In the Highlands of Santa Cruz

Our campsite in the Highlands.
          Camping in the highlands of Santa Cruz was an adventure: we were told very little about what we were doing and what type of camping it was, only that we were to pack a daypack, overnight bag, and we were going to see tortoises. Therefore, us all being more intense outdoorsy types, we all expected that we would be hiking up to our campsite, setting up tents or something in the middle of the woods, and camping. Well, it turned out, we were at a lovely campsite with three cabins and two huge family tents that we took taxis to, and could drop off stuff before we went on our hike, which was really just walking down the dirt farming road down the mountain. Again, Dr. Meltzoff was in the last car to arrive, leaving all of us in standing around confused, trying to figure out what was going on until she got there (this has been a recurring theme).
The elderly tortoise hanging out at the campsite.
            Once she arrived, and we figured out who was sleeping where and took pictures of an older tortoise that was hanging around camp, we were introduced us to two of the three horses that our guide, René, who owns the place, has. Initially, we only interacted with two of the horses – two males, a larger beige one, who was about five, and a smaller brown one, who was about a year and a half old. All the horses had a white stripe down their face, and they were all siblings. The guys immediately took to the horses, and the beige horse was extremely interested in Tom, or more specifically, Tom’s rain coat. He kept sniffing, licking, and even nibbling at Tom’s coat, to the extent that Tom had to take it off and put aside to keep it from being destroyed. When René brought out a saddle, we all joked that Tom should be the one to ride the beige horse, because it took such a liking to him. It turns out, Tom is from rural southern Illinois, and actually knows how to ride a horse well, and was able to trot circles around us.
Tom and Rene with Tom's new horse friend.
While Tom was all set with his new horse friend, René mentioned towards the third horse, a female beige separate from the others, and wanted to know who was going to ride her. We all made huge, sidelong glances towards Marc – I think because he’s the only non-American, and adventurous besides, we automatically volunteer him for the more ambitious tasks – who then proceeded to lead the horse out of the brush for saddling. Initially when Marc climbed on, the horse started to buck nervously. René calmed her down, but, it turns out, after the rest of us started on the hike, she threw Marc off, and would only accept René as her rider. This made sense after it was explained that a little while ago, the horse had escaped, was found by people who abused her, and was only returned to René two week prior. The plan was to have everyone switch off and on both horses as we went along, but we were only able to do so with Tom’s horse.
The mudpool of tortoises we meditated around.
The entire hike was wet (because it was raining the whole time), and full of tortoises. The Galápagos Tortoises on Santa Cruz are the largest of all the species: we saw males as big as the garbage bins out put out on the curb. You can tell males and females apart in two ways: the males are larger and have bumpy shells, and the females are smaller and have smooth shells – worn down from being mounted while mating. At one point, we left the horses tethered to a tree, while we ventured down what was either a long forgotten trail through the underbrush, or a path René was making up as he went along with his machete. Then, at the direction of Dr. Meltzoff, we meditated around a big mud pool full of tortoises, which was… interesting. That night we had a huge tuna – roasted over the campfire – for dinner, and did some amazing stargazing. I saw more stars that I’ve seen in my entire life that night, and you could just almost see the milky way.
Anita Chapi, in the doorway of her home.
In the morning, we walked along the road for about an hour to René’s mother-in-law’s house. Anita Chapi is eighty years old, still farming and lugging her pineapples and plantains down to market every week, and was one of the first settlers on the island. She’s been there since 1959, and before that she lived in the Andes. She has six daughters and one son, all of whom still live on the island, most down in Puerto Ayora. She has twenty five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. She is one amazing woman, and we go to talk to her for an hour and a half, and sample some of her amazing pineapple. I know we could have stayed much longer, but we had a boat to catch to go to Isabela. After a little cab fiasco (one of the cabs drove off with a bag or two of ours, which was panic-inducing, but we got them back), we all gathered down at the port, loaded all our bags onto the boat, and we were off to Isabela!


  1. Anonymous30.1.12

    Another great post. I am even more jealous now that I was before!

  2. Anonymous30.1.12

    We are anonymous, we are a legion. And I am jealous

  3. Great pictures and running comments on your adventures! enjoying hearing from you. xoxoxoxo Grandma G

  4. So how is the food? More beans and rice?

  5. New entry! I want to read the next chapter of this book!


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