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Galapagos: Isla San Cristobal

I arrived in San Cristobal at about 9:30 am, on the 7:00 am boat out of Santa Cruz.  Thankfully, the ride wasn't as rough as the Isla Isabella boat ride. Still, it wasn't fun, and it was hot inside the boat. I got to town and, using my map, found my hotel, Pension Suiza. It was a little ways up into a neighborhood but still an easy seven minute walk from town. When I found out there was no A/C, I was a little disheartened, but with a strong fan, it turned out to be fine. There’s a kitchen you can use and a refrigerator, which is very nice for leftovers and beers/sodas bought at the convenience store.

After settling in, I went down to the Malecon for lunch, where I had “chicken fajitas” which was a glob of chicken with mayonnaise and a few diced tomatoes wrapped into a cold flour tortilla. It was edible but was $6, plus a $3 iced tea = $9 just for a very basic, boring lunch.

After lunch, I took a taxi to Playa Mann, the best beach near town. There are plenty of shade trees, and the beach itself is pretty. The waves break on shore but you can bob up and down in the swell. 

I went out to the little carts out front and bought a chicken skewer and later a grilled corn on the cob. There’s also a booth selling ice cream, soda, water, and beer.  At the end of the day, I braved the walk back to my hotel which turned out to be only ten minutes away.

That night, I ran into the Swiss couple that were staying next to me at the hotel. They were eating at a rotisserie chicken place. They invited me to join them, and I happily did.  It was nice to have company.  The small chicken plate was $4.50 ($7.00 for the large). The small meal was plenty — chicken thigh and leg, rice, and a bowl of soup. In Loja this same plate was $2.50.

After dinner, I went looking for something to do. I think it's safe to say that Puerto Morena is not a happening town. There is only one bar that I could find, a sushi place on the bottom and a bar on the top. I had the 2 x 1 happy hour ($11 for 2 drinks). Another night here I watched the sunset in the cool breeze at dusk.

The next night I walked down to the left side of the malecon (facing the water) and watched the sea lions come in for the night. Evidently, the babies get separated for their mothers during the day and this is where they try to reunite. They bleat and scream like baby lambs. It’s adorable and pitiful at the same time. Some of the little guys wander around screaming for hours, to no avail. They evidently know their mothers by smell so every time they go up and smell an adult, if it’s not their mother, the adult barks and growls at them. It was really a cool sight, and it makes you realize that Darwin's “survival of the fittest” research was born here.

At one point, a baby sea lion came up to a lady, looking up at her like a puppy. Then he laid his little head down on her sandal. A local woman came up and scolded her for letting the baby get close to her. If a mother sea lion smells a human on her baby, she may reject the baby, so this was a big no-no. 

Here's a nice pic at night:

The next day I went to the Interpretation Center across the way from Playa Mann. It's very good. I didn't complete the whole thing because it was so hot and I didn't want to walk in the sun along the outdoor trail. Inside the main building, there are informative kiosks in English and Spanish on the history of the Galapagos which is very interesting and somewhat sad. The Spanish conquistadors were not … how you say … environmentally friendly.

Evidently, San Cristobal this is THE place to surf in the Galapagos. Playa Carola (very rocky) and alternately to Playa Lobos are two popular spots. My hotel neighbors were up early every morning to catch the cool waves.

On my second to last day, I booked a tour to Kicker Rock (or Leon Dormido).  I booked my trip with Chalo Tours, as recommended by Lonely Planet and also by a local tour guide I was talking to.  It’s $100 for the day.  

It's supposed to look like a sleeping lion (Leon Dormido) or a shoe (Kicker Rock)

It took about an hour by boat to reach Kicker Rock.  Unfortunately, the visibility was not very good that day.  On good days, people see hammerhead sharks, white tipped reef sharks, and rays.  Some divers told me that one day the snorkelers saw a 3 meter wide manta ray — gigantic!  

We jumped off the boat into the deep water.  We snorkeled along a vertical cliff that goes down about 30 feet to the bottom.  I loved looking at the cliff wall and watching myself being lifted up about 10 feet, then down by 10 feet, along with all the fish.  I felt like part of the school and as an extension, part of the sea.  It was really cool!  

Personally I had one of those day-late-and-dollar-short days.  I missed a 6-foot long white tipped reef shark that was 10 feet in front of us, but I did see her 1/2 meter long baby about three feet below me and to the left.  The other thing that I missed were three Eagle rays.  My head had been in the water when they shouted "rays!" so I didn’t hear them.  I was very mad, especially about missing the big shark.  I've always wanted to see one close-up in the water.

After staying on one side of the rock, we went around to the other, rougher, side.  We snorkeled through the channel with a huge swell propelling us forward.  There was no need to kick, as we were moving 5 miles an hour by just laying there ontop of the water. 

 A sea lion came by very slowly, about 6 inches from me, then stopped and looked one at a time at each of us as if thinking, “what the hell are these things in the water?”  Then he took off below.  Two more sea lions came by to check us out.  There was no sense of threat, just pure curiousity.  

On the way back, we stopped at a beach called Manglarito?  It means "little mangrove".  There are three kinds of mangrove trees at this site:  button, red, and white mangroves.  There is very little shade here so I found a mangrove with 3 sea lions sleeping in the middle of it.  They had no problem sharing the tree with me.  I laid down my sarong about 3 feet to the left of them.  Soon a lizard sat on a rock near my feet, and two yellow Darwin finches landed on nearby branches.  I felt like Mother Nature.  

Then we returned to town.  

That night I had lobster at Bamboo. It was $20.  They put it on the grill and charred it. When I asked for garlic butter, they brought me cold garlic butter. I asked if they could warm it up and they looked at me like I was crazy but they did it anyway. It was excellent.

I liked this island.  It was sleepy but beautiful.  A great place to disconnect and relax.


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