As part of my program here in the Galápgos, between modules three and four, we go on an “island hopping” trip, meaning we take boats around to see the other islands in the archipelago. I was so excited to finally experience the true feeling of the Galápagos that one cannot really grasp while staying on only one island. I have loved living on San Cristóbal for the past six weeks or so, but “island fever” was definitely starting to settle in. The entire island only has about 7,000 people, which is even smaller than my small suburban hometown in Maine, so one really gets to know absolutely everyone, perhaps a little too well. Despite my love for San Cristóbal, I definitely needed to get away for a short time.
All week I had known island hopping was coming, but it was not until after I passed in my test Friday morning that I really got excited. We all brought our bags to the pier and had them inspected before boarding our respective boats to take the approximately two hour boat ride to Santa Cruz. Our boat was called “Neptuno III” and had dolphin-shaped windows and a huge Poseidon/Neptune mural on the front. It was fantastic.
I sat in the back of the boat where I could see the seemingly endless ocean ahead and watch our beautiful island disappear behind me. It was a somewhat crazy boat ride; for such a large boat, it moved extremely fast and would launch out of the water as it hit the waves like an oceanic rollercoaster. The boat ride reminded me how much I love boats on the ocean water: the wind blasting my face and the spray showering my arms and hands while seeing nothing but the blue expanse in every direction. It was like a paradise to me. Unfortunately, it was not so for many of my friends who suffered from terrible seasickness. I felt terrible enjoying the ride so much while they were so miserable.
As we pulled into the harbor, I was immediately struck by obvious differences between San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz. San Cristóbal is rather laid back and not very touristy. Its main attractions are diving and the huge population of sea lions. The harbor of Santa Cruz, on the other hand, was bordered by luxurious houses and hotels. The bus ride to our hotel only furthered this contrast, as we passed by a developed downtown and many western-style restaurants. Perhaps the most shocking difference was the population composition: everyone seemed to be white and old. Albeit, San Cristóbal was originally settled mostly by Ecuadorians while Santa Cruz was a mix of Ecuadorians, but many Europeans as well; but so many of the people were in full safari gear that they could not possibly be locals. After eating dinner, we went on a short tour of the town led by our IES coordinator, Indira, who is from Santa Cruz. It was a great first afternoon, and I could not wait for the next few days exploring the island.
For our first full day on the island, we woke up bright and early for our 6:30 a.m. breakfast before heading out on the day’s adventures. Our first stop was a pair of sinkholes, known as Los Gemelos. They were absolutely fantastic. The sinkholes were larger than I could have imagined. It was a bit unnerving to walk around them, in the back of my mind, I had this continual inkling that they ground I was standing on may collapse at any moment.
To be continued….