Day 5 – Santa Cruz Island: Biking Santa Cruz Highway, Tortuga Bay, El Trapiche
Biking Santa Cruz Highway
Although we weren’t technically leaving Santa Cruz Island, the fastest way to Tortuga Bay was by boat. Instead of driving to Puerto Ayora to catch our boat, we decided to bike there. Our hotel, Galapagos Safari Camp, arranged for bikes to be delivered to the hotel where we were fitted and then we set out along the bike path that leads from Bellavista to Puerto Ayora. It’s a great paved path along the main “highway” which is really just a two-lane road.
My older two kids and I biked ahead while Mike hung back with our tentative 7-year-old and our guide. My 7-year-old had been practicing his biking skills leading up to this trip, but was not used to hand brakes or riding on slick hills. He ended up being just fine with some encouragement from his entourage.
And kudos to my little guy for riding all the way in flip flops! Probably not the best choice of footwear, but someone forgot to grab tennis shoes when we left the hotel.
After a very harrowing ride through choppy water we ended up in this very peaceful bay. Let’s just say I was not looking forward to the ride back.
We left our stuff on the beach by the bay and immediately walked over to the ocean side where the water was a lot rougher. The beach was deserted except for a plethora of marine iguanas!
We were all mesmerized by the marine iguanas in the Galapagos. Yes, they are kind of scary looking, but they are actually gentle herbivores that feed on underwater marine algae and seaweed. Marine Iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos. The theory is that land iguanas from South America must have drifted out to see on logs or other debris and found themselves on these islands where they adapted to survive. They have sharp teeth to scape algae off rocks, and sharp claws to help them cling to rocks underwater in strong currents. They have also developed a special gland that enables them to clean their blood of extra salt ingested while feeding. We could often see them blow the extra salt out their noses (or mouths – I’m not exactly sure, but it looked like a sneeze) or we’d just see the dried salt around their mouths.
Back on the beach at Tortuga Bay, the kids played in the sand & water (in a relatively bug-free environment) and then we all took kayaks out on the bay.
While out on the bay, we saw (small) sharks, sea turtles and lots of fish swimming around underneath us. With the exception of Mike and our son capsizing in their kayak while trying to ride those waves way off in the distance, it was a relatively peaceful ride!
Lunch in Puerto Ayora
After we returned to Puerto Ayora, we had a traditional Ecuadorian lunch at Lo & Lo (make sure to order the frozen lemonade) and then we went next door to the Galapagos Deli for the “best ice cream” in the Galapagos. I was skeptical, but it really was the best ice cream I’ve had in a long time!
After lunch we stopped at El Trapiche (which means sugar mill) where we learned how they process sugar cane and coffee.
First the kids got a chance to crush coffee beans, fan away the husks, and practice roasting the beans over an open flame. It was a lot of work!
Then they each got to ride a donkey around a sugar cane press (el trapiche) to squeeze out all the juice.
My daughter just wanted to be friends with the donkey and gave him a sugar cane offering.
After the juice is pressed, we learned how it’s fermented into very strong alcohol (moonshine), and also boiled down into molasses or evaporated into sugar cubes.
At the end of our tour we got to try all the products: sugar cane juice for the kids and coffee & moonshine for the adults.
Smelling the moonshine was good enough for me as it was incredibly strong! The coffee, however, was delicious!
Next up: Galapagos: Days 6 & 7