Saturday, February 20, 2016

Land ho Galápagos

After our 4 nights on the boat, we were looking forward to a night in a nice hotel in the main town of the Galápagos archipelago, Puerto Ayora.
The first order of business on dry land was a double espresso. The coffee on the boat was the worst coffee we had ever had. I am Not exaggerating one bean. 
Best coffee in a week!
  The official end to our trip was for our guide Alfonzo to take us through the Charles Darwin Research Center. What we didn't know when we booked the tour was the the center is under major reconstruction so there are only four things to see.  1. Galápagos land tortoises
Galápagos land tortoise, so named for the likeness of their shell to a Spanish riding saddle.
The shell has a high area for the tortoise's neck because they have to reach high to find food.
  2. Galápagos iguanas 
There were three Galápagos iguanas in separate cages right next to each other. They keep them separated to promote the mating colors for the tourists. We all thought that was very mean.
  3. Some hybrid tortoises that are infertile but that do it all the time anyway.
Hybrid turtles
Hybrid turtle sex. The eggs produced from this three hour mating session will be destroyed by the biologists at the center because they are not viable, since their parents are hybrids.
 4. Finches
Ground finch, one of the 9 or more species of finches that Charles Darwin observed on his 1835 voyage as a naturalist on the HMS Beagle. The differences in beak shape and food getting behavior led Darwin to begin to think that animals adapt to their environment, instead of being created by God exactly as he saw Them. This thought was the beginning of his theory of evolution that he would publish 15 years later along with Wallace, who had independently developed the same theory.
  After the somewhat lame CDRS, we said goodbye to our shipmates and guide and found our way to La Fortelaza de Haro.  
Our unique, air conditioned room at La Fortelaza de Haro
Tile work on the floor of our room.
Stairs in our room leading to...
The subterranean TV lounge
  After the first shower in 5 days and a dip the glorious pool,  
The perfect pool at La Fortelaza de Haro. Our room is the round one with two windows behind the pool. 
  we met up with shipmates Rae and Marie and shared a cab to El Chato Ranch to see land tortoises in a much more natural setting. 
Ok, so this one isn't natural, but the shell demonstrates the size of some of these turtles. They can weight up to 180 kg.
Turtles like to wallow in the mud to keep parasites off them.
The turtles seemed curious about us.
We haven't seen much of Jean Luc Picard on this trip, but he has been having all the adventure he wants, including encounters with turtles. He wanted to get closer, but the rules say you can only get as close as 6.3 feet. 
A particularly large turtle.
  For our $3.50 entrance fee we were also allowed access to three lava tubes, one of which went under the small visitor center.   
Entrance to one of the tubes.
In the lava tube
It's a good thing I was wearing my glow in the dark t-shirt.
  As if those lava tubes weren't enough, we want to the Tunnel of Love, the second longest lava tube on South America at 2250 meters (about a mile and a half) long.  You can only walk through 1000m (about 2/3 of a mile), but even that was a very long way in the very dark, very large cavern. 
us and the Danes
Drew and Lucy in the Tunnel of Love
Back to town for a beer and odd pizza
  Because of the rotten sleep on our last night on the boat, we were both exhausted so we napped back at the hotel before walking to the street where all the restaurants set up tables in the street. 
Street dinner in Puerto Ayora.
   For our last island meal we bypassed the whole fish on a plate and opted for "tacos". 
Vegetarian "taco"
  The next morning we enjoyed a good breakfast with a table full of Americans and then I calculated that I had just enough time to walk to Tortuga Bay Beach. I sort of miscalculated, so I ended up jogging a little on my newly operated knee and only getting to swim for 15 minutes,   
Tortuga Bay beach
      But I managed to snap some pictures of the gaggle of marine iguanas on the beach 
Marine iguanas
What is a pile of marine iguanas called?
Swimming marine iguana
I purposely overexposed this picture so I could see the detail of the iguana's skin. 
  And a pair of cool birds I don't think we had seen before.     
They had long red beaks
    From there, it was back to the hotel to clean up quickly for our ride to the airport with a quick 15 minute stop at the Twin Craters  
Volcanic craters on Santa Cruz island
  Next stop, Cotopaxi.  

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