San Cristobal Island, at 215 square miles, is the 5th largest in the archipelago, the closest to the mainland, the 2nd most populated and our last stop. One of the oldest of the islands geologically, all of the volcanoes on the island are now extinct and it is one of the few islands where you can see giant tortoises actually in the wild.
Our first stop was Punta Pitt, on the North East point of the island
The colour of sand on the Galapagos beaches varies depending on the location – there are 5 distinctly different colours – white, red, black, yellow and green. So far we’d set foot on white, red and black. On this day we landed on the yellow sand beach of Punta Pitt.
Punta Pitt is the only place where you can see all 3 resident species of Boobies – the Blue-Footed, Red-Footed and Nazca. But first, you need to hike up this sometimes steep and always rocky trail.
Once at the top, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the beach below.
And, of course, boobies
Red-footed boobies nest and live in the trees; making them much harder to photograph than their blue-footed cousins. Oddly enough, red-footed boobies can be white, like the one below, or brown.
The male blue-footed booby is smaller than the female but has longer tail plumage. Their feet are also less striking than the female. In the photo below, the female is on the right and the male on the left.
In the afternoon we sailed around the top of the island to Hobbs Bay and headed inland to La Galapaguera, looking for tortoises in their natural environment. After a very hot 40 minute walk, we finally found one. It was well camouflaged in a bush, trying to stay cool.
After the walk, we spent some time on the beach. Some went swimming, most just sat and enjoyed our last afternoon in the islands.
Where we were sitting there were some pieces of bone, including this small piece of a jaw complete with sea lion teeth
We made it back to the boat just in time to watch the sun set
The next (and last) morning, we went to the Interpretation Centre in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It was very informative and well done, but I couldn’t help but think it would have been better at the beginning!
We had a bit of free time for souvenir shopping before heading to the airport…
In Ecuador, there is a New Year’s eve tradition of burning effigies of politicians and pop culture figures at midnight. This burning of the old year (año viejo) gets rid of all the bad from the previous 12 months and starts the New Year fresh. These effigies were being prepared for the later festivities.
A different kind of Christmas Cactus…
The airport in San Cristobal is very small, this was my view after boarding the aircraft
Back in Quito it was mayhem. The party starts on the streets long before midnight, in fact, by 8 pm most people were gone. The street in front of the hotel was closed for the “parade” and there were a lot of people. Very much a family event, there were vendors selling fluorescent wigs and street food everywhere. It may have been the rain, but by 8pm or so, everyone was gone.
Part of the New Year’s tradition is that men dress up in women’s clothing, wear these wigs and beg for money. They are the “el Viudas”, the widows of the men (effigies) being burned.
At midnight I headed down to the front of the hotel to witness this spectacle. It may have been the pouring rain, but there wasn’t much going on. A few Ecuadorian party-goers at the hotel brought out Sponge Bob and some Simpson’s characters, and, after a lot of smouldering, finally got them lit on fire.
The last “tradition” that I learned of is this – you need to jump over this fire three times to bring you good luck for the coming year. And they did…