Santa Cruz Highlands: Galapagos Day 4

Roosters are up, we’re up! Breakfast was wonderful yet again. They served a corn tortilla with the eggs today. Fierce wanted to ask for syrup so I had him come with me as I tried to request it in broken Spanish. In the end, we found out syrup is “Maple” in Spanish. We learned a new word and received the sweet treat.

I hired a taxi for today’s venture into the highlands. He picked us up from the hotel and drove us to Los Gamelos. These are two HUGE craters formed after lava flowed through the ground below and as it moved passed, the unstable ground above collapsed. We followed trails to see both and they offered beautiful views.

A short while later, we jumped in the taxi again and headed to El Chato Tortoise Reserve. As you get close, tortoises can be seen along side the road! There were so many we didn’t know which window to look out of and at one point the driver stopped so I could get a picture of one crawling along. At the entrance, you order what you would like to eat and drink after the tour and pay the fee. Then a guide shows you where to trade your shoes for rain boots so that no new pests or anything else is introduced to the tortoises’ habitat. This is a private reservation, but the guide very enthusiastically introduced us to Jurassic Park! He pointed out coffee beans and guava fruits that the tortoises eat. One Tortoise had guava all over his mouth from munching on his lunch. We saw two males fighting over territory. Several others were cooling off in their jacuzzi or pond. We saw several eating grass, which is a main part of their diet and can be seen in their feces. Speaking of poo, there was quite a bit around and once I pointed it out to Fierce, he wanted to close our eyes and play “Don’t Step In It.” In the end, it was nice to see the tortoises in a more open range environment. It looked like a grand hotel of the tortugas.

El Chato has a really nice restaurant on the property and we had cheese empanadas, juice and coffee. Fierce munched on some wafer cookies as well. The cookie crumbs attracted the finches to the table and then when I left a bit of my empanada on my plate, a male finch came and stole it right off my plate. Fierce and I looked at each other and busted up laughing. I really didn’t think they would take a whole piece of crust.

After lunch with the finches, one of which Fierce named Owelette for his cousin Gratian, we were off to the lava tunnels also on the property. We took a bit of a trail to the entrance and then headed inside to see a well-lit very large tunnel. The walls are striated and the floors range from rocky to incredibly smooth. They are formed when lava flows through the rock and then when it empties out, the tunnel that is left is gigantic and can be easily walked through. There are no animals or plants, just rocks and some water dripping in here and there. At one point, we had to crawl on our bellies to get through, but otherwise the “ceiling” is very high.

Lava Tunnel #2: Bellavista. It almost felt redundant to do another lava tunnel, but I AM SO GLAD we did!!! At the ticket counter they inform you that the first 200m is lighted and after that you have to use your phone’s flashlight to light your way. Then you take a magically floral trail to the entrance of the tunnel. We walked along taking in the grandness of it all until sure enough it was super rocky and we couldn’t see a dang thing. I let Fierce hold the phone with the light and we got back to watching our steps. Most of it was pretty easy to navigate, but there were a few climbs and that just made it more adventurous. Fierce said we were Minecrafters and chattered on about what kind of sword he using, creepers, villagers………… One thing that really struck me is that in this very natural environment, we were the only two people for 800m. When Fierce wasn’t chatting, it was still, quiet, chilly, earthy, jagged, with just drips of water and our footsteps to echo in the winding cavern. We loved it and when we reached the exit, we high fived!

Back in the taxi, the driver asked us if we wanted to go to the beach. I said sure because I thought it could be a good photo op, but we didn’t have our suits so I didn’t plan on swimming. Plus, the weather had been on and off rainy all day so I told the driver it was probably too cold. He assured me the water was caliente or hot. I was like, ok… Anyways, we arrived at Garrapatero Beach and it was stunning. The black rocks form a bowl shaped bay around turqoise water. Fierce took his shirt off and we waded in to discover that the water truly is warm. It didn’t take long before Fierce was swimming, jumping and playing away and somehow I got roped into the fun jumping waves and telling myself we could use our sweaters as towels later. It was joyful and we were all smiles.

The entire day had been lovely. If you ever get a chance to go the highlands don’t take a tour, go at your own pace and take a “private tour” with a taxi. We ended up starting at 9am and getting back around 4pm so plan on a full day. Enjoy!