In Avenida Baltra on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, in front of a smaller hotel near the local market in Puerto Ayora, we pass about twenty workers shovelling gravel and sweeping the pavement. Other workers, merchants and tourists twist their way past obstacles and people to get through. It doesn’t look particularly organised, but it is seemingly efficient. Half an hour later, they have succeeded in removing the huge heap of gravel.
We enter the White House Galapagos hotel, which is a hotel on Santa Cruz Island with slightly more than a handful of private rooms. Due to the year-round mild climate, the common room is a partly open roundhouse. It includes both a spacious dining area and the reception. There is a garden-like patio with trees and colourful birds, among others beautiful yellow warblers, as well as hammocks attached to the trees for everyone to use.
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What really is a bonus is the family-like atmosphere and attention from the host family. The grandmother is on morning duty, sweeping the indoor and outdoor areas, watering the flowers and feeding the birds. Imitating the voices of the birds and singing, she is veritably able to communicate with them! She is lovely and likes to have a spontaneous conversation with the guests. Her recommendations on where to buy our bread and which market to go to are useful, and she eagerly updates us on the weather situation! She even insists on helping hang out our sparse washing and takes her time to arrange our towels as swans on the bed.
Every morning we buy bananas and other fruits at the local market. The old lady seems to like us and is pleased when we come back the following day. She then lowers the price and adds extra fruit on top. Towards the evening stalls with empanadas open in the market square. Our hosts recommend that we go to try them, which is something we definitely do not regret!
It is one of the most delicious meals we eat during our entire trip! We can choose between spicy chicken, beef and cheese. Moments after they are already deep-fried and ready to eat. The finishing touch is that we can add various homemade pickled vegetables and special sauces, allowing for personal taste, which turn them into the most savoury empanadas one can imagine. They are only 1 dollar each, which is a real bargain. One or two empanadas are absolutely enough to fill you!
We sit down eating them on the benches around the market square, together with the locals. Chattering voices in the darkness surround the vibrant square. It is very authentic, and we feel absolutely safe here – as everywhere else in Puerto Ayora.
We want to go to other parts of the island as well. The main issue is that most land-based trips require a taxi. Apparently most taxis on Santa Cruz Island are white pickup trucks for no more than four passengers. And we are five! Nevertheless, our host knows a couple of taxi drivers who can take five! In this way we organise our own tour to see the giant tortoises!
In the afternoon or evening the guests (and the family) enjoy a quiet moment, stretching out in the hammocks. What is a real gem here is the garden with its trees, flowers and various birds.
Our host is outstanding, recommending places to go to and helping us organise our trips. He gives directions and explains a shortcut to the local lava tunnels a bit out of town. It leads us through a new neighbourhood with rather incomplete houses. Nevertheless, it hasn’t prevented people from already moving in with a rooster or two! Colourful clothes hang on the indispensable clothesline on every flat roof, and laundry can even be spotted on top of a building, which still misses a couple of walls!
Climbing down into the local lava tunnel in Puerto Ayora can be done without any flashlight, since daylight reaches the inner cave through a hole caused by a collapsed part. This actually allows us to see where we tread, so descending with caution, while holding on to the rocks, reassures us that it is ok to enter.
The tunnel, formed by lava flowing through the tube and leaving the hardened surface behind, is very impressive, although short. Anyway, it perfectly shows the geological traces from the lava flow. Even if you suffer from claustrophobia, this lava tube might be your chance to experience the geological phenomenon – since the tunnel is so short – and rather like a cave with some daylight entering. Longer tubes can be explored in other places around Santa Cruz Island, but those require flashlight and definitely some courage in the darkness! You should also be ready to get muddy clothes in those, since you will have to crawl in the darkness to get through it!
The volcanic geological landscape around the Galapagos Islands goes 3 to 5 million years back in time. The eruptions literally formed the islands. Volcanic eruptions have been continuous over time, and even during the last hundreds of years many eruptions have occurred on the islands.
A lava tunnel or lava tube is formed by lava spewed in a volcano eruption and flowing down. The underground tunnels are created when the hot lava channels through – and at the same time leaves the surface of the flow behind cooling and hardening as a shell. The shell makes up the wall of the tubes. In this way gorgeous lava tunnels are born.
Hotel: White House Galapagos hotel
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‘Local Hotel on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos’
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