Galapagos: Grand, Gorgeous, and Goofy - Part II

Hola everyone,

As you read this, I'm comfortably settled in Guayaquil after almost 5 days without a connection. The time flew by. The galavanting Galapagos Gals continued to live it up on Monday and Tuesday of this week. We visited the Darwin Center early Wednesday morning to see the giant tortoises.

The islands and their inhabitants continue to baffle and amaze us. And there's been plenty of additional goofiness to boot.

We had a choice of early morning activities on Monday-- kayaking or strenuous hike. The hike was in Tagus Cove off Isabela Island--kicked off by a dry landing requiring a medium level of rock climbing skills. The hike was beautiful-- culminating in a vista overlooking the ocean.

On the walk back, we passed Darwin Lake, a salt lake that is significantly saltier than the Dead Sea, and we also saw a land iguana -- relatively rare for this area.  We returned to the Eclipse for breakfast and then left again at 10:00 for deep water snorkeling. Everyone had been assigned a wetsuit but, even so, the water was relatively comfortable. Javier, our guide, made sure everyone was all set and then he proceeded to lead us closer to the cove where we saw (either on the rocks or underwater: the incomparable blue-footed boobies (they're dive bombers with great precision),

sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, beautiful fish and more). Then, we returned to the Eclipse for a traditional Ecuadorian lunch, followed by live dolphin entertainment. There must have been at least two dozen of them swimming alongside the boat. WOW!!

After siesta time, we ventured out on the pangas again -- this time for a dry landing at Fernandina Island, home to several huge colonies of marine iguanas and sea lions by the hundreds. According to our guidebook, the island is "one of the most pristine and dynamic ecosystems in the world. La Cumbre Volcano last erupted in April 2009". We made our way across multiple lava fields to some unbelievable sights.

First off, marine iguanas in huge colonies. Indeed, not 20 steps from our landing. We were greeted by what seemed like thousands of marine iguanas piled on top of one another. We had to tiptoe around them because as one of our guides had said: "You step on or kill one of these creatures, you eat it!?!"  Think it tastes like chicken!?!
We wandered across the lava fields ( catching sight of several other large iguana colonies) and then got to several sea lion colonies. For the most part, they were friendly and indulged us with photo ops but at one point one in our group stepped too close to a male sea lion who indicated his displeasure with a loud bark / roar. We won't do that again.
We hiked  back to the panga, sped back to the yacht, got ready for dinner and called it a day.

On Tuesday morning, we headed to Western Isabela at the foot of Alcedo volcano. This was a strenuous hike with some rock climbing and scrambling  and several land iguana and land turtle sightings.

After a serious rock scramble, we had the opportunity for a swim; it was wonderful. We returned to the yacht for departure information and a fresh tuna ceviche demonstration and tasting. Excellent.  A short siesta (as we had a 14 hour journey to get to Santa Cruz Island and the Charles Darwin Research Station), then out on the panga again -- this time in search of the small Galรกpagos penguins and blue-footed boobies. The ride did not disappoint!

We also saw some masked boobies, sea turtles and the ubiquitous sea lion.

Back to the yacht in time for another dolphin show, then we were beckoned to the Bridge for the ceremonial crossing of the Equator. It was a legitimate crossing (per the captains' multiple controls--including a countdown on the GPS to latitude of 0), but the crew added a large dose of shtick, including a "to the minute" display of an Ecuadorian banner to simulate crossing the line (no line in the ocean anywhere in sight!). 
To celebrate the actual crossing, the captain invited us to a reception afterwards with tasty sushi rolls, teriyaki chicken, and champagne. Why I bothered to eat dinner afterwards is a question for the ages.  

Those departing the yacht had an early wake-up call, followed by a combination of various sea and road vehicles to get us to the Charles Darwin Research Center to view the giant tortoises and learn about the incubation experiments underway there. Lonesome George, the last of his species, died last June, but there were MANY other giant tortoises. It was worth the trip. 

In closing the Galapagos portion of our trip ...

GRAND: scenery, landscapes, the regal giant tortoises, the outcroppings of rocks where the blue-footed boobies hung out

GORGEOUS: the golden land iguanas-- they were really beautiful, the flight patterns of the blue footed boobies, the stately male sea lions, the volcanic landscapes, the flying dolphins right off the deck, the snorkeling sights

GOOFY: the whole " crossing the equator" shtick, the thousands of iguanas when we entered Fernandina Island, our guides' sense of humor-- they were so knowledgeable but some times they resorted to slapstick

Back to Guayaquil-- then Lima to Cusco tomorrow-- Machu Piccchu bright and early Friday morning-- so stay tuned.

Hasta la vista with hugs ,


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