We woke up today amazed that this was only our third full day of the cruise. We’ve been kept so busy that it seemed like we’d been on the boat MUCH longer. That’s a good thing, and today was no different.
An early wake up and into the pangas by 8 to go into Puerto Ayora, the largest town (population 20,000) on Santa Cruz, the most populous island in Galapagos. First stop, the Charles Darwin Research Station.
The facility itself isn’t open to the public; we were there to visit the breeding grounds of the giant tortoises.
And we weren’t disappointed as a couple in one of the pens was going at it.
Our guide said mating can last up to three hours! Granted it’s not easy maneuvering with those massive shells involved, but, hey, maybe they just enjoy it!
We then had some free time to wander around town and purchase souvenirs before boarding a bus to visit a plantation producing artisanal coffee and sugar cane liquor. We stumbled upon a little fresh seafood stand serving both customers and critters!
I had signed up to ride a mountain bike to the plantation but we were both so hot and sweaty from the steamy weather that I changed my mind and rode the bus. Good call. Samples of coffee and the sugar cane products were for sale, and we got to raise a toast with the alcohol, which was 130 proof!
See where the beaker measures 65? That's the percentage of alcohol.
Next we were driven to a buffet lunch at a hacienda in the highlands with a view of the Pacific.
After our meal and a bit of relaxing on to a long cave formed by the rapid flow of lava eons ago. Too dark for decent photos here.Then the highlight of the day—getting up close and personal with giant tortoises!
This was for us the iconic and quintessential Galapagos experience. We’d seen the photos of others doing it and now here we were taking our own pictures of these magnificent animals. It truly felt like we had been transported back into prehistoric times.
After crawling inside some empty shells and taking silly photos
we headed back to the ship. Being ashore all day without a break was exhausting, but after dinner there was a show with local musicians and dancers that we couldn’t miss. In fact we somehow got our second wind and found ourselves up dancing with lots of our fellow passengers.
Quite a day!