Home > Galápagos Islands > Facinating Corners of San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, Part one

Facinating Corners of San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, Part one

September 23, 2011

Our modern Airbus jetliner swiftly pierces the clouds and unveils the starling view of turquoise and blue coves, dotted with sparkling sandy beaches along the northern coast of San Cristobal, the easternmost island of the famous Galapagos Archipelago. Soon I can recognize, from the air, the small “Lobos” (sea lions) Islet and farther out, just anchored like a giant aircraft carrier in mid-ocean, the superb silhouette of the imposing Kicker Rock. We make our final landing approach directly over the placid and crescent-shaped Wreck Bay, packed with mostly small tourism and fishing boats. As the plane touches down on the runway, and turns towards the small terminal’s platform, a pleasant sensation of uniqueness invades me as every time I arrive in Galapagos….

After complying with the National Park’s arrival procedures, Paulina and I exit the arrivals hall to meet a smiling Jose, our host and guide for this two day exploration of his island, San Cristobal.  We will base ourselves on the still quaint and attractive town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, less bustling than the highly touristic Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. As we ride across town, five minutes away from the airport, we admire the pretty and picturesque Waterfront, nicely designed to frame the coastline which harbors the pretty azure bay.
After settling at the small but attractive and comfortable Hotel, with nice views of the bay and also of the green hills behind the city; Jose invites us to have a “galapagueño” lunch on a small and rustic restaurant, where a delicious warm “sancocho” soup, with an unbeatably tasty fish base and pieces of green plantain and corn greets us.  For main course I choose a simple yet fabulously fresh grilled “albacore” fish, just seasoned with some herbs and accompanied by vegetables and the always present bowl of white rice.  A freshly squeezed tangerine juice quenches our thirst, while we enjoy lively conversation.
Now we are headed to the highlands of San Cristobal, along a paved road.  First we go past a rock quarry and then it is the lower vegetation zone with its “palo santo” trees and thorny scrubs vegetation. Less than thirty minutes from the main port city, we reach El Progreso, a historic town which, over a century ago, in the early 1900’s, was an emporium of large scale sugar cane production and the source of many legends and stories.  The town nowadays is semi-abandoned but shows the remnants of the old constructions which, with some restoration investment, could become a great tourism attraction.  We continue on, diverting from the main road, towards the western part of the highlands, where the vegetation becomes lush and green, just dotted with occasional pastures where some domestic cattle graze.  We arrive at “La Soledad”, a quaint plateau with a small school, an ample courtyard and plenty of nature. Jose leads us across a nature trail, teeming with native flora as well as some introduced plants like the devastating “mora” (a variety of raspberry).  Hundreds of Darwin’s finches ply the area and let us admire the astonishingly varied shapes and sizes of their beaks, a fact that also startled Charles Darwin on his 1835 visit.  A curious Galapagos flycatcher perches on a tree branch and watches us as unusual creatures in his realm…. The trail leads to a natural observatory from where we can admire all the splendor of San Cristobal’s northern coast.

Now we climb the stone stairway leading to an abandoned church-shrine, fully made of lava rocks with a large rock cross carved on its façade.  Peeking inside we discover a Holy Child image presiding from the rocks a solitary temple, while the wind blows with a howling sound. The stairway leads further to a smaller (and higher) shrine, surrounded by a terrace, which evidently was built as an observatory.  The view from there is stunning: to the north, the coastline of San Cristobal with its white beaches and coves, Lobos Islet and the famous Kicker Rock with the blue Pacific Ocean as a magnificent background.  To the south and west, we can see the rolling hills of San Cristobal’s highlands.  It is a sunny (yet a bit windy) afternoon and the place is perfect for inspirational conversation, interrupted only by the singing of the finches and mockingbirds. Sadly we have to leave this placid and paradisiacal place and begin our descent back to Puerto Baquerizo.  The story will continue on the next issue….

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