I always imagined the galapagos as pristine microcosms that contained only sand and funny looking birds. Unbeknownst to me, a few of them are not only inhabited, they have rockin' little tourist towns. During the cruise we had a free night in Puerto Ayora, and I was shocked and delighted to find amidst the hotels, restaurants and tourist shops a swinging night club blaring obnoxious music, and a karaoke bar. From the amoeba to the drunken rendition of I Will Survive, the galapagos sure does show the wonders of evolution.
After our cruise ended we decided to go to Isabela Island. It's the largest of the islands, and missed by most tours because it takes so long to get to the good places. Namely, the places you can see the flightless cormorants. We headed on over in hopes that we could spot this ourselves.
To get to Isabela you take a ferry. In this case, "ferry" means an old speed boat with benches running down both sides. You're crammed in with 16 others and sped across the grey and choppy ocean for two hours. These vessels seem to take pleasure in flying up to the sky and then crashing down with reckless abandon. Let's just say the only good thing about this trip is that I didn't vomit through my nose.
I blame this horrible method of transportation for why Isabela isn't as popular a tourist destination as Santa Cruz. The streets are mostly gravel, there aren't nearly as many tourist shops trying to sell you t-shirts that say "I love boobies", and there isn't one nightclub. Needless to say, I liked it much better.
We spent the first day recovering from our cruise. After 8 days of being herded around, fed on a schedule and always told what to do it took a while to adjust to being self sufficient again. We did manage a short walk that took us by the flamingo lagoon (only one flamingo to be found), all the way to the tortoise breeding centre. There we saw many baby tortoises climbing over each other. They're very cute in a butt-ugly sort of way. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the beach. It looks like a nice sandy place that had lava vomited all over it. (Is anyone else noticing a vomit theme?)
The next day we joined a tour group that was going up the Sierra Negra Volcano. This is allegedly the second largest crater in the world, spanning 10km. After an hour bus ride we were dumped in a muddy field and led up an even muddier path. At several points our guide assured us that the crater was visible to our left. Unfortunately it was cloaked in fog, so we had to take his word on it. After an hour of slurping our way through mud so thick it threaten to suck my shoes of with every step, we were brought to the horses.
Such a collection of beasts I have never seen. They were like the greasers from West Side Story. All attitude and sneers. I'm sure a few of them had flip-up blades stashed under their saddles. Riding them was very much like being on a tilt-a-whirl, but without the giant teacups. They would plod along, then burst ahead suddenly, only to stop and veer to the right, crash into it's neighbour, then sprint ahead again and careen into a tree. We all learned quickly not to attempt to steer, just to hold on tight and crack jokes to ease the tension.
At the end of this mildly terrifying ride we left the horseys behind, and finally got a look at the crater. It looked like the set of Mordar from Return of the King. Miles and miles of barren black lava rock, covered in a creepy mist. I wouldn't have been surprised to see the Eye of Sauron looking around.
We were led through more paths of lava rock to a nice view of the western coast of the island. Nathan sadly pointed out that down there in that bay was where we would be able to see his flightless cormorant. If only we could get there. But we had learned the previous day that it was impossible unless you were a billionaire. So a far off view from atop a volcano was as close as we got.
Yesterday we were up at 5am to take the "ferry" back to Santa Cruz. I prepared myself for this voyage by not eating anything and taking several gravol. It did no good. I was hanging over the back of the boat for another 2 hours, cursing Darwin for ever having come to these damn islands. We were supposed to get on another boat a few hours later to head to San Cristobal, where we'd be flying out of on the 31st. But I said, Enough! No more boats! My delicate constitution can't handle it! So I said goodbye to Angie and Nathan (much braver souls than I), and changed my flight so I can leave from Santa Cruz. We'll meet up at the Guayaquil airport tomorrow.
This gives me a day and a half to loaf around, admire the beaches, and laugh at the sealion that begs at the fisherman's wharf.