We had a lazy start to the day after last night, just watching movies on ipods and popping into Puerto Villamil to pick up a couple of obligatory post cards with tortoises. We were quite keen to go snorkelling at 'Las Tintoreras' where the sea lions and penguins swim and there's a canal for white tip reef sharks but viz was apparently pretty bad coz of the tide. Lunch passed eventfully with much chat of last night's antics - helpful for Liz who had a very poor memory of it all! In the afternoon Adolfo drove us to 'Muro de las Lagrimas' - a wall made out of volcanic rock that was erected by the penal colony here 60 years ago with their bare hands. On the way there we saw some of the tortoises who had already been released from the breeding centre, looking good and healthy. the walk back was pretty, but since it took 2 hours we had to rename it the 'walk of tears'! some pretty sights along the way including 'playa del amor' where the iguanas breed and lava tunnels feeding into the sea which were really stuffy.
In the evening we went out for our posh dinner at 'casa de la marida' - which was just like eating in someone's house but with a really beautiful beach front - good cocktails but for some reason it took about 15 minutes to make one pina colada and when the food arrived one person got served at a time, causing much anguish as i waited for my pasta but well worth the wait once it came - no rice for once!!
There was a party for mother's day going on in the plaza when we got back and the whole town was out including the 'beauty queen' who was providing some of the entertainment. But since the 'salsa' hadn't got going yet we rambled back to Beto's before returning to the square for real dancing in a tumbling sequence of drinks , dancing and gags. Joseph, one of the guides taught me how to salsa and merengue whilst managing to hold a conversation in spanish at the same time. Liz made a cute group of friends dancing around to something that looked peculiarly like 'whoospsy daisy'?! before handing around roses and being admired by Fernando from work. Outside the square having nicked a bottle of cacacha or some other spirit and charming the local police a very bolshy little guy apporached us - from now on to be referred to as 'mini perv'! - please just check out the photo album to see what i mean! we finished up at the stadium which looked alot like star trek with flourescent green light, and more latin american dancing lessons, including with a very talented 15 year old! finally tumbled into bed around 4.30...
After only two hours sleep we were up again for breakfast (which included nice sweet guayana jam from the Galapagos) before heading up to the volcano, Sierra Negra. Surprisingly I didn't feel too bad - maybe still drunk?! After a bumpy journey in the back of Adolfo's truck which all 10 of us managed to fit into we arrived at the base where Natalia, Shaun, Jen, Liz and Olly hired horses whilst Peter, Billy, Jude and I followed Adolfo up on foot. The walk passed by quickly as Adolfo pointed out many introduced species, including the 'guayana' and butterflies on the way up.
When we reached the crater it was spectacular, and huge! The base was all brown and black cracked earth and rock 120m deep from the last eruption in October 2005. The crater had a diameter of 10km and the whole thing stretched out in front of me to the horizon meeting with billowing cloud flowing over the side. Continuing along the path my ipod ironically came on to "Relight my fire" by Take That! Upon reaching the resting point we could see the Volcan Alcedo breaking into the cloud on the right, the smallest of Isabela's 5 volcanoes and the only one that is no longer active (they think). More importantly, it's home to the largest giant tortoise population!
After the other caught up on their mini horses we continued to see Volcan Chico, a set of hissing cones and craters that erupted in 2005. It was astounding; bleached rock and paths through craters accompanied by a whiff of sulphur. The rocks were amazing, varying in colour from jet vlack to hot red coals that dipped down into lava tunnels. Looking donw the slope we could see the path of the lava river and cracks in the earth. From here there were also better views across Elizabeth Bay, a good snorkelling spot to the next door isalnd, Fernandina. Some of the rock samples were really unusual; one like runny brownie mix and another with a sapphire sheen - very pretty.
On the way back I gave the horseriding a go, much better after my lesson in Melbourne! The clouds over the crater had changed and were cascading over the rim much like a waterfall. On our the descent the mist came in making the whole very damp and eerie, wierd how the whole area changed in the space of a couple of hours. After another bumpy ride back we headed out for a late lunch at 'La Choza', waiting over an hour for chicken and chips which was torture! Sunday is quite a quiet day here, because they are all Catholic so we just spent the rest of the day chilling and catching up on much needed sleep!