Time to change islands! We were transported to Isabela by one of those miniscule propeller planes, the smallest I’ve ever ridden in. The plane shook and rattled and the engine was so loud the passengers all wore headphones but our pilot, Carlos, had obviously made this flight many times before and the view below was amazing.
Our new hotel, Iguana Crossing, was totally different than the Galapagos Habitat. As in, if you’ve ever spent a weekend at a Girl Scout camp, you’ll know exactly what I mean. But, the view of the sea (a stone’s throw away from my room) was fabulous and the nights were warm enough to open the sliding door and fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves and an ocean breeze ruffling the curtains. Their breakfast breads, baked by Sebastian’s friend, Pepe, were delicious as was the fresh fruit. The coffee, not so much, but I’d been meaning to cut back anyway!
Isabela is where Sebastian lives when he’s not guiding, and it was there that I finally saw my flamingos! On a nature walk we passed a lagoon where they fed and, like all the Galapagos wildlife they seemed unphased by humans. It was like we weren’t even there. There are plenty of sealions, boobies, and tortoises on the island too.
As with Puerto Ayora, the town of Puerto Villamil was only a short walk from the hotel so we were able to see lots of local activity; families grilling on their porch, kids playing in the attractive town square, and even an elementary school soccer game! Best of all, the dogs! On Isabela packs of dogs in all sizes and shapes roam freely, much as they used to in the US before the days of leash laws. What’s most striking about the Galapagos dogs is their sheer exuberance. They frolic, they chase each other, they joyfully leap and spin in the air. Some of them even smile, as only a dog can, making you laugh out loud as well. Many of them don’t appear to belong to anyone but they aren’t mangy or thin and they don’t steal food or beg. What they do is sit patiently and quietly next to your table until you offer them a scrap of meat or bread from your plate. They were so well-mannered we didn’t mind sharing.
Our second day on the island we hiked up to see a volcano crater. We got an early start as it tends to get hot as the sun gets higher in the sky. It’s a long, steep climb, not for the faint of heart! Once again, my Merrell’s came in handy, this time not because of the uneven lava stones but because of the way the weather changes as you ascend the trail. When we started at the ranger station it was cool and misty and the path was muddy and slick. The further up we got, the drier it became and, by the time we reached the top it was sunny and a perfect temperature with a refreshing breeze. Sebastian stopped frequently to point out all sorts of interesting things to see along the way, beginning with the tiny blue Galapagos butterflies and ending with the most gigantic cow I’ve ever seen. It was the size of a buffalo. Things really are bigger in the Archipelago!
That was not the only animal we came across on our walk. Like many places these days, the Galapagos Islands have a feral pig problem. One of the rangers’ duties is to control that undesirable population as much as possible. How they do this is by roaming the woods on horseback with a pack of dogs who chase the invasive species down. Then they take the wild pig home and cook him for dinner, hopefully sharing the bounty with the dogs.
The Sierra Negra volcano crater at 3,688 feet high and, with its soup-bowl shape, is quite impressive. For those who are ambitious and athletic enough to do it, once at the top you can continue hiking around the rim before descending to the parking area again. According to Sebastian, Isabela has six super-volcanoes and Sierra Negra is one of the most active, last erupting in 2018.
Another beautiful day in the Galapagos Islands!