*Written 2010.07.15, published in bulk 2010.07.18*
Ok, the diarrhea medication, along with a seasickness pill kindly donated to me by Tatiana, helped a lot. I feel better now than I’ve felt since leaving the jungle.
Before leaving the Galapagos, we visited two towns, one on the southern side of Santa Cruz Island, and the other on San Cristobal Island. Yesterday evening we visited the Charles Darwin Research Center, located near the town on Santa Cruz Island. (We learned today that Darwin’s explorations did not actually include Santa Cruz Island, and thus find the Center’s location a bit perplexing.) At the Center, we were able to get quite close to some giant tortoises that are kept there, because they have gotten used to humans from being there for so long. Most are kept there for preservation of their species, being used to breed and release young to ensure that their species become repopulated. One that we saw was named “Lonesome George”, or “El Solitario George”, because he is the last of his species–when he dies, his species of giant tortoise will be added to the list of extinct species. They tried breeding him with females of a closely related species, and he did actually mate with them, but they did not manage to produce any offspring. He was pretty far away from the walkway, so we didn’t get to see him up close like some of the others, but at least he wasn’t hiding in the bushes. Also at the Research Center, we saw endemic plants that are being grown to help repopulate the native species (while they try to exterminate the non-native plants that were introduced in the past) and 2 yellow land iguanas. Land iguanas have become much more rare than their marine cousins, such that they are now rarely seen on the islands except for the ones in captivity at the research center. It is thought that both species evolved at some point from the same ancestor. Of all the iguana species in the world, the Galapagos Marine Iguana is the only aquatic member. The land iguanas, however, were much larger in size.
After our tour of the Darwin Center, we were given some free time to visit the gift shop and wander down to the town, where we did some more shopping, got some ice cream, and visited a pier where a local fisherman was feeding some of his catch to the pelicans, which was quite a site. It was then that we learned the true dedication of our staff…. After we finished shopping, we headed back to the pier by the research center at which we’d landed a few hours earlier, arriving exactly 4 minutes after the designated meeting time (6pm). We had both been under the impression that we were supposed to go back to the pier we’d been at earlier… but no one else from our ship was there. In fact, no one else was there at all. Deciding that they couldn’t possibly have all left without us and disappeared in 4 minutes, we decided it was more likely that we’d misheard, and that we were meeting at the pier in town. So we powerwalked the mile back into town and went back to the pier where we’d been watching the pelicans get fed. However, there was no one there, either. From there, we noticed a 3rd pier quite a bit farther down, and started wandering down the road trying to figure out how to get to it. After taking a wrong turn, asking for directions (sort of… I asked for “the boats” due to “pier” not being in my Spanish vocabulary), and staring at a map we found, we heard Tatiana yelling our names from a truck. Apparently after sending everyone else back to the ship, she’d asked her cousin (who lives in that town) to drive her around to look for us, while the ship captain searched for us on foot and the panga drivers came back and waited for us at the dock. As it turns out, that 3rd pier that we couldn’t find was in fact the designated meeting area… when she’d said to go back to the one we’d been at earlier, she’d meant… the one we’d been at that morning, not the one we’d gone to when we returned in the evening… not that that would have helped, since we’d had no idea where we were that morning. Embarrassing.
This morning, we got up a little earlier than normal and went to the top of the boat at 6:45am to watch as the ship circled a giant rock (called the sleeping lion) that was a popular nesting place for birds. We got out the binoculars and watched nasca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds circling the rock or sitting on it. In addition, we got the bonus for getting up there early: we got a few glimpses of a whale that was near the ship!
We then made our final stop before leaving the Islands, which was an Interpretation Center and a small town on San Cristobal Island. At the Interpretation Center, we were able to learn about the geologic history of the islands from Tatiana and to read about human history on the islands on our own. We learned facts such as that the original settlement on Floreana was supposed to be a refuge for prisoners… and it failed, and that there were many other failures in its history of settlement, with governors getting murdered, mysterious disappearances, etc. Apparently we’re really slow readers, however, because when we were about halfway through the exhibit we discovered we were the only ones in there, and left in search of the rest of the group… finding them just as they were leaving the Center. We have no idea what else they’d been doing in the meantime… and we never did finish reading about the human history. We then had about half an hour to wander the town and shop a bit more before being dropped off at the airport… for a flight that not only was the only flight leaving the islands all day, but left 2 hours late and had a layover in Guayaquil before getting to Quito. Therefore, the rest of the day was spent mostly in transit.
Ted’s Top 3 Mentionables from Galapagos:
1. Lots of animals you can walk up to!
2. Boat rocks a lot!
3. Fun! =)
Two positive notes once we got to Quito: we were met but our same guide from before, Paul–he hadn’t known whether he’d be assigned back to us or not–and he recommended to us a great pizza place that we walked to for dinner. We’ve had this great craving for pizza since before we even left for our cruise, due to eating a rather similar cuisine for our first 2 weeks in Ecuador. We generally can’t eat the same type of cuisine for more than 2 meals in a row before we get sick of it. The pizza was fantastic!