August 29, 2008
What a day!
I walked the 1.5 km into town in the morning to do some souvenir shopping and to call home from one of the stores that has phone booths that you can make very reasonable calls (25 cents/minute) to the United States. It was great to talk to my family from so far away.
After lunch I decided to once again try to reach the cliffs along the shore. I estimated that the distance is about 2.5 km from the Station.
Walking on the wave tossed and rounded volcanic rock in the surf zone was very difficult. There were almost no horizontal surfaces to step on. The rocks are very unstable and can move/roll very easily when stepped upon. Above the surf zone the rocks are all angular, jagged, very sharp, and vesicular. The vegetation beyond the surf zone is dominated by cactus. Every step that I took had to be well planned and tested before I put my full weight down - a walking stick that I picked up became an essential tool to keep me from falling. I had to concentrate on walking so much that I had to stop every so often just to look around and see where I was going and to take in the incredible the scenery. My ankles were twisted and turned in every possible direction - the angular and rotational limits of my ankles were severely tested!
I had estimated that it would only take me about 40 minutes to make it to the cliffs. Given a normal hiking experience this would be correct. Because of the difficult terrain and stops to look around it took me an hour and a half to reach my destination. It was more than worth the effort. As I got closer to the cliffs it was apparent that the face of one of the cliffs was eventually going to fall into the sea. There was a large fissure that marked where the cliff face had separated from island and the face itself was angled slightly towards the sea. I climbed out onto the top of the tilted cliff face and sat down facing the sea just to watch and listen to the waves as they crashed violently into the base of the cliffs, often sending water shooting into the air 30 or more feet. I sat there for about 15 minutes, just watching and listening. The sound of the crashing waves was incredible. While sitting there a Brown Pelican landed about 3 meters from me, glanced my way, and then a couple of minutes later took off and soared along the base of the cliffs. I hiked further along the cliffs - not as far as I wanted to - I needed to start back because dusk is at 6:00 every day this close to the equator and I did not want to be walking in this rough terrain in fading light and darkness. I also wanted to explore some of the things that I had seen on my way there.
On the way back to the Station I climbed, skirted, and walked around a large rock; on the other side of the rock was a Blue Footed Booby grooming itself. It stared at me for a few seconds and then went back to its grooming. I sat down about 2 meters from it and just watched its grooming for about 15 minutes; it seemed to be totally unconcerned with my presence. Its feet were a wonderful bright blue. As I continued my return journey I was able to observe Marine Iguanas. I saw how they expel excess salt from their bodies by blowing it out of their nostrils. It is amusing to watch them; when they expel the salt they make a snorting sound and the salt shoots out of their noses. In the shallows I saw several Iguanas feeding on algae and swimming with their powerful tails. The iguanas warming themselves on the rocks after feeding in the cold water would wait until almost the last moment before scurrying out of the way before I stepped on them; I could even reach out and touch them In the tide pools I saw beautiful purple fish darting from rock to rock and chasing each other for the best cover spots.
I made it back to my dorm room mostly in one piece - a few scrapes, a couple small cuts, sore muscles and ankles were a small price to pay for such a great adventure. It was an amazing experience.
After a quick shower and change of clothes I walked into town with Phillip and had dinner. Back at my room it did not take long before I was asleep.