Monday, June 04, 2007

June 2, 2007 - Isla Isabella, Galapagos

Yesterday we met two guys from the States, James and Joey, who are living on Isabella for a few months, teaching English. We met them at the local swimming hole where we swam with green turtles and some really playful sea lion pups.

The approach to the swimming hole, through the mangroves

Dry dock?
James invited us to join them on a horseback trip to the sulfur volcano today. Although it was a longer trip than the one that we had planned on taking to the black volcano, I let the opportunity to have two translators with us blind me to the fact that I was signing up for 6 hours on horse back and 3 hours of hiking. If I never see another horse it will be too soon.

Our day started with an hour long bus ride (complete with a rooster in the luggage hold) up to Secundo's homestead; our guide was his father's second son, hence his eponymous name.
After he rounded up and saddled some horses, we were off.
Despite the vile beast under me, the trip was amazing. We rode through a variety of ecosystems and along ridgelines as we ascended into the mist surrounding the volcano, which last erupted 2 years ago. When we dismounted and hiked down into the valley, we were confronted with evidence of the fact that the earth is still forming. The wall we hiked down was green with growth, the valley floor was black with the recent lava flow, and the wall opposite us was white, spotted with yellow-green sulfur deposits.

The sulfuric steam was still billowing out of a few craters and there were small holes with crystals forming around their rims that we could pass our hands over and feel the heat of the energy below us. Unreal.
When we first dismounted and during the hike over to the volcano, our clothing was soaked from the ride. After a few minutes in the dry heat of the volcano, we were dry. Filthy, but dry. We had a quick lunch and a short rest at the base of the sulfur volcano, surrounded by giant boulders, before hiking back up the other side of the canyon to the horses.

On the trip back down the mountain, I simply held on for my life as Judas tried to throw me several times. By the third hour, even the beautiful scenery wasn't a distraction.

When we finally returned to Secundo's farm, we recovered (ie, sat around with glazed expressions, wishing we had been smart enough to toss some Advil in our backpacks) as he unsaddled the horses. Eventually, his friend showed up to drive us back to town. After a quick dinner with Joey, we went in search of a water taxi driver to return us to our boat; the anchorage is strewn with barely submerged rocks and it is not recommended to use your own dinghy to get around. After a few false starts, we eventually located a driver at the weekly union meeting/ cock fight.

Our tour yesterday with Oscar and his daughter Cindy was much more sedate. We snorkeled a bit and hiked around the islands near our anchorage where we saw more sea lions, black iguanas, white-tipped reef sharks and penguins.

Pretty much what we looked like at the end of the volcano trip:

Just when you thought he couldn't get any cuter:
We expect to see lots of sharks over the next few months;

but, since we don't plan to do any really cold water cruising, we were excited about this penguin encounter.

We were completely enchanted by Isabella, and wish that we could have stayed longer. But we didn't clear in, so after two packed days, we moved on before the Harbor Master decided that he needed to make our acquaintance.

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