) as they retreated into their huge shells. It was absurdly funny to see how they were randomly spread out in the open areas of the refuge. The easiest trail to follow in the world is one made by a giant tortoise in a patch of three foot high grass. You don't need to practice your "fox walk" when tracking these beasts! 

Fun fact: Giant tortoises were the inspiration for the movie E.T. Apparently, Steven Spielberg got the idea after a visit to the Galapagos. Maybe Lonesome George really went back to the planet Brodo Asogi? For the record, I did a "home planet" and "E.T." search on Google and "Brodo Asogi" was what I found. You really can find ANYTHING on the interwebs. 

We saw a great deal of wonderful and beautiful things during the land portion of our three island tour (I'm not counting the airport island). There was even time for some brief cave exploring which I braved with one of the Aussie couples on the tour. 

While on Isabella Island (the one shaped like a sea horse), we visited Sierra Negra and had an absolutely lovely guide named Sandra (if you go there, ask for her!). She was so inspiring and full of information and... a GIRL! For me this was especially wonderful because woman guides were generally few and far between; this was the first female guide I had during my entire trip (including Peru). She told me she liked "dirt" and I knew we were kindred spirits. We didn't end up doing the entire planned hike, which my climber/hiker self was initially disappointed about, BUT it was still a great day full of lots of learning. We also visited volcanoes and saw tortoises on Floreana but we were given a human history overview of the island as well. We heard the intriguing story of the long standing feud between island's two founding families. We also heard the baroness' tale... more on this in the next post. 

Another point of new learning for me was in the realm of orchids. We were very fortunate to have an orchid expert in our group. I had no idea how cool orchids were. I really enjoyed geeking out and asking questions. I am very thankful to Liz for sharing her interest with me. Other than seeing the above mentioned things, we also saw lava lizards and land iguanas. So much happening on these islands, it's truly incredible! 

Stay tuned for the Galapagos by Sea post... 

Thanks for reading!
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Uncle E on


Glad your home and had a great trip. I am looking forward to your final posts.

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