Thursday, March 10, 2005 - Santa Cruz Island: The Highlands

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They'll dart right out in front of you!

At 2:00 p.m. we landed back at Puerto Ayora for our visit to the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island. On the 45-minute bus ride we ascended through all seven vegetation zones found in the Galapagos. Our destination was a pair of huge sinkholes called Los Gemelos, or "The Twins." There we hiked a path through thick, weird vegetation looking for tortoises and spotting many bird species, the coolest of which was a blue-eyed, red-footed Galapagos dove.

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Sinkhole Los Gemelos

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Galapagos dove

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Freaky flora

We didn't find any tortoises on their own turf, so we next, along with several other bus-loads of folks, visited a privately-owned ranch where giant land tortoises are known to roam. Satisfaction! We were led to several. Some of them must be 500 pounds. This time our guide had a guide, alittle girl who couldn't have been more than 10 years old but who knew where the turtles were hanging out.

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Aren't I handsome?

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Big fella

Then we bused to another site and climbed down into a 12-mile-long lava tube, a remnant of a magma flow that formed the island. The outside of the magma stream cooled while the inside was still flowing, and a big hollow tube remained. We only had about ten minutes here.

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Entering a lava tube

After that they drove us back down to Puerto Ayora, and we had another 45 minutes to spend there before returning to the Cachalote. We again killed time with a beer. I can't blame the crew for stranding us here for a bit - this is their last chance for a conjugal visit before they're away from home for the next week.

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Puerto Ayora

At 11:00 p.m. the crew fired up the engines and we motored seven hours to Espaņola Island. It was a pretty rough ride, lots of swell. We had to cling to the sides of our bunks to keep from flying out of bed. Lots of folks didn't sleep well this night.

 

Continue to Day 6

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