Our first stop in the parte alta of the island was Los Gemelos, the twins, two volcanic craters. Volcanic craters are formed after a major volcanic eruption leaves underground chambers empty. Further tectonic activity, as well as normal erosion, causes the roofs of these chambers to collapse. The photos don’t come close to conveying how large these craters were.

Next we went to a tunnel that was also created by lava. It was dark and dank and creepy and it was really cool. Unfortunately, the photos are not great. I am so blind, I have a hard time telling on the tiny display screen of my camera whether or not the photos are in focus. They weren’t. It was just too dark to get good shots without a tripod. Boo. I believe we were told that this particular tunnel winds underground for about 500m, or about 1640 feet, but we did not go very far because the guide told us the ground gets very “complicated” as you go further. Water seeps from the ground here and there streaking the walls and if you are still and quiet, the only thing you hear is the echoing of water dripping into puddles formed on the rocky, muddy ground. The tunnel’s height where we were varies between about 20 and 30 feet, and the rock color changes from black to rust to white.

After that we went to a privately owned farm where giant tortoises roam freely. We walked through gently rolling hills dotted with trees along paths worn out of the tall grass by tourists past. Small ponds filled with bathing tortoises popped up here and there and Darwin Finches feasted on seeds and searched for bugs within the bark of the trees. The peaceful quiet was occasionally broken by the cracking and scraping of the under brush as a giant tortoise lumbered through, forcing a new trail where one had not been. All of this was framed by a deep blue sky and the lush green growth of the humid zone. It was a surreal experience.

We got dropped back in Puerto Ayora at the end of the tour, at Pelican Bay, just in time to see some fishermen cleaning their catch. The pelicans were also very interested in the activity. They looked like children at a birthday party watching someone slice the cake. Slowly and with great purpose and concentration, they creeped closer and closer until finally someone would throw a scrap to them, initiating a riot of honking and wing flapping.

Julie, Miranda and Lisa, my travel companions, all wanted some sushi, so we went to a restaurant we were told had great sushi. It sat right on Pelican Bay, and the view was for me as exciting as good sushi was for them. Julie works at a sushi restaurant back home and said it was the best sushi she had ever eaten. She asked someone later who told her the fish is caught in the mornings and served the same afternoon. I had tempura ice cream and a coke, and it was wonderful.

We walked so much that day, that when I finally crawled in to bed to take a look at the photos of the day, I could not get through them all. My eyelids felt like lead and I could not fight the sleep that was closing in on me. I slept very soundly, which was very fortunate. I think we walked twice as far the next day.

Check out the afternoon’s photos here.

These tortoises eat pretty much just grass, and they eat it all day long. The shape of their shells, with no arch above the neck, is because they do not have to reach up to eat, as other types do.