Galapagos Part II

Trip Start Apr 14, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2007

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Our next stop from Isabela Island was Isla Santa Cruz, which has the largest human population in all of the Galapagos islands. There are about 15,000 legal residents (so we were told), mainly in the port town of Puerto Ayora. There's a nice community vibe to the place, and every evening the townpeople gather in the square down by the pier for live entertainment and general hanging out. One night we watched the local men and boys play volleyball as the crowd cheered-on their favorites. On another evening there were two hilarious clowns who had the children, and us, laughing our heads off ... even though we didn't understand any of what they were saying.

Our adventures on Santa Cruz were varied and non-stop. We rented a kayak and paddled into a calm bay to experience sea turtles, sting and manta rays, and sharks swimming below us. The seabirds were diverse and plentiful. Frigates, pelicans, and blue-footed boobies flew overhead. That same day we hiked into the dry scrub and found an oasis in the desert called Las Grietas. There we swam in crystal clear blue water, cooling down in the afternoon sun. And later that afternoon we walked to a secluded beach called Tortuga Bay to swim and snorkel with the fish.

On another all day outing we hired a kind hombre de taxi, Jose, to take us into the lush, green highlands where fruit trees and giant bamboo grow side by side. There we visited the National Parklands to walk amidst the giant land tortoise. As with all the Galapagos animals, they have little fear of humans, and we were able to get very closeup views of these gentle creatures. Later Jose took us to walk into and through a huge underground lave tube, where we spotted two short-eared owls, a rare daytime sighting! And finally, towards the end of that same day, we visited another hard to reach beach, Garrapatero, where we had the sandy shoreline all to ourselves.

Further adventures were had on two separate all day boat excursions. The first one was to Isla Plaza, a small spit of rocky land near the coast of Santa Cruz Island. There the sea lion colony is extremely large, and thousands of barking brown lobos de mar  (sea lions) welcomed us ashore. The highlight was the slow moving and friendly giant land iguanas, who unlike their marine iguana cousins, are golden tan, and do not take to the water. They did allow us to approach them as they posed for the camera, cocking their heads in curiosity as we snapped photos ~ how thoughtful! Later we had an opportunity to snorkel and swim with more white-tipped reef sharks, a spotted eel, as well as a myriad of colorful fish.

The following day's adventure was another boat trip, beginning at 6AM ~ to Isla Bartolome. This island was rather far off the coast and we motored out for about 2.5 hours until we reached the volcanic rock island that was incredibly scenic. We climbed to a vista point at the top of the island crater, and  looked down onto the azure sea and two stunning beaches below separated by a sandy stretch of dunes and scrub. Then it was down to the beaches for snorkeling and more close encounters with the local crtitters. We were fortunate to get to swim with a small group of cute little penguins, who didn't seem to mind our presence in the least. They frolicked and caught fish as we snapped many underwater pics with one of those cheapie waterproof cameras. Hopefully a few of these photos will turn out once we have a chance to develop them back home.

We've also had the chance to meet many kind new friends, both fellow travelers as well as a few local amigos. On several occasions we've run into the same fun peole on all of the islands we've visited thus far. Our local friends are mainly service people like, Benecio, and his primo (cousin) Diego, both of whom are waiters at different restaurants we frequented. So far we've had nothing but positive experiences with the Galapagoans, as they are all very helpful, even if they don't speak much, if any, English.

Yesterday we took a ferry boat to the island of Baltra, where we hopped aboard a tiny propeller plane and then flew over to our final Galapagos island destination, San Cristobol. The only town here is a quaint and quiet fishing village, and we have a lovely hotel room overlooking the green-blue bay. Here too there are hundreds of belching and barking sea lions, lazing on the sandy beaches and swimming in the sea all around. There are some world-class surfing waves here, but with no amigos to hit the olas grande (big waves) with, we've only been observing the surfers ripping up the breakers from the beach.  It's mostly the wildlife that gets all the attention and deservedly so, but there are many secluded and lovely beaches here in the Galapagos too. Yesterday we went to one such spot, a crescent shaped sandy bay were we watched the sea lions play, and the waveriders at Punta Carola dropping into the point break surf - as the sun set into the western sky. There is certainly little time to rest and relax though, and it's been go, go Galapagos since we arrived. Maybe tomorrow we'll have a little down time to lounge like the iguanas at our hotel pool.

Amigos, don't forget to scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the "table of contents," and to read the other stories that we've posted - Adios!
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