The Highlands Tour of San Cristóbal

Public transport is pretty limited on San Cristóbal Island… so with the help of Bella (our Airbnb host) we secured a driver and car to take us exploring in the Highlands area of San Cristóbal.

Julio – our driver – picked us up in his nice shiny white ute (all taxis on San Cristóbal are utes) at 9am and we were off!!! He was a pretty friendly driver, and we were grateful that he slowed down when speaking to us – so we could understand the answers to our questions 🙂

Our first stop for the day was El Ceibo Treehouse, which is located in El Progreso (the agricultural area of San Cristóbal), which was about a 10 minute drive from our Airbnb on the edge of town. The treehouse was actually pretty cool – it’s built in a Ceibu tree that is OVER 300 years old and is around 40m high… okay so the treehouse isn’t built at the highest point of the tree – that would be impossible – but it still looked cool perched about 15m above the ground!

To access the treehouse you have to cross a bridge…

PB on his way into the tree house.
The Ceibu treehouse as seen from the ground.

In addition to the treehouse, there is an even cooler secret room waiting to be discovered 🙂 This room is subterranean, so is accessed by descending inside the trunk of the tree with the aid of a conveniently placed ladder…

CC descending inside the tree trunk.
PB inside the room located under the tree!

After a pleasant drive through some pretty nice scenery, we arrived at our next stop –Laguna El Junco (El Junco Lagoon). We got out of the ute and Julio pointed out where to go… The trail to El Junco was pretty easy to follow, and the first part of the path was pretty easy walking too – steep, but easy – as steps had been made and stones laid… The second part of the path wasn’t quite finished – and with all the rain that had fallen over the last few days – was pretty muddy and slippery…

The view of the the lake was worth it though. In spite of having the word lagoon in its name, Laguna El Junco is actually a crater lake! Yes, we were looking at a collapsed caldera of a volcano filled with water! What’s more, according to locals – we were looking at the ONLY source of fresh water in the Galapagos.

There was a trail around the crater, so we decided to walk around the whole crater taking in the views and checking out the crater lake from every possible angle!

PB on the trail to El Junco.
The vegetation by El Junco is quite different to that found near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
The trail.
El Junco – the only fresh water sourcce in the Galapagos… apparently!?!
The trail around the caldera.
Cactuses and tourists in the distance.
Looking back at the road we drove here on.
We’re not the only tourists in town with a car and driver… and yep, we are all following the same route!

Our third stop of the day was the Galapaguera – the tortoise research centre on San Cristóbal. We were going to see our FIRST Galapagos giant tortoise of the trip 🙂 Okay, so they weren’t wild tortoises, but to be honest I was excited when I saw the big statue of one in town, so you can imagine how excited I was by a living one! 🙂

Each inhabitable island has a tortoise centre – with a breeding program – which is dedicated to the conservation effort and re-populating of the islands with Galapagos giant tortoises…

All the tortoises in this centre were therefore from San Cristóbal – and were here to either breed, or to be released into the wild when they were old enough.

A Galapagos giant tortoise.
A baby giant Galapagos tortoise with a battered shell… when they are reaally young their shell isn’t as hard as when they are adults and mishaps can occur!
Feeding time!
Another giant Galapagos tortoise.
What a beautiful tortoise.

The final stop for the day was at Puerto Chino (Chinaman’s beach), which is a beach at the opposite end of San Cristóbal to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno! Julio drove us to the main carpark and then we strolled for 15 minutes down a trail to reach the beach. It was a very scenic stroll with cactus lining the path.

The beach was pretty stunning too… nice white sand AND water warm enough to paddle in!!! Yep, we might have carried our snorkelling gear down to the beach with us – but there was no way we were getting in – for two reasons – the first, no wetsuit – it was COLD! The second – the current… it looked pretty strong and with no lifeguard stationed there we decided to play it safe 😉 We went for a walk along the beach instead and also found a trail along a small set of cliffs, which afforded a pretty nice overhead view of the beach.

The path to Chinaman’s Beach.
The beach.
A view of the beach from the nearby cliffs.
Check out the clear blue water.
CC goes for a paddle.
PB enjoying a paddle.

After an awesome day out it was time to head back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno – there were no stops on the way back and Julio dropped us ourtside our favourte lunch spot in town.

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