Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island boasts the largest human population in the Galapagos Islands. Its main street is comprised of a collection of tourist restaurants and souvenir shops filled with a range of objects including backpacks, sun dresses and little rubber Galapagos animals to expensive brightly colored Ecuadorian wool tapestries, silver jewelry, and sculpture. If you want to shop in the Galapagos, this is your Island. For me, I’m trying to gather one little Christmas Ornament per country we visit, so I need to pick out something here.
On our first day in town, we headed over to the Charles Darwin Museum where we explored native plants, read about some of the challenges facing the animals, and met Mr. Darwin.
Mr. Darwin was an interesting guy. He joined the crew of Beagle, starting in England, sailing across the Atlantic, South around Cape Horn, then Northward to the Galapagos Islands. When he arrived here, he observed all these beautiful animals each living in its own unique habitat on the island. He was fascinated by all the animals, but the little finches got his mind turning. These finches look like finches on other continents, (and in recent years, genetic studies show that they are indeed related) but on the Galapagos Islands there are several different kinds. Each of these different finches have colors adapted to the part of the island on which they live, giving them the benefit of blending in, and therefore surviving, in their part of the world. Darwin started to think that these finches may have evolved over generations to more closely match the unique habitats they were living in.
The Lizards are much the same way.
While today it is a common thought that animals can change over time, Charles Darwin was the first person to raise that possibility. He is the person who experienced that moment of insight, when the world shifts on its axis and suddenly you see everything in a different way. That we may all be so lucky as to look with curiosity and discover something unique.
After visiting with Darwin, we headed to lunch. Several blocks in, we found an open air cafe with a roof made of grasses and lights made from cactus stumps. Locals filled every table, and a notebook sat on the bar in which their weekly tab was kept. We sat down at a bar overlooking the kitchen. “Almerzo?” A young woman in her late twenties asks us, meaning “do you want lunch?” Si. She smiles and dips a ladle into a large bucket to fill two classes with cantaloupe juice. She serves us soup with a delicate broth, yucca, carrot, parsley and beef. Once we are finished with the soup, we each get a plate of fish in a tasty sauce, rice, and a lemon with green skin and orange flesh to squeeze over the top. $4.00 each.
Next, we headed out on a several mile hike to La Greitas (The Grottos). We have experienced some really beautiful scenery, but I feel like this hike takes the cake. The trail is lined with interesting cactuses, the unique Galapagos estancia trees, and salt ponds. It could be a world taken straight out of a Super Mario Brothers video game.
Upon arrival, we find an inland salt water grotto. It has three separate pools, each filled with beautiful turquoise water. Small fish eat algae off rocks, and a slightly larger fish swim lazily from one end to the other. Now this is a place to get in some laps!
On our way back, we stop at La Playa Estrada with a beautiful hotel right on the water where a Grey Herron makes himself at home.
We finished off the day with dinner at a restaurant built out of lava rock and designed to look like a lava cave. Why not? We enjoyed a crisp glass of Argentinian white wine, shrimp bisque for me, a grilled pulpo (octopus) salad for Andrew, and chocolate cake with coffee grown on Santa Cruz Island for dessert. It was a perfect end to our day.