Galavanting in the Galapagos

15 Nov

After a six-hour hike up a volcano and onto the rim of the caldera, I can barely muster the energy for this post. But I don’t want to skip anything, so I actually need to start back at 6:30 am yesterday morning – that was when we convened for breakfast, then headed to the airport for our quick flight from San Cristobal Island to Isabela Island, where I’m writing this from now.

Our little group was boarding the plane (a tiny little 8-passenger prop jet from, I’m guessing, the 1960s), and one of the guys asked me if I wanted to be the co-pilot, so of course I said yes. As a tourist, my co-pilot duties involved nothing more than sitting up front beside the pilot and taking photos. I was a bit nervous taking off, because I’d never been in such a tiny plane. And our pilot looked like he was on his maiden voyage. He probably couldn’t even grow a moustache. The kid was young and that didn’t instill much confidence. Regardless, we all crammed ourselves into the plane and he got us off the ground.

We flew above a thick layer of cloud for about 40 minutes before descending on our destination. Mid-flight we flew about 100 feet away from another tiny little plane that was bobbing up and down, surely frightening its passengers. Our flight was smooth in comparison. Landing, however, was kind of scary: from the front seat it looks like you’re going to bury the nose of the plane into the tarmac as you land.

Once we dumped everything at our hotel, we went straight to the water for some amazing snorkeling. We swam alongside lots of giant sea turtles, saw a couple sting rays, and found lots of other colourful treasures on the sea floor. At one point a sea lion was going straight for me under water and all I could do was float there as he swam around and at me. They’re incredibly playful in the water and innocuous for the most part, but they apparently bite too, so you don’t want to get too intimate with them.

Following snorkeling, we went for a walk through some of the incredible lava-rock landscape, checking out all of the iguanas sunning themselves. The males are beginning to change colour into bright oranges and reds in preparation for mating, so it was quite the sight. They look like little godzillas with smiles.

Along our walk, we arrived at a channel of water that contained nearly 100 sharks waiting for the water levels to rise so they could swim out again. About 100 sharks and one lost sea turtle who didn’t seem pleased with his predicament.

After lunch in town, we geared up for a bike ride to the wall of tears, which stands about 10 metres high and was built by prisoners as busy work – it’s stacked lava rocks in the middle of nowhere. The National Park built stairs up the side of the wall and above it, high enough that we could watch the sun set after we arrived there. But sunset equals darkness, so we really had to motor home through hills and sand and some rough terrain. I was unlucky enough to pop a tire about 15 minutes away from our hotel, but after a couple hours of biking, I didn’t mind. As soon as we got back to the hotel, sweaty and tired, I jumped straight in the pool, clothing and all.

This morning we hiked up Sierra Negra, the second largest active volcano in the world. It felt like being on a different planet when we were walking through the vast fields of purely volcanic rock and lava tunnels. And the view: only pictures will do it justice.

Upon returning home post-hike and post-lunch, there was nothing left to do but jump in the ocean then relax in the hotel pool and rooftop jacuzzi. Yes, tough
life here on the Galapagos.

Last night we went to a little beach bar down the road after dinner, but tonight, I’ll be lucky if I can crawl into bed without falling asleep first.

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