Sunday, January 11, 2015

Living in a natural zoo

The common perception, which is a MISperception, is that although you've paid the money to be here in the Galapagos, this is only the start of the bloodletting.  Many websites and blogs that we had read, informed us that if we wanted to see anything, not only did we have to have the $100 park pass in hand, but we also had to pay for an "official" guide, which of course, would eat up some more pennies.  We've paid the big bucks already to be here, so we're scouting out what we can do without having to pay additionally.

Our walks to the various snorkeling spots had paid off in the form of new marine life spotted, but we were now ready to spread our wings abit and see the rest of the island.  Yesterday, along with another boat that had joined us having also recently arrived from the mainland, and another random traveling couple, we piled into a taxi truck to head north to the La Galapaguera, which was a breeding and protectionist habitat of those wily Galapagos Tortoises.   The money saved was in the form of not going via a tour agency in town, but basically just a random taxi driver that had been living on San Cristobal all his life, therefore he knew a thing or two about those turtles.

First off, we headed to a lake called La Junca, which is a caldera lake, and serves the entire island with fresh water.  As strange as it may seem, this area is almost constantly shrouded in fog, and as such, photos opportunities were limited.  In a burst of silliness, as we all knew we'd be traveling around in a taxi, all 6 of us were shod in flip flops.  The hike up to the lake, had us all slipping and sliding, struggling to keep upright while trekking in the mud and misty grass.  In between banks of fog, we were able to just glimpse the water's edge, but only if you tried to focus on it.  Take your eyes away, and the lake disappeared again.  Apparently, this is fairly typical, even during the dry season.

Off we went to visit the Galapaguera.  In its heyday, there were upwards of 100,000 of these prehistoric-looking beasts lumbering around, but then as is typical, the Europeans arrived, and made off with countless turtle steaks deep in their holds.  Another wave of folks from Guayaquil also decided in the mid-1900s that the oil derived from said turtles, would make an excellent fuel for street lights in their town.  And so the numbers declined further.  I'm not sure who figured out that these guys made for good press, but someone must have seen that people paying over a bunch of years to take photos, might be good publicity for the islands, and for Ecuador in general.  So we bought into the program, and got our requisite pictures. 

Is this my best side.....
Even the tortoise world has conflicts
....or is this?
His knees look like mine feel after a lifetime of snow skiing
Photo evidence - "we were here"
 The Center also has a very successful breeding program - 60% of the eggs now hatch, as opposed to a 20% success rate in the wild.

Babies everywhere - these were 1 month old
After seeing the turtles, we headed off to Puerto Chino, the location of the finest sand on San Cristobal.  It was like talc, and from a high cliff overlooking the water, we saw massive marine turtles swimming, too.

So the grand total of our tour cost us $15/person, and that included a tip for our driver.  Combined with the fact that the day lasted for 6 hours, I'd say that was money well spent.  

Yup, our life in the zoo, and it costs about the same as the one in San Diego!

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