My Galapagos cruise ended in San Cristóbal. After my cruise, I explored this island for three more days on my own – and it truly was a worthy conclusion to my stay in Galapagos.
Already my first contact with the island (still on the cruise) was one of the highlights of my vacation: a snorkeling tour at Kicker Rock. This rock formation has a narrow channel where frolicking fish attract some sharks, including hammerhead sharks. In fact, as soon as we jumped into the water, we discovered two hammerheads – finally, my wish list of animal sightings is complete!
The rest of the snorkeling trip almost paled in comparison, even though it still was great: impressive rock formations with interesting vegetation (such as anemones), huge shoals of fish, an eagle ray – what more can you ask for?
In the afternoon, when I was already on my own, I explored the surrounding of the town. I enjoyed the views from some lookout points, and went snorkeling again in a sheltered bay called Tijeretas. This inconspicuous bay turned out to be a great place for snorkeling: I was able to observe several turtles feeding, a sea lion mother with her teenage boy swam by me several times, and this very sea lion cub finally circled around me a few times in close distance – an unforgettable experience!
The next day, I wanted to rent a bike for exploring the hinterland. However, before I could even inquire about bike rental, a guide already started to sell me a day trip to Kicker Rock. As I was toying with the idea of going there a second time anyway, I accepted this offer after short contemplation.
Unfortunately, we did not see any hammerhead sharks this time, but "only" a few black-tip reef sharks, several turtles, a huge spotted eagle ray, and many more shoals of fish, including a very densly packed one with tens of thousands of individuals.
Afterwards, we visited the beach Manglecito, where the water was very murky (and therefore rather bad for snorkeling), but the landscape was quite pretty. Besides, I spotted at least some sea turtles.
In the evening, I went to the Loberia (on my own), where some sea lions were lazing around. The strong wind (and the accompanying swell) has kept me from snorkeling, though.
Speaking of sea lions: San Cristóbal is apparently a true paradise for this species. Every night, hundreds (!) of sea lions come to the (fenced-in) beaches in the village. Especially endearing are the very small ones with their almost desperate calls for their mother.
On the way back from the Loberia, I also passed the local church. It seems that the local fauna plays a very important role there as well.
The next day, I finally rented a bike, and made my way into the hinterland. Soon, I almost regretted my decision, because it already started to go uphill before I even left the town. On the outskirts, I encountered a separate bike path, so that I was at least better protected from the occasional car. They even had their own road signs for cyclists warning of upcoming ascents – as if the hills ahead were not already ominous enough. Anyway, they could have done with fewer signs: I could smell the garbage recycling plant at about the same time I spotted the first sign pointing to it.
After about 45 minutes, I finally reached the settlement El Progresso, just six kilometers away – with an extrapolated range of 23.5 miles to the gallon (of water). Originally, I wanted to stop there only on the way back, but I was so exhausted that I took a break at "El ceibo más ancho", the (supposedly) thickest Ceibo tree in the world. In its branches, a complete tree house was constructed (including beds, fridge, and toilet – I am not sure about the plumbing of the latter, though). As the trunk is hollow, they even dug up a cellar under its roots. All in all, this is a small curiosity that can be visited in a couple of minutes. Still, it has given me a much needed break.
After that, I could motivate myself to continue the climb. I took it slowly and tried to see the positive side: Going uphill on the way there gives me a free return. Thankfully, the climb was less steep from that point onwards. So, I biked the remaining ten kilometers to El Junco in brisk 50 minutes.
When I arrived at the crater lake El Junco, I basically stood in the clouds. Sweaty as I was, I almost wished for a thin sweater. Nonetheless, I hiked up the last few hundred meters (distance, not elevation gain) to the crater rim. Every now and then, the clouds cleared up a bit, so that I got to see both the crater lake and the views.
As I did not want to face another climb with 600 metres of elevation gain, I decided not to cycle on to the opposite side of the island. Instead, I returned to town. Thanks to the gradient, I was back in no time (with a top speed in excess of 50 km/h, if my tracking app is to be trusted).
In the afternoon, I wanted to pay a visit to some (surf) beaches near the city, but unfortunately the road there was blocked by a naval base. So, I decided to head back to the Loberia for some snorkeling. However, the waves just rushed over the rocks off the bay (probably because of high tide). Hence, snorkeling was not possible there either. (*)
Therefore, I took advantage again of my discovery two days earlier: I returned to Tijeretas to snorkel one last time with turtles and sea lions – and they did not disappoint. Oh, how I will miss these snorkeling experiences!
(*) There is probably a reason while this beach is also labelled as a surfer beach.