Posted on 21 February 2009.
This sign is to protect the sharks, not the stupid people who try to mingle with them
Hey there, so today’s like our 4th day here on the Galapagos Islands (San Cristobal, as I mentioned earlier). Things here are awesome (still!). After the snorkeling adventure I mentioned in my last post, I got severely sunburned. Well, it’s not bad all over, just on my lower back, my knees, my ankles, and kind of on the back of my shoulders. The good news is there are tons of pharmacies around here and I was able to get my hands on a bottle of aloe. I might need to go out and get some more soon, though, seeing as how it’s almost gone. My burns ARE feeling much better now, though. Whew.
Well while we’re here, it’s not ALL fun and games. We have to take classes too. Luckily the classes don’t take up a huge amount of time and we’re pretty free to explore in our free time. In class we’ve been learning some interesting things, like that all of the reptiles here on the islands are endemic, meaning you can only find these species here. A large percentage of all the rest of the organisms on the islands are endemic as well, which is one of the things that makes the Galapagos so special.
Today we had a field trip to the highlands of San Cristobal. The area here down by the beach is pretty dry, there are a lot of cacti. But, up higher, things are wetter and you’ll find a lot of grasslands and “forests” of bushes called miconia. Many of the Galapagos islands are powered by diesel fuel, but as of about 2000, initiatives have been taken to use alternative, renewable energy sources. On a big hill here on San Cristobal, are three huge wind turbines that provide a yearly average of 50-60% of the island’s electricity. On a good, windy day, they can provide 80% or more.
San Cristobal is the only island with a significant amount of fresh water on it: it has one or two volcanic lakes on it that give the town water.
We took three pickup trucks with taxi signs on the tops, and as soon as we got out of the town, a bunch of us moved from the cab into the back and rode back there, standing up. On our way back into town, it was raining a bunch, but some of us were already plenty soaked, so we rode back in the pick-up’s bed anyway. I had mine to myself, and it was really exhilarating, racing through the rain.
After our field trip, I went with a group of friends to a cove that’s a bit north of the town. There, we went snorkeling. We’ve rented snorkeling equipment for the rest of the week, so now we can go out whenever we want. Yesterday we snorkeled in the water in front of the university’s building here (called GAIAS, which stands for Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Science, or something along those lines). There were some big-ish fish that were blue with stripes and had yellow tails. We found a whole big school of them and were swimming with them for a while. There must have been hundreds! Also occasionally a sea lion would come and swim right underneath me. It was crazy! It’s also not uncommon to see rays in the sand near the shore.
By the way, the beaches here have really coarse sand because the islands are relatively recent.
Anyway, like I said, today we went to a cove north of the town and there we went snorkeling again. The land at the water was made up of uneven volcanic rock as opposed to the sand of a beach. There were cool things growing on the rocks. When we first got in, there was a sea lion swimming with us. It was really cool. We snorkeled for a bit, watching all the crazy fish, with their ridiculous colors. There were several rays, including a pretty big black one and also a spotted eagle ray (google image search it). These were the ones we saw the other day that are black and have white leopard spots. The one we saw today wasn’t very big, but still awesome. Wikipedia says they can get up to 8 feet wide and up to 16 feet long including the tail.
I was starting to get cold, so I climbed out of the water to take a break. The thing was that I didn’t feel like finishing for the day, I just needed some motivation to get back in the water. My friend Derek gave me motivation enough when a few minutes later he announced, “Hey guys, I think I just found an octopus.” We didn’t believe him at first, but we got in the water and looked. Sure enough there on one of the rocks near where we were sitting was an octopus. It’s wasn’t very big, maybe as bit as my two hands put together, but it looked really cool. On top, it looked like a rock, and you could only notice it once it started moving. Its underside was a brilliant blue. It was beautiful. It made my day.
So right now I’m sitting in the computer lab at GAIAS. I’m gonna head back to my room, shower, apply more aloe, and then head out to dinner. We’ve been eating dinner at nice little places every night. I’ll take pictures. Dinner usually consists of rice, beans, a little salad, and some kind of meat, either chicken or fish (albacore is common). Desert is usually some kind of fruit or ice cream. Yum!
Take it easy, everyone, and if the snow and the cold is getting to you, I give you permission to pretend to come down here and go snorkeling with me. We’ll pretend to have a lot of fun, I promise. We’ve got enough heat and sun to go around.
Cross-posted at Joey’s personal blog