Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Galapagos Day 4: Isabela Island- Darwin's Lake, Tagus Cove, Elizabeth Bay

On the morning of day four there was an optional early morning power hike around Darwin's Lake on Isabela Island. This island is also well known for the pirate graffiti that covers the rocks. Very few people on board opted for the hike, because you were up, dressed, and off the ship by 6:30. We wanted to get in as many opportunities for exploring the islands as possible though, and this was the only chance to hike Isabela, so Bobby and I and his parents went.

Our dry landing on the rocks- they were covered in graffiti from the early 1900's up to the 1980's. Of course now such defacement of the rocks is illegal, as it should be.
While an interesting sight, it made me realize just how far we have come in our understanding of the importance of conservation and respecting nature (although we certainly have a long, long way to go of course) and how recently such ideas began to take root.
The rocks, as usual, were covered in crabs. I kept worrying I would step on one, even though I shouldn't have since they were so fast.
Bobby's mom on the trail. It started off with two flights of steep stairs, flattened out a bit, and then was pretty steep the entire rest of the way.
Darwin's Lake, a crater filled with water, was about 2/3 of the way up. That's our ship in the background, filled with our sleeping cruise buddies.
I took this picture of Bobby's parents as they made the final ascent through a crack in the lava rocks.
And they took this picture of us right before they reached the top.
Mountain man Bobby on top of the hill.

We headed back down the trail and boarded the panga to go back to the ship at 7:45 for a very quick breakfast, because we were heading out again at a little after 8:00 a.m. for ocean kayaking.
On the panga ride back we came upon these sea turtles mating. They were right up beside our panga (they splashed me as I was taking this picture) and the female was trying to scrape the male off of her with the panga. Smart move, he wasn't that cute, am I right?
We headed out to kayak around Tagus cove, the same area where the panga had dropped us off on the rocks for our morning hike.
This was a total lucky shot- I just held up the camera and clicked one time. It wasn't until we uploaded the pictures that I saw it worked out.
Everyone joked that kayaking would test your relationship, but at the risk of sounding cocky, Bobby and I kicked ass at kayaking. We had a great system down, and we were able to get right up next to the rocks without crashing into them.
The rocks and cliffs around the cove were covered in all sorts of birds- from boobies...
to penguins, to pelicans and flightless cormorants. I even saw a big squirmy octopus clinging to the rocks at the waterline, but a picture would have been worthless since with his black flesh he was virtually invisible up against the black rocks.
We headed back to the ship with some time to kill before lunch because snorkeling had been canceled due to murky water conditions. We spent our time lounging on the top deck and enjoying the weather.
Such a gorgeous day. There were a few lounge chairs up top and we took full advantage of being lazy in the sun.
For dessert after lunch we had this- I'd never heard of it before. It's called a tree tomato. It looks like a tomato, but has the consistency of a peach. It's not very sweet, and it was stewed in a sauce that I think was some sort of spice and sugar reduction. I could have sworn there was cardamom and cinnamon in there, but I'm not 100% certain. I liked it, because I'm not the biggest fan of overly sweet desserts.
This guy joined us for lunch as well. He was sneaky and was stealing grapes and cheese. Smart bird.
After lunch we went to Elizabeth Bay on the panga to take a tour through the mangroves.

These little Galapagos penguins were everywhere on the rocks, and as we continued our tour they were hunting for fish all around us. I thought the sea lions were fast, until I saw these little things shooting through the water.
The panga wove its way through little paths in the mangroves, and eventually, per regulations, we had to shut off the motor and paddle through.
We kept seeing sea turtle after sea turtle. They like to mate in this area because it is warm and shallow and isn't disturbed by ocean currents.

I gave up trying to get a good picture of the sea turtles- it was nearly impossible. They would surface as soon as you put your camera away it seemed.
The penguins would dart in and out of the mangrove roots. The roots were so weird- they grew out of the trunk about halfway up, then dove down into the water.
More penguins- they were all over the rocks and in the water around us. They hunt in pairs and I have no idea how they work together so well when they are moving so fast.
We headed back to the boat to get ready for dinner and hang out on the deck and watch the sunset.
It was definitely worth watching.
It was Denise's birthday, so we celebrated over dinner.
The crew brought her a surprise birthday cake, and everyone on board sang to her.
A good end to a birthday I think :)

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