Visiting Isla Santa Cruz in the Galápagos Archipelago

Puerto Ayora (continued)

This street is one block inland from the waterfront (Tomas de Berlanga Street) with restaurants, hotels, and other tourist services.   Here's a typical internet cafe—open-front, no air-conditioning, with a few computers and some furniture. Despite the primitive appearance, service and connection speeds to the U.S. were quite satisfactory.

The Hotel Sol y Mar (Sun and Sea) along the waterfront. I took this picture as a great blue heron casually strolled across the hotel's patio.  

There was a tiny park at the east end of town on the road to the Charles Darwin Research Station. In the park, artists constructed an elaborate but somewhat garish monument that had inlaid carvings of various Galápagos animals, plus Charles Darwin at the top center. In the background is a typical souvenir shop.  

Proinsular, the town's supermarket, at the west end of the waterfront near the water taxi landing. It was very conveniently located, but as you might expect in a remote tourist location, selection was limited and prices were high.  

A family on a motorcycle buzzes past La Panga, a restaurant and disco along the main tourist road (which we didn't visit - just not "groovy" enough, I guess).  

I checked-out the souvenir shops and bought a few souvenirs, including a T-shirt ($10), a small carved blue-footed booby (about $2), and some postcards (25-cents each). Most of the shops had the same kind of uninspiring souvenirs: coarse woodcarvings of sea lions and tortoises (all posed exactly the same way), not very nice-looking stone carvings, cheap jewelry, touristy knick-knacks (including playing cards with pictures of blue-footed boobies for $8), and tons of T-shirts. You could find better quality souvenirs that had more variety and originality, but they were sold by ritzy shops at extravagent prices.

Several souvenir shops also sold books, and I had hoped to find a good Galápagos nature book locally. Unfortunately, the books were all ridiculously expensive—$25 to $45 for an ordinary paperback. Much of the shelf stock was faded and shopworn—they obviously didn't sell many books at those prices.

Despite being on a remote island, the town was bustling with activity, with many people and a quite a bit of traffic. I was surprised and a little disappointed that there should be such a big and busy town in what should have been a pristine natural area. The authorities on the mainland have for years encouraged people to resettle on the island, leading to rapid development and population growth. This in turn is stressing the natural habitats, already stressed from a couple of centuries of careless exploitation and ecological unconcern. To their credit, government officials realize the importance of preserving the Galápagos as a scientific and natural reserve, but as always there are strong competing interests. Farmers and especially fishermen have opposed preservation efforts, sometimes with violence. At present, there seems to be a guarded truce preserving the status quo.

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