We were securely tucked away for the evening, the Captain’s soft breathing lulling me off to sleep, when I heard a scuffling noise at the back of the boat. Ready to fend off any intruders, I jumped to my feet and stuck my head out of the hatch. There I was face to face with the cheeky delinquent. A black whiskered face stared at me briefly before absconding back into the depths. Finding that his chosen evening restful place, our bathing platform, wasn’t as peaceful as he contemplated, this local sea lion departed as quickly as he arrived. I’m sure he blew me a kiss though as he jumped off. Such sweet faces. Other visitors to the boat have included pelicans, ill-fated flying fish and squid and luckier birds of varying kinds.
Galapagos truly is an animal lovers haven. You almost feel guilty for being human here. Many of the giant turtles were captured for their meat for long sea journeys in the past. Today, there are several farms to protect them where they roam and live freely at a very slow pace. The Charles Darwin Research Centre is close to town where turtles of varying levels of maturity are kept in enclosures until they are released into the wild in an effort to ensure the species’ continuation.
We only saw one in the wild and that was as we went on a mountain bike ride up into the hills. He was on the side of the road and rapidly sojourned to the protection of his shell as we passed by. I never knew they could move so quickly.
On our bike tour we visited some local lava tunnels. Lily, the owner of the property where they lie took wonderful care of us while we were there. The main tunnel itself was about 600m in length. Aimed with a fading LED torch, we ventured down into the cavern. The geological explanation given to us about the tunnels was that the outside lava is hardened by the air and perhaps rain but the internal lava continues to flow thus leaving it empty like a tube. There were fascinating rock formations along the way, as well as, to our relief, some electrical lights. After some fussing from Lily we continued on our way.
We ventured up a long dirt road to Media Luna, ‘Half Moon’, a crater from an inactive volcano. The vegetation became peculiar to cloud forests and the rain began to drizzle down. We wandered up the hill, that definitely looked like a half moon, to view the crater but all we saw was cloud. We sat and ate a picnic lunch and enjoyed the cool air. Thomas was looking forward to the downhill ride and promised me he’d stop every kilometre or so to wait for me. He zoomed off and I was surprised with how fast I went. I told him I was just going to be taking it easy. The back brakes on my hired bike had to be squeezed extremely hard. As I came down a steep part I spotted a huge bump and planned on squeezing hard on the back brake but I squeezed both brakes with vengeance. That’s when I kissed the road. I didn’t really realise how fast I was going until I saw how quickly the gravel was approaching. Thomas soon returned in response to my yelps. His look was one of shock at all the blood and mud but upon realising that I was still mostly in one piece, he couldn’t resist taking a photo. When we returned to the dock, many people pointed towards the hospital for me to get patched up. But it wasn’t necessary. If anything, I wanted to go back to Lily. She would’ve looked after me. Once back on the boat the task was to wash the mud and blood off. Fourteen black tipped sharks had accumulated under the boat in anticipation. Concerned about a feeding frenzy, my darling Captain bomb dived in to scare them off. It didn’t quite have the hoped effect but it was the sentiment that counted. Anyway, I’m healing well and even a sore rib isn’t shaping up to be too bad. Just feeling a little bit delicate.
Our next tour took us at 27.9kts/hr for two hours on a small fast ferry to the island of Isabella. Currently situated on the ‘hot’ spot of the island group, Isabella is the youngest at only 900 000 years old. Relatively young in terra-forming terms. There are five active volcanoes on Isabella and we ventured to the crater of one large one with the second biggest crater in the world, Sierra Negra, and a small one, Volcano Chico. The hike was a swift 16km and took us across a few different landscapes including along the rim of Sierra Negra and across different lava flows. One turbulent looking flow was of the aa type. I only knew this word from playing scrabble with my mother and sister. Our guide told us that it was a Hawaiian word originating from the locals there running across it and calling out, “Aa, aa,” as it was painful and sharp. Not sure if he was fair dinkum or not.
We took another fast ferry to Los Tunels where the lava arches had met the sea. We had a walk amongst the blue footed boobies and saw many sea lions and penguins. We shared the water snorkelling with laid back giant turtles, a zippy little sea lion, huge parrot fish and white tipped reef sharks. We had to dive down into caves to see the sharks. After our three day stay on Isabella we ventured back to Santa Cruz and Qi on a small fast ferry again.
We met lots of Aussies, Kiwis and other adventurers on our travels. We even met a brain surgeon from South Korea. I’d never met one before so if anyone needs a good brain surgeon, I’ve got his card. m