After about a week and a half of class, we were done, which was awesome. It’s definitely going to be a shocker to go back and have multiple classes at a time for such a long time. The weekend after going to Punta Pitt, I went to a soccer tournament type thing at my host siblings’ school. I wasn’t really sure what was happening, but all of the classes paraded around to the Olympic theme song and then they were judging them about something, which took about an hour and then when they finished, most people disappeared, and the parents started playing soccer and basketball. It was interesting and I felt like I was just aimlessly following my host family around like a lost puppy. That night, I went with a bunch of people out to Puerto Chino, a beautiful sandy beach about a 45 min drive from town. We camped on the beach for the evening and it was so amazing. It was really cloudy most of the night, which was a little disappointing, but it made playing sardines very fun. People would hide among the lava rocks on the beach, and had there been light, it would have been so easy to see them, but in the dark, it was pretty difficult. Luckily, during the night, it cleared up for a bit. We were sleeping in a heap of sheets on the beach and when the clouds cleared up, it got significantly colder waking us up and we were able to see all the stars and the Milky Way. It was such an amazing sight. Then we got up early to see the sunrise, but the clouds had returned, so it was a bit difficult to see.
After getting back from camping, I baked chocolate chip cookies with my host family. Sunday afternoon, there was a potluck and we were all supposed to make a dessert with our families. It was a bit difficult to describe everything in Spanish, especially baking soda. After describing that it was a white thing like flour that helps the cookies rise, my host mom luckily knew what I was saying. My family has an oven, but I don’t think they ever really use it. They didn’t really have a pan for baking, or any measuring devices. Our measuring cup was a small coffee cup and I just used a normal spoon to measure out the smaller stuff. It turned out pretty well though. My host family was so fascinated watching the cookies bake in the oven. It was funny to watch. They were so amazed by something that’s so natural to me. That afternoon, there were so many desserts it was ridiculous. I limited myself to only a couple of desserts, but I wanted to try them all.
Monday, we left for Santa Cruz. The other classes had activities planned but our class was free. Monday afternoon, I went to all the tourist shops, which far outnumber the ones on San Cristobal and finished my souvenir shopping. Then, on Tuesday, we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station and had two lectures on fisheries and conservation in the area. After that, we walked around the station and got to see Lonesome George- the last giant tortoise from Pinta Island whose genetic makeup is far enough away from other tortoises that he has been unable to successfully mate.
Wednesday, we took a boat ride over to Floreana- the smallest populated island of the Galapagos. Only about 150 people live there! We took a trolley bus up into the highlands- essentially a flatbed with seats put on it. I sat on the very top with 7 others, which made for an interesting ride. We were bounced all around and had to dodge a few branches along the way. Once in the highlands, we hiked around a bit and saw a small “stream” of water flowing through a rock formation. It is said that it’s a life giving spring and that you will live longer if you drink the water, so we all filled up out water bottles with it. After that, we hiked to this area with cool rock formations where people used to live and hunt. It was like a maze. After that, we went to see a bunch of tortoises. It was awesome because there were so many and we could get really close, but they don’t actually belong there. People killed all of the tortoises on Floreana for their meat and fat causing them to be extinct. These ones were just brought over for tourists to see. Then we went to a black sandy beach. I had heard that term before, but never really knew they existed. The sand was super hot to walk on, but it was really interesting to see. We hung out on the beach for a bit before returning to Santa Cruz.
Thursday, Thnaksgiving, we had the opportunity to go to the highlands with the plant class. We hiked through the agricultural area up into the park and the professor explained the different introduced and native plants we saw along the way. He is really hilarious and went to OSU which made me a little disappointed for changing classes, but my class was so easy in comparison and was really useful information. After our hike, we went to a tortoise reserve and saw a bunch more tortoises and then we went to a lava tunnel. It had a really high ceiling which was neat. Then, we saw a gorge that was formed by the collapse of the roof of a gas chamber formed by volcanic activity and walked through a scalesia forest. Scalesia trees are a member of the daisy family and an excellent example of adaptive radiation on the Galapagos.
Thursday night, we were on our own for dinner. For Thanksgiving, they gave us cake and the Ecuadorian students at GAIAS had made us cards. Mine was a drawing of a bunny eating carrots with a couple of flowers and said Happy Thanksgiving. Wrong holiday, but it was super cute. Then we went out for pizza. The pizza restaurant has super nice tvs and it was the south American cup semifinal game so we were a group of gringos there for pizza among a sea of Ecuadorians cheering for their team. But Liga (a team based out of Quito) won and it was really exciting to watch the game there. Then, we went to this place with really good desserts to get nut pie- the Galapagueñen version of pecan pie, but they told us it was reserved for a group, so I settled for a piece of chocolate cake. It was still delicious and I had the feeling of excessive fullness yoyu get after Thanksiving dinner, so all in all it was a pretty great Thanksgiving.
Friday morning, we went to Tortuga Bay, a long stretch of white sandy beach with perfect waves. We played some soccer and then played in the waves before heading back to San Cristobal.