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Lindblad Endeavour Santa Cruz Highlands Tour

Santa Cruz lunch sugar cane-2

A triple header shore lunch

Before we set out to find Galapagos tortoises in the Santa Cruz highlands, the Lindblad Endeavour has an extended lunch break planned that is surprisingly varied. One stop I did not anticipate: a visit to a still–what we Southern boys would call a moonshine still–and the option to sample its product.

Here’s how it happened. From Puerto Ayora, we drive for 30 minutes into the highlands and stop at an old sugar estate called El Trapiche, Spanish for sugar mill. A local Galapaguenos family still works the property, with an older gentleman and a younger man turning the sugar cane press when we arrive. A donkey, on the other hand, is tethered to a fence off to the side taking what is probably a rare opportunity to relax.

galapagos santa cruz  el trapiche sugar mill-1  galapagos santa cruz  el trapiche sugar mill-2
El Trapiche sugar mill donkey; old fashioned sugar mill press

We are all invited to take a turn at the press and several fellow passengers step forward for what is fun for a few turns but would be a long harsh day for real. The long green sugar cane leaves roll through the press with the sugar juice spilling into a pail for processing into large cubes of natural brown sugar sold in the sugar mill gift shop. As we will discover, some of that cane juice will be used for making hootch, English word for cheap whiskey. That was not for sale.

On the way to a shed to sample some of the sugar products we’re offered a brief demonstration of how coffee beans–also grown here–are pounded with a huge mortar and pestle. That may seem a strange thing to do with coffee beans but some connoisseurs consider pounding the coffee beans superior to grinding them since the powder from the pounded beans retains all the volatile oils, which give coffee its flavor. Heat–apparently produced through grinding–dissipates the volatile oils. (And that is the end of today’s informative lecture.)

Galapagos Santa Cruz El Trapiche sugar mill electric sugar press-1  Galapagos Santa Cruz El Trapiche sugar mill still on fire-3 El Trapiche electric sugar mill press; the spurts flames after a douse of moonshine

From the coffee grinding demo we enter a small shed and find a still operating. Obviously distilling your own drinking alcohol isn’t illegal here–as it wasn’t in the U.S. for most of its history–and the elderly gentleman is more than willing to waste his alcohol by throwing it on the still and having it blaze briefly for us to take photos.

Then with some slices of cheese we dip into a bowl of sweet molasses, a by-product of processing sugar cane. Fittingly, the word molasses comes from a Portuguese word for “honey.” This stuff is delicious. Then, an Endeavour guide I’ve rarely seen quickly points out several small bottles of moonshine that he invites us to sample. I’m one of the few interested. I went to graduate school in North Carolina where moonshine and grape juice was a favorite drink. This elixir has to be sampled straight without a mixer. Quite good. And, thankfully, not as potent as I feared.

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The Altair Restaurant in the Santa Cruz highlands;  pool at the restaurant

From the sugar mill, we go to a restaurant named Altair and dine on freshly grilled chicken and, if anyone was interested, take a swim just outside the restaurant. Or relax in one of the too few hammocks behind the pool.

The final stop of our triple-header lunch break is at a place called Los Gemelos, the twins, which are two huge craters formed by the collapse of a magma chamber. The craters, on opposite sides of the Puerto Ayora-Baltra road, are quite impressive. They look more like meteor impact craters than the results of some random ground collapse.

galapagos santa cruz los gemelos crater-1  galapagos santa cruz  scalesia cloud forest-1
One of the Los Gemelos craters; a tree in the cloud forest around Los Gemelos

The walk from crater to crater leads us through a cloud forest called a scalesia forest filled with epiphytes, ferns and orchids. This endangered ecosystem also supposedly is rich with birdlife such as Darwin’s finches including the woodpecker finch and the rare vermillion flycatcher.

Unfortunately, with the sun out for the first time all day, the forest and the branches are beautifully lighted. Maybe all that sun is bothering the birds because none of us–including our guides–can sight a single bird anywhere. The guides tell us this is unusual.

I can live with that. I just hope the sun will stay out for our next stop where we hope to find giant tortoises in the wild. No wild creature can be relied on to appear where or when you expect it.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Blog Links

The Galapagos Experience                                             Endeavour Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                                 Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                              Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                       Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                                 Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                         Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                              Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                     Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                       Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                              Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Friday Menu Finale

Galapagos cruise food

Tonight’s dessert menu features what many consider the best of the week: the chocolate decadence. You can enjoy the taste of it at home with a recipe from Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour.  Both meals today feature different presentations of amberjack but don’t overlook the beef filet with caramelized onions and wine sauce.

Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Friday Lunch Menu

Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Friday Dinner Menu

 Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                      Endeavour Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming
                        Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                     Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                              Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                       Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                               Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                    Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                            Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                              Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                     Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

Lindblad Expeditions Dining, Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Thursday Menus

 

Galapagos cruise food

There is no Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour lunch menu for the day spent on Santa Cruz Island. This is Galapagos tortoise day, with the morning exploring the Charles Darwin Research Foundation and the afternoon in the highlands watching tortoises roam in the wild.

Lunch is at the Ranch Altair restaurant/hotel in the highlands where we had BBQ chicken hot off the grill that was prepared in a huge traditional oven. The atmosphere, and ready availability of the local beer from the bar, relaxes me at lunch and I turn lazy, not thinking ahead of how I should record everything in notes and photos for this blog.  I went in vacation mode. Obviously, Altair is a very satisfying stop.

So is dinner, a buffet BBQ. It’s the perfect way to end such an outstanding day after all our interactions with the Galapagos tortoises. For tonight’s entrees, the amberjack is my favorite. Steak is always easy to find. And plentiful at the buffet. And good.

Lindblad National Geographic Endeavour Thursday Dinner Menu

 Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links

The Galapagos Experience                                   Endeavour Dining
Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                       Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                    Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                             Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                       Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                               Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                    Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                           Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                             Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                    Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop

Lindblad Endeavour’s Floating SPA

Lindblad Floating Spa-1

by Linda O’Keefe

A motional massage

One thing I don’t expect to find onboard Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour is a wellness specialist as well as a mini spa. Alexandra Cueva, the wellness specialist for our voyage, puts in a long day, beginning around 6:30 a.m. with a yoga, stretching or water aerobics class just before breakfast. The rest of the day she is on call for paid spa services such as massage, reflexology and other spa treatments.

One service on the spa menu especially catches my eye: a “floating massage.” Technically, all massages given aboard the Endeavour are floating but this offering is something special. One of the Endeavour’s old glass bottomed boats has been redesigned to provide a viewing porthole of the sea bottom directly under the massage table’s head cradle.  The idea is to have a massage while watching sea life swim underneath the boat.  Instead of a massage on the beach, it’s a great rub on an ocean tub.

Scheduling any kind of spa treatment on the Endeavour is difficult because it usually means having to give up something: a shore landing, snorkeling or kayaking. Also, the opportunities for a floating massage are limited to certain locations where sea conditions are calm enough that Alexandra can stay on her feet and the massagee doesn’t slide off the table.

While kayaking Tim and I had seen the floating spa bouncing around in Tagus Cove where a Zodiac tried to keep it from crashing on shore. The waves and current were much too strong for any sort of stability. The Zodiac with its rubber hull acted like a seaborne bumper car to keep the spa boat away from land but there was no way the Zodiac could do it gently. In fact, we heard lots of crashing aboard the spa boat as we paddled pass but no shouts of alarm. Can’t imagine how Alexandra managed to stay on her feet that day.

Lindblad Floating Spa-2  Lindblad Floating Spa-3

Remembering that spectacle, I wonder how real this floating massage is and how much of it is a gimmick. So the night before my scheduled tub rub when I pick up a robe and slippers from Alexandra, I ask her what I should wear the next day with the robe.  Her response is quick and firm, “Nothing. This is a professional massage.”

The next morning, clad only in my spa robe and slippers, I wait at the reception area for Alexandra to fetch me.  I know in the back of my mind the glass bottom boat is away from the ship but for some reason it hasn’t yet occurred to me I’ll need to ride in a Zodiac to reach it. Just normally getting into a Zodiac when the waves bob it up and down is not the easiest maneuver even in normal attire. With a robe and nothing underneath, it’s really tricky. Fortunately, I make it on and off without any wardrobe malfunctions.

I take the Zodiac about half a mile from the ship to find the spa boat anchored in an isolated cove near shore. In the cloudy “garua” weather, the cliffs and a small island rock formation close by is both mystical and relaxing. After disembarking the Zodiac trip, I climb onboard the “floating massage” table.

As I lay face down and Alexandra works wonders on my back, the view through the three-foot wide glass circle is disappointing.  There isn’t a great view due to the reflections of the boat and sky. I spot only a few fish that wander by.

Despite the lack of underwater activity, I love this experience. The sound of the waves drumming the boat is more soothing than any new age music . Inhaling the salty sea air is natural aromatherapy. Occasionally the relaxation is broken as the wind sweeps the sheet off my body and there’s a quick scramble to grab it back.

Lindblad Floating Spa-4

After my massage and I wait for the Zodiac to return, Alexandra points out a large sea turtle swimming on the surface with several other turtles surrounding it. As the turtles approach our boat, I realize something seems rather odd about what I thought was a single large turtle.

I ask Alexandra , “Are those two turtles–not just one?”

“Yes,” she replies with a sly grin on her face.

I wonder aloud, “Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”

Her smiling face answers my question before she answers “Yes” and bursts into laughter. She confesses she has been watching them for a while. And we continue to watch the turtles float obliviously toward the boat.

My already R-rated adventure pushes the limit as the two mating turtles drift closer and closer to the boat. Eventually they bump into us, separate, swim away. At this point, Alexandra and I are close to hysteria laughing at them. (Though they probably don’t understand our idea of humor.)

Alexandra and I are still laughing when the Zodiac arrives to carry us both back to the Endeavour. All in all, this is an experience I won’t soon forget.

Lindblad Endeavour Galapagos Cruise Links 

The Galapagos Experience                               Endeavour Dining Galapagos Adventure Upcoming                                    Sustainable Dining Policy
How Darwin Saved The Galapagos                                 Saturday Dining Menus
Galapagos Photo Tips                                                          Sunday Dining Menus
What To Pack For Cruise                                                    Monday Dining Menus
Getting to Guayaquil                                                            Tuesday Dining Menus
Las Bachas Shore Landing                                                 Wednesday Dining Menus
North Seymour Shore Landing                                         Thursday Dining Menus
Fernandina & Isabela Islands                                           Friday Finale Menus
Urbina Bay Shore Landing                                                  Endeavour Recipes
Life Aboard The Endeavour
More About Life On Board
Puerto Egas Shore Landing
Endeavour’s Floating SPA
Meeting One of World’s Rarest Animals
Puerto Ayoro Walking Tour
Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
Hunting Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands
San Cristobal, Endeavour’s final stop