When we were in Mindo for the weekend, the house we stayed in was next door to a butterfly farm. The butterfly farm was a series of greenhouses that were each full of different types of butterflies and caterpillars. The first greenhouse had a lot of different types of caterpillars and chrysalises. The caterpillars had different amounts of times that they had to eat.
There was a section where the caterpillars started emerging from their chrysalises. Some fun facts – caterpillers bodies liquefy during their transition in the chrysalis. And butterflies can see ultraviolet colors.
Each type of butterfly lays their eggs on a different type of leaf. The monarch for example only lays its eggs on milkweed. One type of caterpillar makes a gold chrysalis. It’s very a reflective surface because they live close to the water, so they try to blend in by being reflective.
The second greenhouse was a big room where all of the butterflies could roam free and eat at multiple eating stations with fruit or some of the many flowers. There were butterflies everywhere, and some would land on us.
The volcano Sierra Negra is the largest volcano in Galapagos (2nd largest caldera in the world); the caldera is HUGE about 9 by 7 kilometers (5.5 miles by 4.3 miles) and is leftover from the collapsed volcano cone. Sierra Negra is on the Island Isabela; this is the largest island in the Galapagos; it is 2,883.162 square miles. The island expanded 1.4km when Sierra Negra erupted in 2018.
We hiked up to see the caldera and even went to the sight of a fissure though it wasn’t active when we saw it.
We had a guide named Nadia. The hike was one of the best parts of our trip. At the beginning, Karen and I sang the song, ‘The Ants Go Marching’ until we finally got to one hundred and thirteen. Neal joined in around sixty-three. The hike took around two and a half hours. The first part up to the gazebo was the longest. There, Neal and my mom stopped so Alora, Kate, Elle and Cooper could have lunch.
From that point on, only my dad, Jason, Karen, Grant, and I continued without the little kids, up to the fissure where the most recent eruption happened. On the way, we found out that we could eat the guava growing on the sides of the trail, even though it was a national park (because guava is an invasive species and that helps get rid of it) so that was cool. I did not like the after taste though.
After continuing, the dirt turned to lava rock. The further we went, the less trees and plants there were because the rock hadn’t eroded into dirt yet.
The ash at the top was hard like rock, not dusty like wood ash. It was really cool and when you would step on it, the ash sounded like glass. Some of the larger ash pieces that should have been heavy were really light. This was because they were really porous (lots of bubbles in them.)
Some of the ash rocks that were bigger, you would have to hold with two hands but that’s not because of the weight, it’s because of the size. If you had big hands you could probably easily do it with one hand. The rest of the ash was super small and it would get in your shoes.
The newly hardened lava created a thin layer that you couldn’t walk on because you would fall through into the abyss below. The area we walked on was made from the ash and exploding lava. If you looked closer at the larger ash-rock, you could see what looked like tiny river beds that had been dried up.
The newer lava ash was a shiny black. The older stuff (where lava didn’t get during the 2018 eruption) was a red-brown with plants most the time. This was where the lava from the 2005 eruption was so stuff had time to grow. Most of the spots where we were hiking had these kinds of places. The rest was gravel-sized ash that sounded like glass. The hike down was pretty uneventful except for a White Heron that was following the trail. That was cool.
Because Karen loves guava, she picked a lot on the way back, we saw lots of guavas on the side of the trail and since I was already covered in these little velcro seeds and Karen wasn’t, I had to go in to get them. We got at least 10 from one of the best trees. In all, we got about 20, (but sadly the next day we had to leave so we had to give them to the hotel because you aren’t supposed to bring fruits or plants to other islands. In the morning we saw a bowl of guava that could only be ours.)
Friday morning around 11:00 am, we went to the snorkeling shop to get fitted into our wet suits, flippers, and goggles/snorkels. After we all got fitted, we drove to the dock to get on our boat to drive forty-five-ish minutes. Grant and I got to ride in the front of the boat. When we were upfront, the boat exaggerated the bumps so much. Towards the end of the ride, the waves were 4-5 meters high, or around fifteen feet tall.
The craziest part of the trip was trying to get into the “island” area – between the waves so they wouldn’t capsize us. This was intense so they made Grant and I get back in the back of the boat. Once we got past this part, one of the first things we saw was the Blue-footed Boobies. We admired these animals for a bit. We actually got to see the parents caring for 2 week old baby boobies. Then we moved on to the Galapagos penguins. These penguins are the second smallest penguin in the world.
We ate lunch at this point but not without seeing a sea turtle. We saw about four in this one day. Lunch was rice with chicken and other spices. It was soooooo good. Then we walked a little on the small “bridges” made from lava flows. The bridges were formed by the water cooling the lava creating lots of little tunnels.
Then we got to the part where we were going to go snorkeling so we put on our gear – the flippers and snorkels. Then we jumped into the water. At first, it was really clear but then dad came in and walked on the floor kicking up sand and making it cloudy and dusty? Once everyone was in we started to swim away from the boat to see different fish. One of the fish we saw on this excursion was the trumpet fish, the black-tipped shark (we saw like 12 of these), the green sea turtle and some fish with a beak that only I saw. One of the black-tipped sharks swam within 1 foot of Grant.
When I saw the fish with a beak coming towards me (looks scary in real life with its serrated beak). I swam as fast as I could. While I trying to escape the “beaked fish” I looked forward and saw a Black-tipped reef shark swim under Grant. That was scary but not as scary as the beaked fish chasing me. After all of that, there was a cave that had over ten sharks. All of them were sleeping in the same cave. Our guide would put us in the cave by holding our flippers & sliding us in, then pull us back out. We saw lots of other fish that I don’t know what they are.
Yesterday we hiked a waterfall called Taxopamba. I didn’t think it would be much fun, but when we got down towards the river I saw a beautiful ravine. The beginning of the trail was steep and smooth which made it slippery, but for the rest of the hike, it was flattish and wet in some places.
The surroundings varied between farmed hills and forested mountains. The trail was mostly dirt and rock. Next, we went through the rolling hills with farms. The majority of the farms were cow farms. The forest is where the waterfall was.
When we finally got to the waterfall we saw a small clear pool at the bottom. There was some pollution like fruits, nuts, and berries thrown by people into the water that made the area a bit untidy. We even saw a pair of underwear! The water was super clear so you could see to the bottom. The waterfall was two levels which was cool!
For snack time we had some mandarin oranges, tiny bananas, pears, peanuts, and cheese bread. My favorite part of snack was the pears — they were the best pears that I have ever had. They were juicy and not too soft, but not too hard like an apple. The cheese bread was my least favorite part — it had too little cheese and too much bread.
There were two dogs that guided us from the start to the finish. They stayed with us and didn’t leave us till we left. One we called Waddles, we thought it looked like a pig body. We call that breed a “pig-dog”.
So the dogs would walk ahead and do a lookout kind of thing. One time Neal was hiding totally out of site, but Waddles sensed him and stopped to warn us about Neal. Goldy would hang out with Grant while Waddles hung out with me.