So it was day 8 of the northwest trip through the Galapagos and it was time to say goodbye to Luten, Peter, James, Nancy and Steve, Jolene and Geert, Shelley and Phil and Penny. I was the only person continuing on for another 8 days following the southeastern route.
Quite frankly, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of shipmates. Each and everyone was funny, self deprecating and well traveled. It had been an absolute joy to travel with these folks. And as long as I live, I will always think of James when the salad bowl comes around. I have never seen anyone love veggies more than James.
By 6:45 a.m., all of my shipmates were in the zodiacs and headed to shore for a trip to the highlands. I stayed on the ship until 9:00 a.m. and then had the wonderful Arnie take me in the zodiac to shore, where I spent the morning exploring the little town of Puerto Ayora. (And yay …. I found ornaments for my peeps back home!)
Around 11:30, I found a restaurant for a quick lunch of a shrimp quesadilla (fantastic) and two pisco sours. And as I was sitting there, who should walk by but Peter from the Netherlands. He was planning on spending some additional time on the islands and was headed to Isabella. We chatted for a bit and then we said our goodbyes. Peter is one hilarious dude, and I will definitely miss his very funny quips.
After lunch I wandered down the street and found a park bench to sit on while I waited for my taxi driver to take me to the “Highlands” where I would meet up with the next group I would be travelling with to the southeast islands as well as a visit the El Chato2 Ranch, which is home to the giant tortoises. And as I walked towards the bench, who did I run into but Jolene and Geert, who were on their way to San Cristobol for a couple days before heading to Columbia. I spent the next 20 minutes chatting with them before my taxi arrived to take me north. We said our goodbyes again and before I knew it, we were on the road to the Highlands.
The trip was only about 25 minutes, but the change in elevation was about 1,800 feet and the clear blue skies in Puerto Ayora gave way to clouds. We soon reached the turnoff to the ranch and it was not long before I was spotting giant tortoises roaming about the grassy hillside and even trying to cross the road. In fact, I saw numerous signs warning of tortoise crossings, which is very wise given the number of tortoises we saw including one gigantic tortoise who decided the side of the road was the best place to copulate. And interesting factoid Harry told me. Tortoises only make a sound in two circumstances: first when they are releasing air from their lungs and second when they are having sex. And this big fella was certainly making a lot of noise.
Anyway, when I reached the ranch, I had to wait about a half hour before Harry and the new group arrived. When they did arrive, I was introduced to the folks who consisted of Karim and Manal from New York by way of Lebanon (a country I desperately want to visit) and an extended family consisting of Guillermo, Lisset and their absolutely adorable 9 year old son Thomas (pronounced Toe mas in Spanish) from Quito, and Luis (cousin of Lisset), Victoria (or Vicky) and their two daughters Paris and Alexis (Lexie) and family friend Erica (who was supposed to room with Vicky’s sister, but ended up not being able to travel because of a Covid positive test) all from Nashville. First impression? Lovely peeps.
Anyway, before doing a walking tour of the ranch to see the giant tortoises, we had lunch. Unfortunately, I was still full from my fabulous shrimp quesadilla so only had the vegetable soup and some fruit.
After lunch, we wandered around the ranch taking in a number of tortoises in a variety of sizes. Another interesting factoid from Harry. The more rings on a tortoises shell, the younger it is. The reason being that over the years the rings wear down as a result of being in the elements so while the rings on a younger, smaller tortoise are more pronounced, the rings on the larger, older, larger tortoises are much more faint.
At one point, we also descended underground to visit one of two lava tunnels at the ranch. It was quite slick inside the tunnel and quite frankly a little claustrophobic so I was happy when we climbed back up to the great outdoors.
Anyway, after the visit to the ranch, we boarded our minibus, which took us back to Puerto Ayora and the waiting Samba. Tonight we leave for Floreana, which I had visited during the northwest route, but this visit will take us to a different part of the island for some hiking and snorkeling. And from Floreana we will head east to islands I have not yet seen.