Home > Galápagos Islands > Fascinating corners of San Cristobal Island, Part Two

Fascinating corners of San Cristobal Island, Part Two

October 8, 2011

Just before starting our descent from the highlands back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Jose gives to Paulina and me a try of the deliciously sweet oranges of San Cristobal, just growing by the hundreds on colorful trees, along the road. Almost by the sunset hour we visit the southern shore behind the port city, to watch the high waves, great for surfers, and a few sea lions basking on the lava rocks. Galapagos sunsets are unique and what we watch from the Hotel’s terrace, at one end of the picturesque town, is a magnificent sight of a flaming red disc, plunging into the blue sea, painting the sky and land with a rainbow of bright colors.
As we leisurely stroll along the attractive Waterfront Promenade of Puerto Baquerizo, we are startled and then amused by watching how sea lions make their way from the sea onto the Promenade and select their preferred wooden bench on the Park, as their comfortable bed for the night, a scene not to be forgotten, showing us the convivial harmony between man and these wild yet totally unafraid, (not at all domesticated), marine mammals. And I think, this is exactly what Galapagos is all about… unique, magic, serene… a place where sea lions freely choose a city park’s bench for the night while the human inhabitants and visitors pass by, enjoying the fresh and beautifully moonlit night.
Jose and his wife join Paulina and me for dinner at a popular local eatery by the shore, with al fresco seating. While we enjoy superb fresh fish, catch of the day, rice with shrimps and cold beers, conversation flows around the myriad of stories, past and present, from the fascinating human history of the islands and particularly of San Cristobal.  As we walk back to the Hotel, the sea lions are already snoozing, respected, unbothered and in style, over the waterfront park’s benches. Meanwhile, a brightly yellow huge disc, a full moon, is positioned over Punta Carola and its lighthouse, at the eastern extreme of Wreck Bay, reflecting magic aces of light over the dark and totally calm waters of the beautiful Bay….
After a good night’s sleep, our breakfast, served on the terrace, overlooking the bay and a few feet away from the sea, is shared with dozens of Darwin’s finches who do not hesitate to hop over and across our table, picking up bread crumbs and an occasional bit of cheese.  I give an amazed Paulina an improvised lesson on why and how are the different shapes and sizes of the finches’ beaks, fitted for different kinds of feeding habits and food sources (other than bread crumbs when tourists or local residents pamper them with easy meals).
Jose arrives to take us on his jeep to the entrance of the National Park’s Interpretation Center, passing by the pretty coralline Playa Mann’s sandy beach. We get off the vehicle for a walk on a natural trail, hopping over some boulders, to reach the secluded and spectacularly sparkling white sandy beach at Punta Carola.  The beach is covered with sea lion families, large bulls noisily patrolling their territories; large female moms feeding their pups and young individuals frolicking on land and in the water…. The white beach is lined with a green frame of mangroves and lowland saline vegetation, the typical salt-bushes.  As it begins to get warm, some of the sea lions look for shade under large manzanillo trees and mangroves lining the beach.  Two sea turtles idly swim and seem to just placidly sway back and forth with the gentle waves that wash in and out of the beach.  At the opposite end of the beach, Jose shows us the way to the new trail, a comfortable and well hidden wooden trail, leading to Cerro Tijeretas (Frigate Birds Hill).  This is not the breeding season, so there are no males with brightly inflated red pouches, but an important colony of these large sea birds is found here, perched on the palo santo and other trees and bushes.  As we climb higher, the view becomes more splendid and we can see the picturesque town of Puerto Baquerizo, somewhat “squeezed” between the beautiful crescent-shaped bay and the green hills behind.  Chirping finches, mockingbirds and flycatchers capture our attention. A pair of Galapagos yellow warblers steal the show as they tree-hop courting, the male sporting a distinct rusty-red dot on its forehead. All of these pure nature episodes are taking place just minutes away from a human settlement… less than an hour later we are sitting at the airport ready to board a jetliner back to mainland Ecuador….. Such is the magic and uniqueness of the Enchanted Galapagos Islands….

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