Saturday, June 16, 2007

Friday 15th June

Puerto Ayora
Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands.

0 44.914 S
90 18.417 W

Today was to be an early start as we were doing a “nature tour” of the island. Barry had arranged a mini bus and tour guide for the 6 of us and we were to depart from the center of town at 09.00hrs. We all got in the same water taxi to go ashore, ensuring that we all made it on time! We found our minibus and tour guide and bundled ourselves into the van ready for the day’s discovery tour. Our guide explained that we could only cover part of the island in the time we had but that he would do his best to find as many of the rare birds and animals in their natural habitat as possible. After filling the minibus with fuel we made our way to part of the national park where we embarked on a walking trail which took us past a couple of craters formed by the flow of lava through lava tubes undermining the surface and causing the collapse of the tube roof. The craters were huge and could not be photographed in a way that would show their size unless it was from the air. As we walked along the track we spotted several types of bird that are rare and indigenous to the Galapagos Islands, the one that got the guide most excited was the flightless bird called a rail (? Spelling) of all of us the only person to see it was Barry, the rest of us were too far away from the guide at that moment. The prettiest bird was the Vermillion fly catcher, we saw one male and one female, the male has a beautiful bright red chest, the one we saw obliged us by posing for photos, the female was camera shy! The majority of species we saw were quite dull colours, they were well camouflaged in the dry vegetation that surrounded us. When we got back to the bus our guide suggested that we go to see the lava tube next, a short ride on found us climbing out of the minivan and descending into the bowels of the earth.
The lava tube that we were visiting was immense, steps have been put in place for tourist to access the tube and you can walk all the way through it from one end to the other. We opted not to walk through it but just to see the beginning few yards, it had to be at least 25 – 30 foot high and 20 foot wide at the start, our guide said that they narrow down in a few places to crawl space size – none of us wanted to be crawling along so we stuck to the entrance. To keep it safe for visitors lighting had been installed in the tube and it reminded me of the London underground – if a train had appeared around the corner I wouldn’t have been surprised. The thing that did surprise mw was how dry it was inside the tube, I had expected it too be a lot damper. Once we had finished taking photos and leaning information about the lava tube it was time to go and seek out the giant tortoises. Our route took us through a farm where they apparently migrate to, this backs on to the national park. We made our way into the park and very quickly spotted the first of these huge tortoises, munching its way through the vegetation.
We approached it slowly and quietly and began snapping pictures; it seemed not to be distressed by our presence and carried on eating whilst we got close enough to take comparative size pictures. We left it to finish its meal in peace and walked a short distance further where we found 7 tortoises wallowing in a shallow pool, they do this to rid them selves of bugs and coat their skin in a fine layer of mud to protect themselves from mosquito bites. They stunk! Again we took a heap of photos and then left them to enjoy the peace and quite they thought they had found. We spotted one more tortoise that honked at us before retracting his head into his shell, we then made our way back to the meeting point where we had a drink and toilet stop before heading off to the highest point for a panoramic view of the islands. When we reached the view point we had to climb a further 150 feet to the very top for the view, the steps were steep and rickety with a hand rail that was questionable. Luckily we all made the climb and decent without incident. The viewpoint overlooks almost all of the islands and according to the guide we were very lucky as it is normally cloudy at this time of year and you often can’t see the islands but today was only slightly hazy and we had quite a good view all round, it wasn’t quite clear enough for good photos though but we took some all the same. It was then time to return to town and find some lunch, we had done enough wandering around. We enjoyed lunch together and then split up to do a couple of things. Gerry and I went to buy a new battery for one of our hand held radios and then we stopped at the internet café to check email. Whilst I typed Gerry took off to reload our phone card and buy some duct tape (ours has vanished but no doubt will reappear now we have some new stuff). After we had finished with the internet we had an ice cream and made our way back to the boat for the rest of the evening.



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