Monday, January 07, 2013

Santa Cruz Island and Pit Craters

Santa Cruz Island 

Charles Darwin Foundation
6:00 Luggage ready
6:15 Breakfast
7:00 Dry landing – walking shoes, Super Diego Turtle, Breeding Center
8:15 Transfer out
11:30 Back on board
12:00 lunch

Pit Craters
2:00 Dry landing – closed shoes, rain jacket
5:30 Back on board
6:15 Dinner and briefing

Coming into the lounge this morning was a challenge climbing over suitcases and other luggage. Those leaving were instructed to set it there for the crew to put on boats and take it to the mainland. These poor souls have to take a bus across the island, get on to a ferry to take them to Baltra Island and then another shuttle bus from there to the airport. They will still be with us for the start of our day.

The dinghy took us to the outer entrance of the Darwin Research Center, but we had a long walk in to the exhibition area. What Omar kept repeating is that this is not a zoo, but a breeding center to repopulate species that are losing ground in the wild. Lonesome George, the world’s oldest turtle died last June. He was 150 years old. They did everything they could to get him to mate with turtles very close to his breed and finally it was successful. The breeding was, yet the results were disappointing. One female laid 21 eggs, but none hatched. Another had 15 eggs with no babies and the third attempt was similar with 11 eggs. After George died, his body was shipped to the USA to have his DNA preserved. After the tour on the Darwin Center, we had our good-byes with those leaving us.

A few of us walked into town, the same one as last night where we hoped to get some t-shirts and a good coffee. There were some interesting buildings with modern architecture making the area fun. We walked by the ‘fish market’ where local fisherman clean and sell their fish. There are a number of pelicans, frigates, and sea lions hanging around just waiting for a hand out. We walked just about every tourist area around, before deciding to call it quits after a drink. By now our group had separated, but we did run into the Swiss couple with the Dutch woman in a restaurant. After our drinks, we split up again. Ron and I took a water taxi back to the boat for $1.25 each.

Lunch was the same fish dish as our first day, making Ron suggest that the menu is rotating again. We have not had a single complaint about the food, so it is fine if it is. Though we had lunch at the scheduled time, there are others coming to join us for the last 3 days. The 2 new Polish guys sat with us, replacing the 2 Danish. Omar has gone to the airport to get the next group coming onboard. There seems to be a change of crew or they are here only to help; it is not clear yet.

We have slowly increased in numbers like a child’s bank account. First to join us were 4 Russians, two couples. A short while later, 2 cousins from Poland were added. Last of all, were two women from Australia, causing us to lose our status as the only native speakers, but still are the only male native speakers. They had to have lunch, so our afternoon schedule pushed back.

Taking a bus, we rode for about a half hour before reaching the pit craters. These were two huge holes in the ground, but I find myself distracted by Omar’s English, so I stopped paying too much attention. Two of the Russians missed the bus, so later Omar received a call. We stopped for them after the pit craters. It turned out that Omar had told them in orientation that he would ring the bell to announce our leaving. He never did ring the bell, so they didn’t realize we were gone.

The pit craters were the big hooray of the afternoon, which really would have been a bust had we not passed dozens of giant tortoises in the wild. As an optional side stop, we went to a turtle reserve for $3.00 each, where we were able to walk amongst the turtles, but still not touch them. Their shell is keratin, the same material as our nails and hair. If we should have any nail problems it could be transmitted to the shell giving them a fungus, which eventually could lead to their increased susceptibility to disease. Before leaving the reserve, we had a Galapagos grown coffee. Neither of us could detect anything much different from this as opposed to any other espresso. On the way home we picked up some locals who needed a ride.

Ron was wrong about the menu rotating. Tonight was hamburgers, which we have not had before, but typically there was rice and potatoes again. The cook needs to get accustomed to heavier eaters; we almost ran out of food with the new additions getting to the buffet first.
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