The Floreana Highlands
Just like all the other inhabited islands, Floreana has a highlands section with cloudy weather, greenery and farms. A road from town goes up the hill and terminates around 8km later at a place called Asilo de la Paz – which is 450m above sea level and has a few interesting things to look at.
To get there, we took a ‘chiva‘ – which is basically a truck converted into a bus. They are used for rural public transport in Ecuador and Colombia, and have hard wooden benches and open sides. The ones on Floreana are very ‘plain’, as supposedly they are usually painted in bright and garish colours (we had not been on one before). There were two chivas per day up to the highlands – one at 7am and one at 3pm. Our plan was to go up by chiva, and then walk back down – so we figured we had better get the 7am chiva.
The journey up to Asilo de la Paz turned out to be a bit longer than expected – the chiva was full of farmers that live in the town, but work in their fields all day in the highlands. The chiva not only goes to the end of the road, it goes down every side track and drops the farmers right by their fields – so we got a very extended tour of the farms of the highlands! 🙂 It was actually really nice to travel down all the dirt side roads and see the countryside.
By the time we arrived at the end of the road, pretty much all the farmers had already gotten off and we were faced with a path leading into the greenery – so off we went!
One of the things at Asilo de la Paz is a tortoise sanctuary. The Floreana tortoise unfortunately is extinct – so these are hybrids and other species. The sanctuary is a nice place for a stroll, and it’s quite overgrown – so it was a challenge to spot the tortoises!
The other interesting thing that is up here is historical – Floreana was the first island of the Galapagos to have people living on it – probably because there is a freshwater source here (most of the islands have no freshwater source). Pirates lived here in the 1700s, and they lived in caves up here in the highlands. You can see lots of evidence of their presence and the presence of the people who came and lived here afterwards – the Wittmers… yes some Germans came to Floreana in the 1930s and they lived in a cave while they were building their house….!
After our cave exploration, it was time to start the 8km walk back down to town. There was only one stop to make on the way – a visit to a mirador on Cerro Allieri – located at 390m above sea level, and just before the road starts the descent down to Puerto Velasco Ibarra.
The trail to the top of Cerro Allieri was pretty quick and easy. On the way up there were some park rangers repairing some of the steps. One of them asked us ‘what boat’ we were from – he seemed very surprised to see us! We replied that we were staying in town and weren’t from a cruise boat, and that we were staying at ‘Hildita Guesthouse’ and that the owner there had told us to come up here. He seemed very grumpy and told us that the owner should always let the park rangers know if people are coming on the trail – ‘what if you fell over and injured yourself?!’ he exclaimed….
‘Probably the other one of us would go and get help….’, I thought to myself… ANYWAY, on we continued…
We arrived back in town at just after 11am – so the whole trip took a lot less time than we expected! Although there were no really amazing sights, and not much wildlife – it was still a really nice morning out.