The past three months, I have been involved in a project on continental Ecuador, but I could not bear the thought of continuing the blog without writing about my favorite Galapagos island, San Cristobal. In May, a friend from California visited and we went to a variety of places, including San Cristobal.
People from the islands are often surprised to hear that San Cristobal is my favorite island. It is one of the least visited islands. San Cristobal’s Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the capital of Galapagos, which is a province of Ecuador. I have always taken the daily speedboat shuttle from Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, to get to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It is usually late afternoon when you pull into the harbor. After checking into the hotel, there is just enough time to walk back down to the wharf and catch the sunset.
They recently completed a lovely new boardwalk along the harbor. It is quite impressive, well-crafted out of wood with various places to sit and watch the sea lions and birds. The wharf is landscaped with native plants. Families and friends stroll up and down the boardwalk as they look out to sea and stop to watch the barking sea lions.
We stayed at the Hostal Mar Azul, two blocks up from the wharf. It is conveniently located, clean and fairly quiet. They don’t serve breakfast, but the next morning, my friend surprised me with a delicious miso soup, a sesame almond bar and a hot cup of green tea. As the sun was going down, we walked along the wharf and went to get a bite to eat at La Playa restaurant, renowned for its delicious ceviche.
Ceviche is a common dish found along the coast. Hygiene is of utmost importance in the preparation of ceviche, so it is important to find a reputable restaurant. In Puerto Baquerizo Moreno this restaurant is called La Playa. To make ceviche, you submerge chopped up bits of fresh raw fish in lemon juice and leave it to marinate for at least two hours. Then, you finely chop red onion, green pepper, tomato and cilantro. Once the fish is marinated, the vegetable mixture is added. Traditionally, this dish is served late morning with a cold beer and chifles (fried plantains) or popcorn.
The next morning, we walked along the malecon (wharf in Spanish), continuing north of town to the nicest of the Galapagos interpretive centers. The center has a wealth of information on the islands’ history, flora and fauna. There is also a beautiful view of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. After, we walked up the trail behind the interpretive center to Frigatebird Hill. On the way back into town, we stopped by Mann Beach and watched the sea lions playing in the water, and the lava lizards scurrying up and down the dark lava boulders flanking the beach.
The next day, the owner of Mar Azul recommended a father and son team to guide us around the highlands. We visited Galapaguera, the Galapagos National Park’s tortoise breeding center, and El Junco, the only Galapagos freshwater lake. The weather was drizzly in the highlands, so we descended down to El Mirador (the lookout point in Spanish), where we had a sweeping view of the island with Leon Dormido (sleeping lion in Spanish) in the distance. Also known as Kicker Rock, Leon Dormido consists of two rocky outcroppings jutting out of the sea. It is worthwhile taking a speedboat ride there to go snorkeling. On a previous trip, I saw a group of fifteen spotted eagle rays and a 10-foot long Galapagos shark swimming below me.
After enjoying the view from the Mirador, we followed a narrow path to a tiny church lodged into the rocky hillside. Before we descended into the church, we passed a small alter with Mary and baby Jesus encased in glass. The inside of the church was cave-like, but had a large opening where the light streamed in. It was truly unique and what one would imagine a Galapagos church might look like.
Heading back out onto the main road, we passed coffee and banana plantations. Coffee, bananas and other crops, are grown in the highlands of San Cristobal, Isabela and Santa Cruz islands. On our way through the highland town of El Progreso, we stopped and climbed up into a treehouse, which can accommodate approximately four people in a rustic, Swiss Family Robinson like setting. We had fun swinging on the rope dangling from tree. I sat inside an enormous tire, also hanging from the tree, and they spun me around until I didn’t know which way was up. It reminded me a bit of the teacup ride at the amusement park (thankfully, not in the Galapagos).
Our last evening, we walked along the malecon again and went for a bite to eat at Pizzeria Bambú, at the south end of the malecon. After, we met some friends at La Playa restaurant. One friend is working on a mosquito monitoring project and two others were gathering data on the blue-footed boobie (a bird) reproductive habits at Punta Pitt, on the northeast part of San Cristobal.
The next morning, we got up at the crack of dawn, packed our bags, and headed down to the wharf to catch the daily speedboat ride back to Santa Cruz Island. It was a beautiful morning and the harbor was as smooth as glass. While the boat was preparing to pull away from the dock, a baby sea lion jumped up on the back of the boat to say good-bye.