I’m going to miss this hotel. I’m going to miss the yellow walls, the sweet bread in the morning, and Katherine wheeling José out into the lobby in his stroller.
Alas, we have to move on. We have an early breakfast so that we have time to pack up the room. In my haste I misplace my brand new toe ring (a gift from Charline), and I am cursing myself for losing it. We bring our large bags into a room behind the front desk where Katherine will keep them locked away until our return, and load our overnight bags on the bus. I pack a towel, two pairs of leggings, a long sleeved shirt, a raincoat, a sweatshirt, underwear, my knives, my flashlights, hiking shoes, multiple pairs of socks, my winter hat and headband, and my baseball cap. I don’t know what to expect.
Steve takes us to a lava cave in the highlands. Apparently, lava is a good insulator. When a volcano erupted long ago, the lava flowed over the land, but was so deep that lava underneath didn’t get a chance to cool. Currents of lava below the surface continued to flow, creating long, tube-shaped caves in the earth. Descending into the cave feels like traveling back in time, and I take as many pictures and videos as I can. A long cable hangs from the ceiling with suspended lights to keep the rocky ground visible. It’s cool, dark, and damp inside; a nice relief from the heat and humidity of the highlands.
I feel that I could explore the cave for the whole day, but our next stop is a national park with free-roaming Galapagos tortoises, and I’m excited. We spend a few hours walking around the park observing the tortoises, taking pictures, and learning about the local wildlife. We happen to find a few wild grapefruit trees, and Brian volunteers to knock a few down. I’m hungry, and gratefully pull apart the grapefruit for the next ten minutes or so. It’s the juiciest, freshest, most delicious grapefruit I’ve ever had, and I eat the entire thing myself.
After the tour the group meanders over to the gift shop and café, where we rest for a few minutes. I order a cheese empanada (empanada con queso) and chat with Steve about learning Spanish and his life in the Galapagos. He’s a friendly guy, and has a warm manner about him.
After about a half hour we return to the bus and continue on our tour of the highlands. Steve takes us to several large craters and explains how they were formed, when the ground subsided and plants overtook the area. He shows us local and invasive species of plant, and further displays his knowledge of the area. I try to ask questions as much as possible, since I know it can be discouraging to be so passionate about something and have nobody really care. In reality, we are all interested but are somewhat overwhelmed by the information he provides. We do manage to joke amongst ourselves about a local psychedelic plant that Steve insists is stronger, longer lasting, and more dangerous than LSD. I’ll make sure to avoid that one.
After the craters, we again board the bus and drive up to our final destination, Finca Los Laureles. The Finca is owned by Diego and Nicole, a married couple with a three-year-old daughter. The two met as children, and now run a farm of over 300 acres. They raise cows, pigs, and chickens, and harvest various citrus fruits and bananas. I’m sure there’s even more to their farm, but I don’t get a chance to see all of it. I’m there for less than 24 hours.
We are greeted warmly by Diego and Nicole, and thank Steve for his guidance and knowledge. We settle in to the cozy house and are served small sandwiches with sausage, lettuce, tomato, and some kind of sauce that was divine, as a pre-dinner snack. On top of that, Amanda (from IOI) must have called ahead, because the couple knows that today is Soumya’s 20th A large, well decorated cake materializes out of thin air, and Diego plays Cumpleaños Feliz on his stereo. The evening has started off with excitement, and we’ve only been here for less than an hour.
Somehow we manage to be hungry enough for dinner, and we feast on salad, French fries, pork, beef, rice, and three different juices. I’m beyond full by the end of it, and I settle down in a corner to digest. Not long after, Diego informs us that it’s time to head out to our campsite, and we all squeeze into the back of a truck to see where we’ll be spending the night.
We’re delighted to find that the tents are already set up. There are three of them; two large and one small. We realize that there won’t be much extra space in each tent, but it’s alright. We have to bond after all. We successfully bond through a game of kings and a shared bottle of Galapagos Tequila, mutual discomfort and sleeping under the stars. Bond we do, indeed.