Friday, June 23rd, Zodiacs, Cows, and Fishing Yachts
After supper at the airport hotel and a good night’s sleep, at last it was time to set off for Galapagos. After landing at the airport, we took a 5 minute ride to the pier.
Our guide Enrique met us there and escorted us into the “zodiac,” a motorized inflated raft, which carried us to the Cachahote, a sailing yacht converted from a fishing boat.
The other 9 people on board were all from England and Australia, and had been having a good old time for the past three days, having started from Baltra, where we would end up. No time was wasted to get us back on shore.
Matthew, as always, being the life of the party, used his cat herding gifts to round up a stray member of the group. A bus took us up into the foggy and rainy hills of San Cristobal Island.
The bumpy ride took us through little villages where dogs lay in the middle of the sometimes paved road, and cows moved aside without a moo. Although sitting in the front of the bus, I wasn’t quick enough to get the whole herd of a dozen or so of these beasties.
Cows are a serious threat to the environment in Ecuador, for the same reasons they are all over the world. Strangely I was the only vegetarian on this part of the trip, and one of the only four vegetarians with the Save the Frogs ecotour group.
First stop: the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado, part of the Galapagos National Park. Because of over harvesting of tortoises in the past for eating and for sport, this newest tortoise breeding and nursery center has been a godsend for preserving the species. The reserve is surrounded by fence, primarily to keep the cows out.
The eggs at a particular temperature favors the hatching of females. Baby tortoises emerge in about four months, and then stay in the dark for an even longer time.
They then are moved to a “training ground” in a larger area and released at 5 years old. The tortoises in the compound are fed two plant species (poisonous to humans) three times a week, otherwise fending for themselves.
Second stop: As usual, on the very LONG and STEEP flights of stairs up Tijeretas Hill, the rest of the group was well ahead of me. However, a tiny and colorful yellow warbler kept me company most of the last part of the climb, hopping in front of me step by step. When a hiker came clambering down, the warbler flew out of the way, and then came back to finish guiding me to the top.
The point of getting up there was hopefully to see one of the few freshwater lakes in the Galapagos, El Junco Lagoon, in the deep basin on the other side of the hill. All we could see was fog. Nevertheless, there were satisfying colors along the way.
Back at the pier, while the rest of the group opted for drinks, Matthew and I drank in the atmosphere of small village at dusk and nightfall.
On the beach, a sea lion pup pulled its little self over the rocks until it got to its mom to nurse. A big old gent dragged himself over the sand and was rejected by female after female, until he fell exhausted and flopped on the sand. Finally he got up and managed to get to one last place where a female and another pup reluctantly accepted his company.
Heading back for our boat we found all four benches near the boarding site occupied.
Clearly it was time for us to find our own bunks.