Inland Magic on San Cristóbal

I have a tendency to over-complicate things. I pretend like I’m being laid-back and flexible, but really I’m secretly stressing over superfluous choices.

Let me explain what I mean. On San Cristóbal Island, the highlands are a popular tourist attraction. There’s a lot to see, but it’s not accessible on foot. Local tour operators have jumped on this, and most offer a ‘highland tour.’

Highlands, Galapagos
Oooh, ahhh: the highlands.

The highland tour ranges from $35-40 per person. It goes all day and includes lunch.

There were two problems with this: 1) ‘All day.’ This does not sell a tour to me. It discourages me. I don’t want to be in your clutches ‘all day.’ 2) The price was a little more than we wanted to pay.

We’d read about a family that hired a taxi driver to take them to the sights, and the going rate was $40-50 for the whole car. This sounded appealing.

Negotiating with a taxi driver, however, did not.

So I stressed. I went to every tour agency in town to compare prices. I hovered on the sidewalk, unsure as to whether or not I was willing to approach a driver.

In the end, we sucked it up and decided to get a cab in the morning. We wrote down the names of our four desired destinations, walked up to the first white truck we saw (all taxis are white trucks), and inquired.

It was the easiest thing I’ve ever arranged. The driver read our list, nodded, and quoted us a price of $40.

Woo-hoo! We’d just saved thirty bucks!

On top of that, he turned out to be an insanely knowledgeable tour guide. His Spanish was easy to understand, he’d lived on the island all his life, and he knew the ins and outs.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve (Galapaguera)

Galapagos tortoises
Not exactly ‘in the wild,’ but fascinating nonetheless.

We started at the Tortoise Reserve, following a boardwalk through the ‘park.’ Fortunately, it was feeding time (around 9AM) and we got to see all of the tortoises, clustered together, ripping plants to shreds. Shreds, I tell you.

Galapagos Tortoises
There’s about to be a fight.

Have you ever heard the sound of 15 tortoises pulling plant leaves through their sharp little mouths? It’s something.

Puerto Chino

The internet told us that Puerto Chino was one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. One review we read claimed that you might need hours at this beach.

Puerto Chino Beach, Galapagos
Watched for ages and didn’t see a single shark. Lame.

It was raining. Fifteen minutes was sufficient.

We admired the arcing beach, climbed to the top of a rocky point, and skirted the sea lions. It was nice, but nowhere near as good as the secret beach.

El Junco Lagoon

Our driver/guide warned us about El Junco. It’s a large freshwater lake created by rainwater in a volcanic crater, ideal for birdwatching and general picture-taking. The problem is the weather. In the highlands, it rains more often than not, creating a dense fog at the crater and rendering the lake invisible.

“It’s okay,” we said. “We’ll take a look anyway.”

The driver, who had gotten out of the truck for the last two stops, told us he’d just wait. The rain was coming down at an irritating rate, and we had to sludge across a muddy, uphill path to reach the lake, which we could not see.

El Junco, Galapagos
The stunning freshwater lake. Or so they say.

Jared fell three times. By the time we arrived back at the car, it looked as if he’d been rolling around in the mud for no good reason. The driver, to his credit, suggested that we put the dirty stuff in the back of the car and tried not to look at the mess we were creating in the backseat.

El Junco, Galapagos
Seconds after his third fall.

El Progresso/El Ceibo

El Progresso is a town with critical importance to the Galapagos – it’s the oldest settlement still going today. At one point it was a penal colony, run by a vicious man who was eventually killed in a slave uprising. Karma, baby.

I found the town to be bland, until the driver (I cannot remember his name for the life of me: fail) took us on an unexpected detour.

Treehouse Galapagos
Um, awesome.

For ONE DOLLAR only, we were given free reign over this treehouse. It was the treehouse to end all treehouses. It made the Swiss Family Robinson look like amateurs. There were two bedrooms, one up and one down, a bathroom, and a kitchen. A large tire swing swayed from a branch and if you want, you can rappel down the side.

El Ceibo, Galapagos
Upstairs apartment, with kitchen and bathroom.
El Ceibo Treehouse, Galapagos
Going into the downstairs bedroom, in the ROOTS OF THE TREE.
El Ceibo, Galapagos
The honeymoon suite. Not pictured: tiny toilet against the opposite wall.

It was nuts. The driver got major points from us after that.

By one o’clock, we were back in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, at our hotel. We’d saved money, we’d been on our own time, we’d met a cool local guy.

Don’t know what I was worried about, really.

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  1. What a great post about our home island in the Galapagos! El Junco can be great fun in good weather, and that giant tree, El Ceibo? It’s the largest silk cotton tree in South America, and is owned by the family of one of our naturalist guides…how cool is that?

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you liked it! I did not know that about the Ceibo tree – makes a fascinating place even better! I enjoyed El Junco despite the weather, but I think it’s because we were determined to have fun. I looked it up online and its very impressive minus the mist and fog. You live on a really special island!

  2. There is so much in this post I relate to! Not the whole being in the Galapagos, because that is very much still a pipe dream for now, but it seems that the more superfluous the decision, the more I angst out over it. Trying to get me to commit to a hotel is a nightmare!

    And I also feel you on the hating to approach locals when the possibility of haggling is imminent; I really have to psych myself up to do it.

    But all the angst was clearly so worth it in this case! Having local guides who really know the area can really make all the difference, especially if they’re able to show you something super cool that isn’t on the main tourist trail!

    1. I always say I’m going to ‘go with the flow,’ but I still struggle. Suddenly every little decision seems imperative to our happiness when it so isn’t. And haggling – I just don’t do it, unless the price seems absolutely ludicrous.
      I’m really glad we went with the taxi option in this case – it worked out great and was extremely easy!

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