|08 Feb 02
Breakfast at 5:15 AM; on shore at 6:00 AM to begin the San Cristobal Death March. We started at the beach and walked 3.2 miles each way by my GPS, probably 4.5-5.0 miles each way as a lava lizard scuttles, to a long-chilled lava lake. Along the way we saw approximately 38 Saddleback Tortoises, some very large, all with census numbers painted on their shells. It's not like they can run away.
The trail was mostly flat, with some gentle uphill stretches, following the route of a dry wash for the most part, up between two old, weathered cinder cones and then slightly downhill to the lava lake.
Desiree was not familiar with the trail, and even the handbooks caution it is a difficult trail to follow, so Captain Pepe led the walk. He must have been a drill sergeant before going to sea. He set a quick and unrelenting pace. It wasn't too bad going in, still relatively cool, but on the walk out the temperature kept climbing. I'd guess the temperature had reached the mid-90's by the end of the walk.
Luckily, we got a swim in when we reached the shore. Pepe used the radio to call for cold beverages, so not long after we were splashing in the water, Manuel and Moises arrived with a bucket, ice and beer and soda.
Going in, the birding was decent. The full list is below, but there were lots of Small and Medium Ground Finches, some Galapagos Flycatchers, many Yellow Warblers, and a handful of fearless San Cristobal Mockingbirds. One Mockingbird tried to rifle our packs at the turnaround. Coming out even the birds were hiding, getting out of the heat.
The trail never left the arid zone, and in fact the old lava lake at the turnaround point was as dry and barren as any place along the way. It looked like it might have cooled last year, and not probably a thousand years earlier. With no water, not much changes quickly here.
In the 15 minutes we spent cooling off in the ocean, I got a mild sunburn on my back. The equatorial sun is brutal.
The San Cristobal Death March, Galapaguera Trail
San Cristobal Island
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