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Galapagos: Isla Santa Cruz

Las Grietas 
The Galapagos islands are amazing.  It's hard to believe that in the middle of the ocean it can be as hot and humid as it is, what with the ocean breezes and all.  I looked at Accuweather and it was 85 degrees but it sure felt hotter.  The humidity must have been at least 90%.

Once I walked 3 blocks to my hotel, checked in, and got to my hotel room, which was up four flights of stairs, I was dripping with sweat.  I was so happy to have AC, I sat there for about half an hour just to cool down.  While resting, I noticed this classy sign:

I only stay in the best hotel rooms in my travels.  Lol
After cooling down, I went looking for lunch and happy hour and quickly realized how expensive everything is here!  A local beer in a bar is $4.50, a sandwich is $5.99 and a plate of spaghetti, $12.  I know that doesn't sound ridiculous to normal people but after Loja, where lunch costs $2.50 and a 20 oz Pilsner is $1.75 in a restaurant, I was not used to this.  I splurged on a $8 hamburger and a $9 2 X 1 margarita. With service charges, it was $21!!!  I had a mini panic attack while paying, realizing that the food budget I had allocated was way under what it would really cost.  I decided I was going to need to eat a late breakfast so I could skip lunch, skip alcohol, or eat french fries or bread for dinner.

Then I started shopping around for tours.  There are tour agencies ALL OVER THE PLACE.  So many that it's hard to decide which one to walk into.  So I shopped and shopped talked to about four agencies, settled on Isla Isabella, and tried to get the $130 price (which also freaked me out) down by talking to more agencies.  I finally found a place that said they'll give me the trip, with the optional Tintoreras Islands for $115.  Cool.

The next morning I went to the dock to meet the group.  We had to take a water taxi to the actual speedboat, which was to take two hours.  On the speedboat, the first thing our tour guide showed us was the barf bags.  I thought oh, shit.  There were about 50 of them hanging on a ladder, easy access.  Luckily, they weren't needed.  Until the return trip but more on that later.  

The trip was jaw-jarring, crowded, hot, and extremely uncomfortable.  We were probably going 45 mph over huge swells and waves.  

Once we got to the island, we went to the beach for a 20 minute swim and to admire the sea lions which were all over the park benches.


Then we went on a little bus to see pink flamingos, which were hanging around a pond. 



Next, we went to a refuge of Galapagos tortoises. These are the ones that stretch their necks way up high. They can live for up to 150 years.
This one guy looks like E.T.  They don't look it, but these tortoises were about 2-3 feet long.
After the tortoises, we went back to the beach, where the tour guide split us into two groups, the ones who don't get to go to Tintoreras and the ones that do.  It turns out that the stupid agent tried to rip me off by giving me the package without Tintoreras when I paid for the full package with Tintoreras.  Luckily, my Ecuadorian tour guide got on the phone and argued with them and finally straightened it out but only 45 minutes before we were to leave the Island.  I was given the choice of snorkeling vs. hiking since it was so late at that point.  I chose snorkeling, which was excellent!  I saw four 3-4 foot long sea turtles, a penguin zipping by underwater, a stingray, and tons of fish.

There are about 4 black and white mantarays under the water here

See the little penguins?  These are Galapagos Penguins, and they're the most northerly penguins in the world.

This guy was practically blocking the path

Sally Lightfoot crabs, only seen in the Galapagos Islands
On the return boat ride back to Santa Cruz Island, they added about five more people to our boat which was already way overloaded.  The guide had to sit on the floor; three people had to sit on the roof and we were butt to butt like sardines. 

When you're sitting perpendicular to the forward motion of the boat, every time you hit a swell hard, you bounce over to the left or right a little bit. We had to keep readjusting to avoid pushing the person at the end off the seats. It was really ridiculous. I have never seen so many people looking completely uncomfortable but trying not to show it. One poor guy across from me loudly puked about 7 times, filling up 3 bags of puke and dribbling it all down his shirt and onto his shorts. Another poor guy was trying so hard to look the other way, his eyes were red and watering.  He was fighting it hard, and that almost made me start puking.  It would have been funny if it wasn't so uncomfortable.

Another day on Santa Cruz, I went to Las Grietas.  This is the best deal going. You just take a water taxi for .80 cents, get off, walk for five minutes, and there’s a beautiful beach with mangrove trees for shade.  As I walked up onto the beach, a marine iguana came out of the water and sat on the beach for awhile.  I established my place under a tree and sat on my REI travel towel which is just big enough to go from my butt to my shoulders.  If I put my head on something else, I can lay down but my legs will be in the sand.  I loved just looking up through the trees at the sky and at the water, relaxing.  I went for a swim quite a few times. One time when I was swimming, I saw a marine iguana just ahead of me swimming in the water.



This is the marine iguana.  Only seen in the Galapagos.  Look at his lips.  They're so funny!

After awhile, I walked twenty more minutes down a path to Las Grietas. There were cactuses like this all over the island.











Las Grietas is a wide crack in the lava that has filled up with a combination of rainwater and seawater. It’s crystal clear and colder than the ocean — very refreshing! There’s a dock you can jump off of into the water which is very deep, or you can jump right off the rocks. Beautiful!




Back at the dock to the return water taxi, there was a huge land iguana just sitting there, blocking the ramp.  In the Galapagos, you are to always walk around any animal and not come too close.  Everyone trying to get into the water taxi had to gingerly step around this guy, since he refused to move.


Water taxi
All in all, Isla Santa Cruz was great.  Lots of restaurants lots of tours, lots to do.

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