It's a good job today was free of day trips, as for the second time during a short Galapagos vacation, several hours had to be wasted at the offices of TAME, this time to reconfirm my flight. Not doing this can lead to your seat being given to another lucky passenger, making you pay the full cost for another flight a day later. It doesn't really sound fair to me.
After wasting half the morning doing this, my girlfriend and I finally started our day, catching a water taxi across the heaving Academy Bay, passing stationed boats covered in sleeping sea lions. After disembarking from the boat, a five minute stroll saw us reach our first port of call, the beach of Los Alemanes, opposite the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. After seeing some of the other beaches that the island has to offer, Los Alemanes was a huge let down, a small strip of sand, no more than 150 metres wide, the water filled with hidden rocks at every turn. Unlike Tortuga Bay there weren't the strong currents, which I presume the main reason the shallow waters were full of screaming children.
Being opposite the Finch Bay Eco Hotel, where 'Eco' I thought meant 'working in harmony with the environment', you would have expected an unspoilt beach and waters. Similarly to many beaches back home in England, the small waves lapping the shore were full of rubbish including plastic bottles and, you guessed it, condom wrappers. Once you step over and wade through this litter, the water is perfectly clear and amongst the many rocks tiny fish of dazzling colours fly by. The beach is surrounded by mangroves, where if you are lucky the odd pelican and heron, not scared of the potential hazard of sticking a foot in a used condom can be found looking for a small unpolluted bite to eat.
Not having a lot to offer it was soon time to move on from Los Alemanes to our next destination, a place by the name of Las Grietas, a good fifteen minute walk from the beach of Los Alemanes over treacherous jagged volcanic rock, passing a series of 'Salinas', salt pools still mined by locals to this day. Arriving at Las Grietas you can't help but be struck by the beauty and tranquility of the place, a series of inland grotto's where the sea's saltwater and the land's cool spring water collide in a deep canyon, surrounded by high lava walls.
Almost deserted, this had to be one of the nicest places for swimming on Santa Cruz, and taking a dip in the deep, relaxing, cool, clear waters, huge fish gliding along beneath the surface, you could easily drift away into a dream state for hours. If the thought of dreaming while swimming seems one of danger, then the time can also be past watching the ludicrously brave, or stupid, depending on how you look at it, locals and their 'who can jump the highest into the water' competition. One young teenager, several female friends beckoning him on from the safety of the water below, jumped from a height of ten metres, from the very top of the lava walls that surround the narrow pools.
Not wanting to be outdone by children ten years my junior and having a girlfriend next to me to impress, I decided to give free fall jumping a go as well. As to be expected though, not having a streamline body was always going to be a hindrance to my efforts. All I managed was a feeble jump of no more than two metres, something that still got my legs shaking. Still, my girlfriend clapped and smiled as though I had just set a new world record. Such a response can only mean love! If I'd been in the Galapagos for a few more days a return trip here would certainly be on the itinerary, ideally during the week when Las Grietas is deserted.
Everyone makes wrong decisions in life and up until this point deciding to come in flip-flops, walking over the rugged terrain didn't seem one of them. My luck ran out on the homeward journey when trying to walk. The poor old flip-flops just couldn't cope under the strain, snapping at the worst moment, plunging my foot straight down into a small gully, where I stubbed all five of my little toes.
With my right flip-flop useless, I had to walk the whole journey home with my right foot exposed to the elements. Not the nicest experience to be had over sharp volcanic rock, cutting my foot to ribbons. Making the return journey even harder, the sun had baked the rocky surface to boiling point, not allowing my naked foot to touch the rocks for more than a few seconds. Due to the injuries sustained the rest of the day was spent in bed nursing my foot, followed by feebly walking the short distance to the main street of Calle Charles Darwin, to try and take my mind off the pain by treating myself to a few more souvenirs. This of course worked wonders!