Sunday, October 18, 2009

Galapagos II of III

Up at at 7 am, breakfast was at 7:30. We were to head out for our volcano adventure at 8:00. We took a van ride for about half an hour, a horse ride for about an hour & 45 minutes, then walked for about an hour. There are apparently 6 different volcanoes including the Volcan Darwin. There is no population at all on the North Side of the Island. The main volcano we encountered was called Volcan Sierra Negra which last erupted in 2005. The cone of the volcano is 7 miles wide (10 k) and at some points we were standing on lava that was 2000 years old. Volcan Chico is supposed to be the most explosive. Apparently when Sierra Negra erupted in 2005 the lava never left the 7 mile wide cone.

We had lunch under a huge spreading tree, watching the various finches begging for crumbs and then walked back to where the horses were tied up. Reluctantly we got back on our horses (everyone was sore; even the young people) and endured the bouncing in the saddle for another hour & 45 minutes until we got back to where the van was. People cheered when we saw the van!

The whole time amongst the lava of the various volcanoes, Javier our guide told us interesting tidbits about the floral & fauna of a lava plain.

We rode back to the hotel, spent half an hour freshening up and then headed out in the van again to the Isla Tintorera. Tintorera is a small island, only 10 minutes away by boat from Isabela Island, but it is completely covered with iguanas, penguins, sea lions, crabs & lots of birds including frigate birds, herons & American Oyster Catchers. We even saw sharks in the water in a designated shark resting area! Two of the young men put on snorkling fins & masks & snorkled for half an hour. At this point we saw 2 sea turtles.

When we arrived back at the hotel we felt it would be a really good idea to go to a bar and have a beer. Walking down the street we ran into a young woman from Vancouver, Canada and took her under our wing and made her part of our group.

That evening the hotel fed us a wonderful dinner of fresh caught tuna and again we went to bed quite early, sleeping the sleep of people who have had a very busy day.

Sunday dawned with us having only a little difficulty getting out of bed. Brian made Shelley promise that if anyone ever asked us if we wanted to go horse back riding ever again that she would remember that the answer was a resounding "No Thank You!"

As the rest of our tour group had left that day, we were on our own to discover what we could. We wandered the town looking for souvenirs and were unable to find much of anything. We then went down to the beach and encountered seals, iguanas & small birds. We eventually found a sign directing us to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. We took a boardwalk through swamps & lagoons and eventually found ourselves admiring huge tortoises, some of them as big as four feet long! At one point we took a picture of two of them that could possibly have been mating. The top tortoise turned to us and emitted a deep hissing growl. We quickly departed.

We were told to bring insect repellent when we came to the Galapagos, but so far we haven´t encountered any bugs to speak of (just a few flies). Our guide Javier advised there were 180 or so different insect species on the island. An interesting fact is that there is only 1 species of bee and thus the Galapagos has hardly any indigenous flowering plants.

We ate lunch at a local restaurant; Brian had chaulefan which is a fried rice dish with shrimp, chicken & pork. Shelley had fried fish. The prices in restaurants in the Galapagos are a bit more expensive than the rest of Ecuador. This is probably to be expected in such a huge tourist centre and of course they have to bring everything in by boat or plane.

Back to our room we went for a sorely needed nap. Later on, we went for a walk on the beach and watched kids playing & swimming off a pier. Sea birds & seals were swimming & playing right along with the kids. It is really neat to see how much the local Islanders are in tune with their environment. It's very laid back and the ocean and beaches are just an extension of their daily lives. Once again we had dinner at our hostel (both breakfast & dinner included in our package deal), went to our room quite early and slept the sleep of righteousness on our king size bed.

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