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Friday September 28, 2012 – Bartolomé and Santa Cruz Islands
We needed to make an early start, so were in the pangas by 7:45. A dry landing set us down at the bottom of the 386 steps (I counted!) plus several long ramps to climb to the top of the island. This area had its most recent eruption in 1904 but still looks like a moonscape. There are some pioneer plants such as cacti and Galapagos tomatoes but they are very sparse. We could see plenty of collapsed lava tubes and secondary volcano cones. It was very windy and overcast but we still got hot on the climb. It took 50 minutes to get to the top and about 30 to come back down. The pangas took us directly to a sandy beach where we struggled into our wetsuits, fins and snorkels for a swim around Pinnacle Rock. This was the best snorkeling of the whole trip! My favourite was a brilliant blue sea star. We also saw rays, sharks, many colours of sea stars and fish of every hue. Just great!!!! Back to the boat to motor to Santa Cruz Island.

There we had a very long panga trip into the unnamed harbour and into a rather nice mini-bus for a trip into the highlands at an altitude of about 1300’.  The road was good for much of the way.  At first the landscape was dry, but from 600’ upward it became lush and green. The lane into our destinations was very rough. Along the way we saw many crops growing, as well as cows and horses in the fields. Soon we began spotting huge tortoises, and some smaller ones, in the fields. The road was lined with bananas and impatiens and other growth. We walked into fields where tortoises were grazing. It was so muddy we were provided with rubber boots. Besides the tortoises we saw many birds: the female vermillion fly-catcher, yellow warblers, pintail ducks, egrets and many finches. From that sanctuary on a private farm we moved along to a lava tunnel, which was very large and featured small stalactites. At the entrance was a barn owl which was nearly impossible to photograph. The last stop was “Los Gemelos”, 2 sinkholes caused by collapsing lava domes. They were huge, but we couldn’t see the full extent because of the mist. We returned to the harbour, and had quite a long wait for the pangas, since the boat had gone to the other side of Baltra Island to refuel. As always, Luis was waiting with a delicious snack for us. Dinner, bed.


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