Isabela Island is the largest island in the Galapagos, coming in at four times the size of Santa Cruz, where we had just come from. Isabela straddles the equator, but alas, we were unable to travel to that part of the island. The island is the newest of those on the archipelago, as all but one of the six volcanos comprising it are still active. Isabela is one of the most volcanically active places on earth. The population of the island is approximately 1700, with wildlife vastly outnumbering humans. I approve.
Ecuador Inundation Disclaimer: I now write the remainder of this post from the comfort of my own home on a night I should be working the bar scene, and dealing with stupid number of highly intoxicated millennials making fools of themselves. However, two nights ago, I was in the home of a COVID positive gentleman, unknown to me at the time. I was maskless, as was he. He was chatty, therefore spewing COVID plague throughout the air around us. This is considered an exposure in my line of work, and per our county mandates, I have to quarantine for ten days, regardless of CDC guidelines. I foresee myself getting a lot of Ecuador posts out in that timeframe. Asymptomatic isolation for the win. On to the good stuff! 2nd Disclaimer: There are a massive number of photos and videos in this post. I couldn’t choose!
While the island was probably one of the prettiest, the accommodation fell far short in that regard. Our “room” was a haphazardly constructed addition serving as the “penthouse” (at least that’s how it was initially described to us). The lodging erected with walls made of hand nailed wood riddled with large gaps between the planks, allowing for all manner of things inside like sounds, insects and critters. The ambiance was that of street noise, to include vehicular devices racing around, dogs making all manner of noises (barking, howling, whining, baying, and growling), bike and motorcycle horns blaring, human produced commotion (yelling, shouting, screaming, shrieking and talking), clamoring of sea lions (yes, that’s Galapagos street noise), chickens and roosters crowing, and slamming of doors. It was quite a cacophony of racket to wake to each morning. The exterior roof was visible in various places inside, and another portion of the facade consisted of concrete block. About the only thing solidly made was the door lock and jam – after Hubs accidentally locked us out of the room one night, we assumed a credit card would easily tackle the job. However, that proved difficult, and ultimately Hubs had to crawl through one of the non-locking windows.
Another obstacle with regards to our penthouse, was the large, allegedly private balcony that it afforded us. A group of rowdy Danes decided it was now theirs one night, and proceeded to invite all of their other Danish friends from other hotels over to party just outside our door. Given how small the archipelago is, Genesis was on a first name basis with the owner, and gave them a call to end our problems. The Danes were chased away post haste. Genesis’s other recommendation was, “Pee in the corner, say ‘this is ours,'” as a means of handling the issue. Seems like a solid plan to me. I don’t have a good segway into the next paragraph, so here is an amalgamation of photos from around the island…
Our first day on Isabela we decided to foot the bill for the $45 per person boat ride and snorkel around the bay (aka. Isla Tintoreras tour). Totally worth it, by the way. Generally, the boat is bogged down by other tourists, but thanks to Beer Flu, we were the only tourists. The seven of us and Genesis, our guide, set off for some wildlife viewing, and we were not disappointed. Hell, the views themselves were worth it to me. However, we were greeted by sightings of Blue Footed Boobies, iguanas, tropical penguins, sharks, volcanic rock, beautiful water, glistening yachts, blue skies, and green flora. Frickin’ amazing, and we had sunny skies. Please ignore my fantastic farmer’s tan from my last hike (thankfully, you can’t see the the phenomenal tan line on my thighs from the same hike).
So this tour started with a boat ride into the bay to see fauna (aka. wildlife) before we disembarked onto Isla Tintoreras, a volcanic rock island, to not only look at the rock formations, but also the sharks and iguanas calling it home. Insert: Shark Alley (Parte Uno) – enjoy some amazing photos and videos of the passageway filled with the finned and teethed fish.
Shortly thereafter, we donned wetsuits, or rather tried. Chris, Felicia’s husband, was provided with a snug suit and stated, “I think my wetsuit was made by Spanx.” Once dressed, we all dove into the chilly waters to swim through another shark infested alley, just feet above the gilled creatures. Hubs had a much better experience than I, as a curious juvenile glided between him and the volcanic rocks. I wish I’d seen, and been able to photograph, that one. Instead, I had someone in front of me that kept frantically kicking his legs even though Genesis directed us to simply float and enjoy the view. Regardless, the tour was boatloads of fun, and afforded us with some beautiful scenery.
After our debacle on San Cristobal, a four hour hike turned nine hour ordeal, my knee was still convalescing, but walking sans pain was still a challenge. I was hoping a couple days would help me recover fully. I normally recover quickly, so this shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong… I’m rapidly approaching old, which I am currently defining as 40. Much to my dismay, a couple of days did not cut it. My knee could now handle walking up hills, but using it to support my weight downward was an entirely different story… that shit hurt like a bitch. Being a former gymnast, and strong believer of ‘shake it off and rub some dirt in it,’ I was obviously going to partake in the hike regardless.
On to Sierra Negro… One of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos, and one with a particularly excellent hiking trail, we departed on yet another bus into the highlands. The hike started in the clouds in a horse farm with guards…??? I’ll get to that later. We quickly departed the cloud forest and were assaulted by sunlight. Well, fuck… crazy quick application of sunscreen and removal of chaqueta y camisa (fuck yeah, I’m relearning Spanish!), and onward we go. It didn’t matter… I would heavily peel my skin later regardless of sunscreen application. We hiked up to the second largest caldera in the world (the first is Ngorongoro Crater in Africa, which we’ve been to), before descending into the active part of the volcano. This caldera is black and desolate, where Ngorongoro is an oasis for the many animals that migrate there.
The scenery changed rapidly as we started our descent. Low hanging trees gave way to barren volcanic rock in every direction. We were assured the volcano would not blow while we were hiking on the damned thing, as researchers have sensors present to monitor it. Felicia, the socially clumsy dimwit, was hell bent on trying to keep up with us and chat. I sacrificed my knee just to keep ahead of her, so as not to be punished by her buffoonery. Her own husband even found a sturdy walking stick, and marched ahead. That was telling. Anyway, the landscape was absolutely stunning as the path weaved through the lava rock, snaking around cacti. It culminated climbing a mountain of volcanic rubble, giving way to a view out to the ocean beyond a sea of hardened lava.
To give you an example of just how rebellious the five active volcanos on Isabela are, Wolf Volcano on the northern most part of Isabela, erupted on January 7, 2022. Happy New Year!
Kim headed out first to hike back to the lush farm. She left her mark behind, with KIM and an arrow pointing in the direction of the highlands. We finally caught up to her a distance from the farm, finishing out our ten mile jaunt. Once back where the bus was awaiting us, we snacked up near the paddock watching the horses. Kim elected to play with them.
Discovery about the horses… they tie the poor animals front two legs together until they hit two years old. Apparently, this is in an attempt to keep them from kicking the other steeds and thus, injuring them.
We had been enjoying some tasty mojitos at a restaurant, El Velero, while on Isabela. Genesis and Kim came up with the remarkable idea that we could concoct our own. She suggested snatching some of the fresh mint growing around the farm, and later alluded to the idea that one could also, “Steal your neighborhood basil plant,” in order to make pesto. I have decided Genesis is quite the thief. Kim did the honors, securing several handfuls of mint leaves. Once back at the hostel, Genesis grabbed some of the Rangpur limes from the market, and we got to work on our homemade mojitos. The end results…
A delightful Isabela purchase… I LOVE BOOBIES in baseball cap form. Blue Footed Boobies, get your heads out of the gutter! And thanks to CPT Fit Co. for the spot on t-shirt.
And with that, hasta luego, Galapagos. It’s been fun, but now it’s time to fly back to mainland Ecuador for some high elevation hiking.
3 thoughts on “Isabela Island, Galapagos… Everything from Tropical Penguins, Sharks & Beaches to Rainforests & Volcanos”
Holy wow, this looks amazing! Looking forward to more posts. Hope your isolation remains asymptomatic.
Isabela was definitely the favorite of the three we visited on the Galapagos. I know you’re a hiker… mainland Ecuador is a hiking paradise. Quito sits at just over 9000 feet, and is surrounded by volcanos and mountains. It was fantastic! And yup, still asymptomatic, and hoping it stays that way.
I’d LOVE to go hiking in Ecuador!