We said goodbye to our boat, the Queen Karen last night, and today got about in two little water taxis for a tour of some bays close to Puerto Ayora. We split into two groups, so there were only 6 of us, plus Jess, and a local guide called Edilberto, who was a charming older gentleman with a great sense of humour.
First port of call was a short walk to a narrow gorge created by a crack in the volcanic rock. The walk was a little challenging, with a fair section scrambling over loose rocks. Edilberto took great care of me, and held my hand over all the tricky sections. The gorge was lovely, and the water looked inviting, but only the 'young ones' (Jess, Max & Kerry) went in for a swim. There were people there climbing up the rocky walls of the gorge & jumping into the deep water – none of us volunteered to do that, but we did take photos of other brave (or foolhardy) souls who were.
Once back at the dock our 'taxi' took us to another dock, where we followed another trail to a rocky ocean beach. I have to say the walk was not all that pleasant – it was hot and steamy (though back to grey skies again today), and the vegetation is interesting but not particularly attractive (mostly mangroves and cacti). But we were rewarded at the beach which was covered in black lava rocks and marine iguanas. I didn't count them, but you had to watch where you walked to avoid stepping on them!
Marine iguanas are the most fascinating creatures, unique to the Galápagos. They are reptiles, like land iguanas, but they feed underwater on algae that grows on the rocks. They breathe air, so feeding underwater seems somewhat challenging – although judging by the numbers we saw today, they are doing it quite successfully. Once back on land they have to get rid of the salt they took in while in the ocean, so they sit, warming up, and spitting salt out of their nostrils (hence the title of this post). I did see a couple of spits, but I think you would need a lot more time and patience (and some luck) to capture one on film.
We tore ourselves away for a short snorkel. The water was not very clear, but there was a big sea turtle we got to swim with which was very thrilling, and I even managed to get a photo.
This afternoon was designated free time. There was an optional walk available, but we have been on the go non-stop and I was really looking forward to some down time. We had a light lunch in the cafe/deli, and then wandered around buying a few souvenirs, and stocking up on cash, as we are told there are no ATMs on Isabela Island, where we go in a few days. Of course, we forgot we are in Latin America, so all the shops were closed until 3 o'clock for siesta, but we had a nice stroll while we waited.
The rest of the afternoon was spent blogging, downloading photos and generally chilling out. There was some sort of big school parade going on the main street with loud music and speeches – no idea what it was about.
Chris and Jess had a treat in store for us tonight. It's Thanksgiving, and since 1/3 of our group is American, they thought we should mark the occasion. We couldn't manage turkey and pumpkin pie, but they surprised us with a dinner booking at a very swanky waterfront restaurant at one of the better hotels. We took a water taxi across and were very well looked after by our amusing waiter Jimmy, served delicious food and a cocktail or two, and enjoyed a lovely night out.