Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

We finally made it to the Galapagos! We arrived at the airport on tiny Baltra island, took the ferry to the main island, Santa Cruz, and then the 40 min bus south to Puerto Ayora ($2! vs $25 taxi). Right away we saw some of the animals for which the Galapagos are famous – a blue-footed booby and manta ray in the harbor, marine iguanas sunning themselves on the sidewalks, a sea lion feasting on a fish in the mangroves, and pelicans hanging out at the fish market.

Later, we saw geckos and little birds at Casa de Lago, a charming cafe, where fruit salad, omelets and pancakes are served at rustic tables to jazz music. We took the time every morning to write in our beloved Leuchturm journals.

We also saw the tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station – little babies munching loudly on bright green stalks and giant, slow-moving adults.

The best surprise for Elise, however, was when a playful sea lion joined us while we were swimming in the bay at Las Grietas!

For me, the highlight was walking the long and winding trail through twisted scrub brush and towering cacti to Tortuga Bay, which has one of the most splendid beaches in South America. The current is quite strong, so I held Elise’s hand tightly while we let the warm waves wash over us again and again.

On our last day, we bought ferryboat tickets to Isabela Island and took our time strolling the main drag and peeking into shops. Elise loved the animal figurines and got a tiny tortoise and ceramic sea lion. I liked the t-shirts that made use of negative space to show manta rays and other marine life. Elise also tried (cooked) shrimp ceviche for the first time and liked it. We’re thinking of creating a cookbook with one special dish from each country we visit. Ceviche is now a contender, as is fish and yucca soup.

Elise drew her impressions of Santa Cruz with her character, Sunny (who’s part wolf), at our favorite cafe with floral vines, the darling little bird who begged at our table, a soft serve ice cream, palm tree, a sea lion and tortoise, and giant orange sunset.

On our last evening on the island, we joined the locals and tourists at the bustling strip of seafood restaurants with outdoor tables and had a filling plate of grilled fish and rice with sopa con queso (cheese soup). It was all rather pleasant, but after four days on Santa Cruz I felt a very strong urge to get away to a quieter, less developed place.