Monday 25 August 2014

Day 103: The Galápagos Islands Day 4 - Dry land sickness

Not Lonesome George but Diego the Saddleback
Land ahoy.  After three nights of pitching into the troughs between a thousand waves, this entirely land-based day was a slightly nauseating experience.  Surely the ground underfoot is not supposed to remain still?

We tottered our way to the Darwin Research Station in the morning where we saw hundreds of baby tortoises (part of a breeding programme) having play fights in their pens.  Each one is labelled with a name and colour-code representing their island of origin, so they can be released into the wild later.  We also saw sulphurous yellow land iguanas for the first time and paid our respects at the plaque of Lonesome George - a sole male tortoise found on one of the smaller islands where females no longer resided (a Robinson Crusoe of the tortoise world).  As no mate could be found for him, he had to live the rest of his life chastely in the Darwin Centre until he took his final breath last year.  He has now been immortalised alongside the red and blue boobies on many a Galapagos Island 'Lonesome George' t-shirt, ready to be purchased for bachelor friends back home.

In the afternoon we took the bus to the Highlands of Santa Cruz, marvelling along the way at their lushness after the stark blackened world of Santiago Island.  Agricultural activity is reasonably extensive on Santa Cruz and aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the islands (by cutting transportation of imported food), but it is carefully monitored to ensure the crops do not damage the natural ecosystem of the islands.  We passed more greenery than we had seen at any time since touching down on San Cristobal.  We weren't the only ones enjoying it.  We found an abundance of giant tortoises in their natural environment, away from the research centres and breeding programmes - each one chomping grass at the end of a line of flattened vegetation, steam-rollered by these enormous and insatiably-hungry reptiles.  Beside the gift shop lay a couple of empty tortoise shells which we climbed into and posed as giant tortoises ourselves.

What can you do with a "spare" tortoise shell?
On our way back to the harbour, we visited a lava tunnel - one of many that course the subterranean world of the island and turn it into a Swiss cheese.

After a spot of shopping (we resisted both the boobies t-shirt and the Lonesome George one; we even resisted drinking a 'Sex on the Beach' cocktail which is named 'Sex on Tortuga (Tortoise) Bay' here), we returned to the boat with its familiar rocking motion.  A cure for dry land sickness at last!          
Lava tubes. I didn't realise they could get this big!
Watching giant tortoises in the wild!

No comments:

Post a Comment