I woke up on the sun deck feeling nauseas probably brought on by the diesel fumes I was
breathing in. I got up from the lounger and looked out at our location discovering we were in a bay surrounded by many other
boats, some of them old and dilapidated. We were in Bahía Academy (Academy Bay) in the city of Puerto Ayora on the southeast side
of Santa Cruz Island. Today's activities included viewing the twin sink holes known as the Gemelos, a huge lava tube and the
Not feeling well I went down to the dining room and ate some fruit for breakfast hoping it would settle my stomach. It seemed
to help a little, but I was still feeling a bit under the weather. Regardless, I went up and got myself ready for the day. I came
a long ways and did not want to miss any of the sites here in the enchanted islands.
When I was dressed and ready to go we got the call to go to the pangas. We would be making a dry landing at the main dock of
Puerto Ayora where would board a bus to take us into the highlands. En route to the dock we were navigating through the bay
zigzagging in and out around a littering of boats. I seemed to be getting sicker by the minute having to breathe in the fumes
from the burning diesel all around me. I tried to filter the smell by breathing through the fabric of my shirt, but my stomach
continued to turn.
At the dock there were several sea lions lazily lounging both in empty boats tied at the dock and on the dock itself. In the
town there were a lot of people strolling about. This was a busy little city here in the Galápagos, the main port and largest
population in the archipelago. Once everybody had transferred from the panga to the dock we made our way to the other end where
our bus was waiting. We would get to explore the town after lunch, but at this time we had to quickly board the bus to keep
schedule and see the sites that had been planned for us this morning.
Our first stop would be a farm where the
giant tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus)
is raised and protected. I was sitting in the
very back row of the bus observing the landscape as we made progress to the farm. On Santa Cruz there was much more vegetation
growing than on the other islands we had visited. There were varying trees, grasses and weeds that would appear normal in such a
setting back on the mainland. Here it seemed out of placed after having seen the vegetation of the other islands.
Santa Cruz is one of the original islands inhabited earlier in the 20th century and remains the most populated (by humans)
island in the archipelago. Because of the human activity on the island and the importation of agricultural crops and even
decorative trees, shrubs and flowers, many foreign plant species now exist. Although these plants were innocently brought in to
help sustain human life and to spruce up inhabitant's homes, they can and do reproduce outside of the intended purpose.
Many of these introduced plants have established themselves in the wild and are competing with native species for resources.
The endemic species having never encountered the foreign species have not developed strategies in which to deal with their foreign
competitors and in some cases are now facing possible extinction. As with the animal and marine life on the island chain, plant
life is also facing dire hardships due to the human activity on the islands.
We finally reached our destination, the tortoise farm, and the others began to get off to go view the giant reptiles. However,
I decided to remain on the bus as the drive itself heightened the nausea feeling I had been having all morning. Janine, thinking
of my predicament, left me with a gallon size zip-lock bag in case of emergency. Lucky for me she did because ten minutes after
everyone had left I had to make use of it. I was happy I was alone so that nobody had to witness my little tragedy.
I felt better afterwards, but had to find a place to dispose of the bag and its contents. Looking out the window I saw a lined
garbage can a short distance from the bus, so I took it there to rid myself of it. Shortly thereafter my companions returned to
the bus and we left the farm in favor of our next stop, the twin sink holes known as Gemelos.
The Gemelos are located near the village of Santa Rosa on the central part of the island. These two pit craters are around 30
meters (99 ft) deep and are separated by the road we arrived on. It is thought that the two sink holes were formed by collapsing
roofs of magma chambers. Given that they are in the humid tropical zone, they are now overgrown with vegetation including vines
that hang on the steep walls created by the collapse.
From the overlook I could see Cerro Crocker (Mount Crocker), the original volcanic cone that formed the islands when it was over
the hot spot. Higher in altitude Cerro Crocker is covered by the Scalesia forest that is fed by the garua. This is the highest
point on Santa Cruz at 864 meters (2,835 ft).
After viewing the Gemelos we once again boarded the bus and made our last stop of the morning at a lava tube. Again, I was
feeling sick so I remained on the bus. This time I did not vomit and I did not have to wait too long as the others were in the
lava tube for about 15 minutes. The lava tube was only about 20 meters (66 ft) long and 10 meters (33 ft) in diameter, large
enough for a subway train. I did see some photos of the lava tube taken by my peers, and it did not seem as if I missed anything
too over the top.
Finally, the bus headed back towards Puerto Ayora where we met the pangas that returned us to the Letty. I was more than happy
to get back given the way I was feeling. Once on the boat Dr. Seville gave me some Pepto Bismol. I took the recommended dose and
then went to my cabin to sleep. I was probably experiencing a bout with sea-sickness, but will never know for sure. But I skipped
the remainder of the day's activities including lunch and dinner - a sure sign I was not feeling well.
While I slept the rest of the group returned to Puerto Ayora for some shopping as well as a trip to the Darwin Research Center.
I had been looking forward to going to the DRC, but if I had to miss anything I was happy for it to be the DRC. I would much
rather see the animals and plants in their natural settings. However, I did miss out on seeing the
land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus or pallidus),
an animal we would not have a chance to view in the wild. I also missed out on seeing the giant
tortoises, but I would get to see them when we visited San Cristobal Island in a couple of more days.