Isla Santa Cruz - The Galapagos
May 1, 2006
|The flight to The Galapagos landed on Isla Baltra where we had to pay a $100 national park entrance fee upon landing. We then took a 5 minute bus ride to Canal de Itabaca which we crossed on a ferry over to Isla Santa Cruz. Another bus journey of 40 minutes delivered us in the main town called Puerto Ayora. Here we swiftly found a hotel to stay in for the night and wandered around town to find a tour for us to go on. Unfortunately it was May Day and all the reputable places were closed. The only travel agency that was open was Freddie's and we'd been told to avoid them like the plague.
The Galapagos Islands have often been called a "laboratory of evolution" There are very few places in the world where it has been possible to find such a variety of species, both plants and animals that show so many degrees of evolutionary changes in such a restricted area. Oceanic islands can have species that, though related to mainland forms, have evolved in ways that differ from their relatives because of their isolation in a different environment. This is the key factor in island evolution. Charles Darwin was so struck by the life he found on these islands from which he was able to develop his theory of evolution. The Research Station has been named after him and we visited this after lunch.
We walked amongst the adult tortoises in their corrals. We tried to catch a glimpse of Lonesome George, but he was shy the day that we went. Lonesome George is the last tortoise of his kind, he was found on Isla Pinta, and attempts to find him a mate have failed.
Next were the tortoise rearing pens which house batches of young tortoises of different breeds (each island in the Galapagos has a different breed of tortoise) that have been bred at the research centre. When they are fully-grown they will be repatriated to their home islands.
Whilst walking back to our hostel to escape the heat of the sun Paul recognised a familiar face sat having a cuppa in a restaurant. After a quick shall we shan't we discussion Helen went and asked Sir David Attenborough if we could have our photo taken with him. He kindly obliged but refused to take us around the islands on his boat.
As Puerto Ayora is a small town we bumped into the same people throughout the day and met up for dinner in the evening to discuss the progress of finding a boat to sail on.
The following day we visited a couple of travel agencies looking for a boat that would take us around the Galapagos Islands for a reasonable price. A few boats that we looked at didn't have a very good itinerary, they only visited 3 of the islands but just before lunch we had success in finding a boat. The trip was to last 8 days and the itinerary took us to islands that we wished to go to, it did include a day and half at Puerto Ayora, which is where we were at the moment, but that didn't matter.
As the trip didn't leave until Friday we had a couple of days to enjoy on Isla Santa Cruz.
We walked to what is supposed to be the nicest beach in the Galapagos, Tortuga Bay. It was a 45 minute walk to the beach and when we got there we only shared the first beach with a couple of marine iguanas. It isn't recommended to swim in the waters of the first beach, as the currents are strong so we continued to the second, more secluded beach were we found a couple more people.
Whilst taking a dip in the still waters we saw baby white tipped reef sharks that are harmless, still we didn't stay in the water for long before getting to work on our tans. We may have mis-judged the power of the sun at the equator as we both were considerably sunburnt by the time we left the beach.
To give our skin chance to recover we spent the final day before our trip in the shade and stocking up on factor 50 sun cream and film for the underwater camera.
We travelled back to the airport with 2 Americans, Liz and Adam who were also going to be on our boat. The airport is where we were getting picked up to begin our tour. We were to meet other passengers that were flying in that day; the flight was delayed so we had to wait 3 hours in the airport until we met Paul, our guide.
We then had to travel back to Canal de Itabaca where we expected to board our boat but instead we boarded a bus that took us on a guided tour of Isla Santa Cruz!! It was part of the itinerary; however we were supposed to do it on the 5th day, not the first. We visited the highlands of the island first, here it was slightly cooler than near the sea and because of this it is where the giant land tortoises come. We saw 4 wild tortoises, which let us get really close to them. The tortoises walk a lot faster than you'd expect which is useful as they walk from the highlands down to the beach to lay their eggs. They do this because if they laid their eggs in the cooler temperatures of the highlands they would only produce male tortoises. To produce female tortoises the eggs need to be at a higher temperature.
After lunch Helen felt what it was like to be a tortoise when she climbed into a shell (the shell was empty)!!
We then visited lava tunnels that have been formed during volcanic eruptions. They are created when the top of the lava cools and so forms a crust. The lava beneath the crust continues to flow, generally towards the sea, and so a tunnel is created, large enough to walk inside.
After walking inside a lava tunnel we visited craters in the earth that have formed because lava tunnels have collapsed!! Glad we didn't know this whilst inside the tunnel.
We had dinner in a restaurant in Puerto Ayora and not on the boat, as we all would have liked. We were all worried because we hadn't seen the boat yet - did it exist or had we been sold a duff tour?
As it turned out the boat had recently undergone refurbishment, so recent that they hadn't yet finished!
We finally boarded the boat at 10pm. It smelt of paint and they actually hadn't finished painting its new name on it yet. Instead of reading the Friendship, it only read Friensh. All the furniture, carpets, towels etc were completely new that most still had their labels on. The only downside was that they hadn't got the air conditioning or hot water working yet and we were missing the sun lounger's for the top deck. Another problem was that they hadn't got the second generator working in time for the required inspection. It is a requirement that the boat has two generators before a permit to sail will be issued, so we couldn't sail and spent the night in port.