Lava tunnels, fissures and sink holes on Galapagos

 

The main square in Puerto Ayora comes to life in the evenings with people playing volley ball to a lively audience and net surfers congregate with their lap tops to take advantage of the Wi Fi hot spot on the dock.

Boarding a taxi aquatico at the taxi dock in Puerto Ayoro

Getting back on board from the water taxi

Garbage collection in the bay is done by a friendly duo who come by whenever they see any bags left on the deck.

Refuelling is a major enterprise.  The government subsidizes fuel for the locals and has put in place very strict controls to avoid black market selling on to visitors.  Cruisers must obtain a permit to buy the amount of fuel they need.  They then take it to the one fuel supply station on the island along with all their jerry cans.  You present your paper work to the lady in the office upstairs who gives permission for the pumping to go ahead.  The jerry cans are filled and paid for downstairs then the receipt is taken back upstairs where the record is updated.  Guards downstairs ensure that no one breaks the rules for the control of fuel spillage. The filling area "floats" on a raised pan that will catch any errant deisel.

The jerry cans are then loaded into the back of the waiting Toyota Hilux taxi to be brought back to the dock.  From there they are loaded into the dinghy and lifted up onto the boat.  We were loaned jerry cans by GOS and by Jason from “YOLO”.

Fuel from each jerry can then had to be siphoned into the tanks.  Each gallon cost $5 versus the cost to the locals of only $1.  One night an unlit boat approached us asking if we wanted to buy 100 gallons at a price of $3 per gallon.  So even with the tight controls there are still those willing to take the risk.

We made the trek to Las Grietas, which is a volcanic fissure that has filled with a refreshingly cold mixture of fresh and salt water.  The path is a winding trail of volcanic rocks.

The water along the way was described to us by a friend as “Manky”.

Volcanic causeway.

Some of the way is quite arduous.

More manky water

More causeways

Unique flora

Explanation of the formation of Las Grietas

The descent was very steep.

After a rocky shallow section the water depth drops dramatically such that boys could leap from the very top of the rock face.

It was freezing cold and the rocks were slimy

Not easy to get in and out of the water

Refreshing

A beautiful cool place.

Half way along the trail to Las Grietas is a little bar.

With a view of a lake

And unique decor

You can enjoy a drink on a log while watching Mexican telenovelas, complete with Mexican government water conservation campaigns!

When you tire of sitting on a log, you can have a swing.

The return trek

The obligatory Leo strut

Iguana tracks along the beach

Sunset on the bay

There is a paved road across the whole island to the small island of Baltra where the airport is located.  It took two years to pave the roads with all the materials being brought from the mainland.

Bellavista is a small town in the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz

Galapagos taxi.  The same vehicle used by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and even the rear view mirrors have Arabic writing to inform you that things are closer than they appear.

We asked the driver, Hugo to give us a tour of the highlands.

One of the two Gemelos, twin volcanic sink holes.

One of the Gemelos

Looking way down into the sink hole.

The explanation for the sink holes

View from the other side

The trees are very different.

The vegetation in the highlands is totally different to the landscape at sea level

The moss helps the trees retain moisture

The other twin sink hole

The flora includes ferns

Yet more trekking

Yet another view

And even more trekking

Driving past pastoral landscape

Coffee plants

Banana plants

Drew wondered if life carrying your home around might be any easier than sailing your home around.  The islands got their name from the Spanish name for a tortoise shell, which in turn came from the name of a special style of saddle that the shells resemble.

We went to a large lava tunnel that is located on a private farm.  This is their view to Santa Fe and San Cristobal

Descending into a lava tunnel

It was a long way down

A very long way down

For almost the entire way there was more than standing room height.

Matthew at the entrance to the lava tunnel

Matthew wondered why he couldn’t see a thing till he took off his sunglasses!

Seven dwarfs territory

You can clearly see the lava flow on the floor

500 meters later we emerged at the other end

The light at the end of the tunnel

The lush vegetation up above

Another hole just beside the exit.

Looking back down at the exit point

Emerging out of the rabbit hole

The flat roof you can just see above the trees in the centre of the picture is where we entered the lava tunnel and the photo is taken from the exit point 500 meters below it.

Constable landscape with cows

Our taxi driver, Hugo, with the family group

Can you believe this is the same island that has all the cactus trees?

Husky of the property owners coming to greet us

Monet laneway

Tunnel of trees

Chabayu plant used for making hats on the mainland

View point on the top of the island

View over the heart of the island

View of Isla Isabela

Santa Fe Island

Volcanic gravel mine used for construction.

Passion flower

The air smelled of mint and lemon basil from all the plants along the side of the path

There are other animals on the island

A passing cow

Tortoise far away

And up close

Tortoise crossing

Contemplating crossing the road

Tortoise’s head pulled safely out of harm’s way…

As the car slowly rolled by

Nico encounters a tortoise by a watering hole

No apologies for the number of tortoise photos

Tortoise wallowing hole

Contrast this vegetation to that found at sea level and by the sink holes

Lush woodland

Leaves of this tree are the diet of Lonesome George

Description of El Chato Lagoon

El Chato lagoon was so flooded from the recent rains that we could not pass or see any tortoises on its banks

Passion fruit vines

Orange tree

Wild blackberries

The birds are not nervous of humans.  This one hopped all around us in between attempts to dislodge a giant beetle from a tree.

Tortoises make a hissing sound like a steam geyser as they pull their heads in

According to some of the locals, you can calculate a tortoise’s age by the number of ‘petals’ around the outside of the shell. The folk at the Darwin Center were no so sure that this was true.

Isabelle’s hat fell prey to the unyas de gato tree!

Why did the tortoise cross the road?

Sheltering by the coffee vendor in Bella Vista during a torrential down pour.

Sheltering in the pastry shop in Bella Vista enjoying chocolate bread and Inca Cola waiting for the rain to clear.

We are in Ecuador