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Friday, March 17, 2017: We woke up anchored off the island of San Cristóbal.
Frank and Other Debbie gave us an electrolyte hydrator packet after Debbie's dehydration issue earlier in the week, so we made it last for both of the long hikes we did.
Today, we were headed to Punta Carola and Cerro Tijeretas (Tijeretas Hill), visible from the ship.
See that statue of Darwin in the middle of this photo? Watch for it later in this story.
Around the point is the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galápagos Province.
Martha was our naturalist for the morning. We departed shortly after 8:00 AM.
There's the Punta Carola lighthouse and our ship.
There's the Interpretation Center we would visit later.
We passed sea lions on this dinghy. There were still there later on in the day when we returned.
This is Shipwreck Bay ...
... and here's Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Sea lions were stacked up on the stairs ...
... and sprawled on the rocks on shore.
Here's a mama sea lion and her baby.
Welcome to San Cristóbal, Galápagos!
This is Avenue Charles Darwin ...
... and here's an open air cafe facing the water. Check out those adorable red figures on each table (including a robot).
A block away, we boarded a bus to head to the trails.
Watch the scenery with us.
Here's a little snack bar.
This is brand-new construction.
Here's an elementary school.
By 8:30, we were ready to start.
The first part of our walk was on a rock trail ...
... that changed to a beautiful, flat stone trail.
Conservemos lo nuestro.
There's a glimpse of the water. Did you know that you can walk this trail on Google Maps Street View? It's true, because Debbie did it before the trip.
Here's a Galápagos mockingbird.
We stopped to see this war cannon. 
It was carried out by a ship in the Ecuadorian Navy in 1970. It is hand loaded and was used for military practice at that time.
Here's an orb weaver, one of many we found in the trees surrounding the cannon.
At our next stop, we could see our ship ...
... and the little bay that we saw earlier that morning.
Our next stop featured the statue of Charles Darwin that we had seen from the ship earlier. It seemed like an ideal location to get a photo of Orchy. This marks the original site where he first disembarked in the Galápagos during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle on October 16, 1835.
This platform overlooks the bay we saw earlier.
If there's a platform by the water, there will be sea lions taking advantage of it.
Here's a large ground finch. These things were so hard to photograph, so let's give Debbie a round of applause for taking this photo.
Here's a morning glory and something yellow. Google did not help us identify it, unfortunately.
Here's a Galápagos mockingbird about to have lunch.
Another staircase brought us to another platform.
From here, we could see something in the distance.
What could it be?
It's famous Kicker Rock, also known as Leon Dormido (sleeping lion). We'd be seeing it up close later in the day.
A few minutes later, we reached the highest platform.
This sign told us all about frigatebirds. The great frigatebirds (fregata minor) are marine birds known as "tijeretas" (scissors tail) because of the way they open and close their tail feathers, like a scissors. The name of Tijeretas Hill was given because these birds are abundant here.
In the water below, Tom spotted ...
... a sea turtle. He's got sharp eyes.
On our way back down, we had a nice view of the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
By 9:20, we were heading back down.
Genetics at work, ladies and gentlemen. Clearly these two are father and son.
The paved trail was really a nice alternative to the lava boulders.
There's the interpretation center with a spider in the foreground.
Here's a candelabra cactus ...
... in bloom.
Just as we were told, Darwin's Cotton plants were around and in bloom.
We reached the Centro de Interpretacion San Cristóbal. We started with an explanation of the Galápagos islands and their emergence from the sea more than five million years ago. Since then, the process of formation of Galápagos has not ceased.
Every map of the Galápagos is fascinating, but this one wins.
The glass represents sea level, and you could see through it to see the depths of the sea floor below it.
This display showed us the most famous residents of the islands. We had seen every one except the giant tortoises, but that was coming soon.
Speaking of tortoises, this display showed the main reason their numbers dropped so drastically. In the 17th century, ships started using them for food, and would store them in their hold.
"1929: The Mysteries of Floreana. Death under stange circumstances has made Floreana a mysterious place that still holds unanswered questions. One century after the first colonization, this island once again attracted attention. German emigrants, weary of civilization, were captivated by the fantastic descriptions made by travellers. Several moved to the isolated island and took part in a terrifying episode that brought Galápagos into world view: the mystery of the Baroness." Gentle reader, you should really Google this one. There's also a very interesting documentary on this subject: "The Galápagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden."
Here's the next room of displays.
The top photos show the development of the islands of San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana in 2007 juxtaposed against a photo of the same area from 1959, 1963, 1960, and 1980, respectively.
We had one last stop to make before leaving: ...
... the rest rooms.
Then we headed out to the bus, ...
... and by 10:00, we were on our way again.
Here's a guest house, similar to many we saw. Want to visit the Galápagos? Consider spending a few days in this town.
Next, we had some free time in town, so we got ourselves some refreshments.
There was a table and chairs out in front, so we had a nice little outdoor snack.
We bought two ice cream bars on sticks: taxo and guanabana. Taxo is a small, almost tear shaped fruit from Venezuela, similar to passion fruit. Guanabana was Debbie's new favorite flavor after trying it in Quito the previous weekend. We washed it down with a bottle of limonada.
As we walked down the main street on the shops side, Frank and Other Debbie were sightseeing across the street on the harbor side.
We spent $3 for a blue-footed booby figurine and paid for it with a $5 bill, because Ecuador uses American currency. For change, we received two well-used Sacagawea dollar coins.
We crossed the street to the other side and got a photo of this colorful sign: Galápagos, San Cristóbal.
"Galápagos sea lion. Originally from the northern hemisphere, the Galápagos sea lion is a sub-species of the California sea lion, from which it is differentiated by its smaller size ... (and so on)."
Looking out at Shipwreck Bay.
Hence the name.
So many sea lions.
Here's another mama and her baby. There's a level of neck flexibility that we humans will never achieve.
Look. It's a baby lava heron. It's so little.
Tired of marine iguanas yet? No, we weren't either.
Ditto for Sally Lightfoot crabs.
There is a park along the waterfront, ...
... that is just perfect to sit and do some relaxing ...
... especially if you are a baby sea lion.
This water display showed all the major islands in the chain.
Before heading back to the boat, we stopped in this shop to buy that middle shirt for Debbie.
By 11:00, we were ready to head back to the boat. Note the sea lion on the dinghy.
Speaking of sea lions on dinghies, the one we had seen earlier had gained a few. We wondered how they get up there, and the one in the water promptly demonstrated the technique.
Here's a really nice boat with really nice matching clouds.
Our boat is nicer though.
You know the drill by now: we had fruit juice and pastries when we returned.
Rain was moving in at 11:20.
At noon, we headed out on deck for our traditional noon burgers-and-dogs meal.
Oh, delicious flan, how we love you.
The rain arrived right at noon, but that wasn't a problem, ...
... because we were safe and dry under the umbrella.
Fredy was nice about bringing us an entire bottle refill once he saw how much we love our Diet Coke.
The rain was over in no time and soon we moved to a table where we could watch our approach to Kicker Rock.
There it is, from the most famous angle where you can see the separation between the main rock and the jagged rock.
The boats at the base of it give a sense of scale. This thing is enormous.
Here's another angle. The official name for Kicker Rock is Leon Dormido which means sleeping lion. It doesn't look like a lion to us but maybe we missed the relevant angle.
Here, the rain is hiding the rest of San Cristóbal, making Cerro Brujo (Witch Hill) look like an island.
While we were enjoying the cruise along the island, a group of bottlenose dolphins swam by.
At 3:00, we were near the east end of San Cristóbal at a location called Punta Pitt. When we booked the cruise two years earlier, this wasn't on the itinerary, but about a year later, Celebrity informed us that we had gotten approval to go here.
There was an optional "long steep fitness hike" that we chose not to do. That group went first, and the rest of us left at 4:15 to take a zodiac ride and spend time at a beach.
Punta Pitt is famous as a location where all three types of boobies nest together, so we were off to find them.
Cristina pointed out the different birds we were seeing.
Birds were flying overhead ...
... and sea lions covered the rocks.
This sea lion was having fun playing in the water slide caused by the surf coming in and then running back out.
There were sea lions in the water around us too.
There are some swallow-tail gulls.
We found a blue-footed booby right away, ...
... then Cristina pointed out this red-footed booby. But, hey, it looks just like the blue-footed one, so how can you tell? Because it is nesting in a tree, something that the blue-footed ones never do.
We moved on from that little island to another one (that we'll show you in a minute). There's Punta Pitt on the mainland, where we'd be heading last.
Here are some blue-footed boobies nesting on the rocks of this island ...
... and here are frigatebirds nesting in the branches.
There's a frigatebird flying. They have the best silhouette of any bird in flight.
We drove along the coastline for a few minutes. Here are seven male great frigatebirds.
Eric spotted some birds for Cristina to tell us about.
This photo has a juvenile frigatebird on a nest on the left, an adult male on a nest on the right, and a red-footed booby in the upper right.
The juvenile frigatebird's parent came back ...
... and served him a meal. Yes, that baby's head is completely down his parent's throat. Ewww.
We turned back to the second island we had toured so we could get a better look at the other side of it.
The trees and shrubs were covered with birds.
There are several red-footed boobies in this photo, ...
... including this one. Those feet really are red.
Next, we headed toward the beach at Punta Pitt. Birds were swarming a fishing boat as we passed.
We arrived on the beach, which was deserted.
We grabbed our waterproof camera ...
... and got into the water as quickly as we could.
There were birds nesting on the rocks right next to us.
We snapped a couple dozen photos underwater in case there was anything we were missing, but every single photo was just green except this shot of the back of Tom's legs. That explains why snorkeling wasn't an option on this excursion.
The sun was out now ...
... and the water was the perfect temperature, so we had a great time.
The same waves that made the water visibility low made for great body surfing fun.
Oops! Tom got tossed around a little bit by a wave and scraped up his back. Good thing we always travel with a first aid kit.
After a half-hour of swimming, the group of hikers showed up and joined us on the beach.
Frank and Other Debbie had gone on that hike, so here are two of their photos. This one shows the first island we visited (on the right), the second island we visited (on the left), and the beach where we are two of the tiny dots of people down below.
Frank declared it the best walk of the trip because they had gotten to see nesting blue-footed boobies and their chicks. Aren't they adorable? The older one is most likely going to kill the younger one. Fact.
Anyway, back to our pictures. We couldn't believe that we were playing in the water on a beach in the Galápagos. Truly, this is one of the really great destinations in the world.
We were the last ones in the water and were reluctant to go, because this would be our last opportunity to be in the water.
A little after 6:00, it was time to go, ...
... so we packed up our stuff to leave.
This photo gives an indication of how hard it is to load a boat full of people when the surf is this strong. We never had a problem getting on the boat, because we watched for the boat to pitch forward which made it easy to hop on, but other people really struggled.
There's our magnificent ship. Again.
Of course, we had fruit juice, empanadas, and pastries when we returned.
After showering, we went back up on deck to enjoy a red-footed booby cocktail ...
... and the sky as the sun was getting low.
Off shore, a rain cloud was dousing the ocean but it was lovely where we were.
We snapped a photo of the cutting boards used for Dining Under the Stars, because they are identical to one that we have at home.
Nightly, waiters would bring around hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour, and we always obliged.
We helped ourselves to a second red-footed booby cocktail as well. These hadn't had time for the color to sink to the bottom yet.
At 7:15, Monica came out for the nightly briefing.
By now, the map was looking very familiar and it was amazing to see where we'd been.
The next day, we would be in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. There were two main options, the first of which had to be booked earlier in the week. It involved a full day trip to visit the Darwin station, plant trees, see a folkloric show, then visit tortoises in their natural habitat. For the rest of us who didn't opt for this, we would be going to the tortoise breeding center at Darwin station, followed by free time in town, and lunch on the boat, ...
... then visiting tortoises in their natural habitat at 3:00 PM.
It was time for dinner next ...

... and we had a fun dinner with Margaret from the UK and with another couple whose name we forgot. We each had the surf and turf with gigantic shrimp.

Day 9 >

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