|Tom: After another lecture last night by out onboard UC Berkeley Professor, the wakeup call at 6 AM came fairly quickly. It announced the imminent departure of the Zodiak fleet for a dry landing at Bartolome Island, next to which we’d spent the night at anchor. Those of us with knees in good shape (your humble correspondent not included) did a pre-breakfast hike to the top of the steep rock just on shore. Not a long distance, but a 45 degree angle with 343 steps up (and the same number back down). It’s hardly a surprise that the shore party was tardy getting back on board for breakfast!
Mid-morning we opted for a tour with the glass bottom boat off of some steep cliffs on Bartolome Island. As with all our tours, we had a naturalist guide who identified and explained each type of fish we found. This special boat has seating around the perimeter, and a viewing area in the center where we could peer down into the clear water and see a variety of sea life. It was a bit like having a very, very wide screen TV with a rapidly changing set of animated screen savers. In addition to smaller fish, we saw two different types of sting rays, plus a motionless reef shark, perhaps 5 feet in length. These creatures are nocturnal, and as our guide explained we didn’t need to worry about them in the daytime (!). Two very special creatures passed under our boat in full view: Our grand daughters Calleigh (11) and Jessica (19), who with their Mom were both snorkeling in the same area. As Jessica passed underneath she was upside down, looking up at us, and taking an underwater picture of all the rest of us who were taking pictures of what we were seeing under water -- which for the moment was Jessica.
Stephanie: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has described Bartolome as the island most like the moon, and as I walked up the boardwalk this morning I could see why. Remnants of past volcanoes, called splinter cones, and hardened lava over a landscape of gray sand. Except for small gray bushes a which the locals call gray carpet mats, nothing grows up here. We saw two lava lizards, one ground finch and nothing else.
I expected a steep climb, but it really wasn’t too difficult. There are three sets of stairs, each with boardwalk between them. After a dry landing at the beach we followed a boardwalk that climbs gradually across the sands and lava. After about 200 yards, you come to the first set of stairs - 62 steps. Next more boardwalk, and 158 steps. Then more boardwalk and the final series. I forgot to count this one, but it’s about 80 steps, and this time it’s steep, taking you to the top of Bartolome.
The view from the top is worth the climb. We could see 10 different islands, each with evidences of volcanic activity. Not too far away to the south east I could see Baltra Island, where we’ll be tomorrow to board a plane for Guayaquil. The sight of Baltra was a not-so-gentle reminder that our fabulous tour to the Galapagos has almost come full circle -- and we’re well into the final chapter.