Thursday, March 10, 2005 - Santa Cruz Island: Charles Darwin Station / Puerto Ayora
I slept like a baby last night, about ten hours, exhausted from yesterday's 5:00 a.m. start and also from the blazing sun. We were anchored overnight, so there wasn't a lot of motion. Some of the passengers talked the crew into taking them into town last evening, but I was beat and went to bed about 8:00 p.m. But I was able to get up at 6:00 a.m. for the sunrise and had some nice peaceful time on deck alone drinking coffee and watching the pelicans catch their breakfast.
Sunrise at Puerto Ayora
In 1959 Ecuador set aside 90 percent of the Galapagos as a national park. The remainder of the land is inhabited by about 20,000 people in four major communities, around half of which live in and around Puerto Ayora, the tourist hub of the islands. Puerto Ayora is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, the center for Galapagos conservation and preservation, which is operated in conjunction with the Galapagos National Park Service.
Spielberg's model for E.T.
At Darwin Station Juan led us along a nature trail winding its way through pens housing various threatened species of land tortoise and some very cool land iguanas. It was nice to see the giant tortoises close up, amazing really, but this was our least favorite stop of the trip - too crowded. It was a scorchingly sunny day. Standing in the sun, I thought I'd melt, but in the shade it was pleasant enough.
Puerto Ayora Harbor
Puerto Ayora is the last place to do shopping for a week, and all the yachts give you plenty of time to do so, whether you want to or not. After the tour of Darwin Station, we had a couple of hours to waste in town before lunch back on the yacht. Tom had not packed a hat, so that was a must-get item, and I decided to get a new cap too. All the hats had silly Galapagos creatures on them, but what the heck? Shopping took all of about 10 minutes. Then what? The rest of the time we killed with a couple of cervezas from the local mercado. We'd rather have been hanging out on the Cachalote.
Taming a Galapagos steer
All the boats have life jackets for the passengers with the boat's name on them, so each time we were in the panga we had "Cachalote" written on our backs, which is better than the English translation, "Sperm Whale," would have been. I almost felt sorry for the passengers of the "Sea Man." Almost.