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Ecuador 2011: Day 4

April 19, 2011

Dateline San Cristobal: Like most, the day started with a fresh-made breakfast of scrambled (brown) eggs, toast, (blueberry!) juice, mixed fruits, coffee, and sliced meats and cheese. Knowing we would have a packed day I tried to actually eat quite a bit (something I typically don’t do for breakfast), and this did help later.

After breakfast, we headed up for a hike around Laguna del El Junco, a caldera in the highlands of San Cristobal which contains fresh water (of varying amounts) all year round. The caldera is from an extinct volcano which fills with rain water. One of the most interesting points is that the water stayed fresh without the existence fish or nitrates. As we hiked around the water, a several frigates circled, eying us suspiciously.

Next we headed further north to La Galapaguera, a preserve for Humboldt tortoises On this island (unlike some others) laid eggs of these tortoises are typically left to develop naturally and monitored until they hatch. Once the newborn animals hatch they are moved to enclosures with the preserve to protect them from predators. Once they have grown to 2 years old they are then moved to larger enclosures, and after 5 years they are released back into the “wild” of the preserve. This protection is focused on these animals specifically to ensure the preservation of their species; there are only seven subspecies of tortoises in the wild of Galapagos, with many endangered. (“Lonesome George” is one of two remaining males of an eighth species which is extinct in the wild).

 

For lunch we visited an organic farm. After getting our fill and a brief afternoon downpour, we took a tour to see how the local farmer grew tomatoes, plantains, watermelon, sugar cane, and more.

 

Following our farm visit, we began the trip back to town. The plan was to enjoy a bicycle ride to the restaurant we had visited for lunch the day before, but this was not meant to be. As it turned out the journey became more of a hazardous adventure and less a relaxing sport.

Almost immediately upon stopping our van to switch to the bicycles it began to rain – not a steady shower, but wet enough to ensure that whatever we were wearing would be drenched by the time we had arrived. To make matters worse, the bicycles we were provided appeared to be lacking in any type of normal maintenance so numerous components were failing: gears, chains, and (as would quickly become relevant) brakes were in many cases broken or entirely missing. As we headed down the hills it quickly became obvious that a) some of the slopes could be treacherous with their steep angles and numerous potholes even on a dry day and b) some of the bikes braking systems were not up to the task of stopping the rider should the need arise. At one point, Isaac was leading the way, attempting to maintain a good speed because his bicycle’s chain had completely broken and was dragging along behind as a metallic tail while I followed a few seconds behind. Cathy then went sailing past us both, yelling that she had no brakes whatsoever. The next thing we knew we were rounding a corner to find her in a broken heap in the middle of the road, moaning and bleeding. As (relative) luck would have it, we had just passed a police truck travelling down the same road and they arrived behind us within a minute of the accident. We helped Cathy up, did some cursory assessments of her condition, and Max had a brief conversation with the officers explaining that she needed to go to hospital. Cathy, Max, and Laura all loaded up into the truck and left to get medical treatment while I waited with the Isaac for the others to catch up. We regrouped and continued (in a slower and more controlled procession) the last kilometer(s) to our destination, and then walked back up the hill to our hotel to change clothes and await news of Cathy’s condition. After a few hours she returned with Annelies, a good deal more banged up and moving more slowly, no doubt due to the injuries and drugs.

After dinner, a Magnum, and more sea lion teasing near the docks, its off to bed for tomorrow is another early day…

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