There was a language barrier with the host at our hostel, but it turned into something organically awesome when we asked for directions. The plan was to hike Cerro Crocker – one of the great things about this particular trek was the independence factor. On many hikes in the Galapagos you are required to go with a national park guide and group, or they’re super easy paved ones. Totally opposite here, this is a real hike that you can do completely solo. It isn’t located in Puerto Ayaro, but in the highlands of Bellavista. To make things simple you could get there no problem by taking a taxi. Or you could try the local, adventurist, and super affordable way which is likely to create a lasting memory. How to get there
So back to our language barrier. I was asking the host in my broken Spanish mixed with GoogleTranslates how to get to Bellavista using the bus. We had taken the bus from the airport and while it seemed fairly straightforward, we were in for a different voyage. Our host had directed us to walk up Baltra Ave and before the petrol station we would see a blue topped vehicle, open air, called the Chiva. The time was approximately 8:30 AM. It was filled with locals and had wooden rows where you sit beside one another, not quite the generic bus we took from the airport. I loved it. Pull the string where you want to hop off, in the town of Bellavista, and pay your dollar.
If you hike from the base this out and back journey has a round trip of 8 ½ miles. I highly recommend using the app Maps.Me for this trek, the route is spot on and it is very reassuring. From town the trailhead is located past the playground next to the church. The sign is subtle and slightly eaten by the flora.
Getting to the actual trailhead from here is a bit of a pain. If you are in for a lighter hike – hailing a taxi from Bellavista to take you up the dirt road might even be your best option. It will kill a lot of the elevation and mileage. From the trailhead at the top of the dirt road elevation gain to the summit at 864 meters is only 1000 feet. From the base at the dirt road it is 2000’.
The dirt road is not terribly interesting, but It is easy to walk on. It is very quiet, watch out for the occasional car. Pass local farms with cows and moss covered trees.
When you do gain some elevation turn around and notice the ocean and Puerto Ayaro in the distance.
Eventually we reached the end of the dirt road, where the taxi could have dropped us off if we had chosen that route. From there the trail narrows and becomes infinitely muddy. It is essential to have proper hiking boots, or even better – rain boots! It was a wonder after getting completely bogged that the goretex on my boots held up. Jeff on the other hand had to ring out his socks post-hike, they got soaked. Just a few minutes of hiking up the real trail there is a proper trailhead.
Don’t forget to look behind you, this is starting to feel like a real nature hike now.
The flora began to change. Next sign you see will explain it to you, this gorgeous pink hued shrub is endemic and called miconia.
Up in the highlands it was a veritable wonderland of the plant!
Be on the look out for the third sign you’ll encounter – this one is about the endemic Petrel bird which you may see during the hike.
This sign indicates where the trail splits heading up to the summit of Cerro Crocker, or over to Puntudo. You want to turn right to head to the summit, as the map suggests at the trailhead. Though not marked, it is very straightforward. At this lower elevation we were under the cloud line, really enjoying the views behind us.
Ascending the trail became even muddier and quite slippery. Don’t loose attention even for a moment, stop if you want to take in the view – this is not a place to twist an ankle.
Eventually in an eerie aura we walked into the clouds, taking from us those gorgeous views.
A rain jacket is a good idea, to keep you warm from the mist. Nearing the end of the trail there is a sharp bend up to the summit, adorned with a radio tower.
The wind blows hard at this exposed area, but that was to our benefit. It pushed the clouds clear off the cliff momentarily exposing a magnificent view to a very rural and different side of Santa Cruz.
Incredible. We didn’t see another soul hiking this trail, making it all the more special.
Afterwards in Bellavista
When you make it back to town if you still have some energy, consider visiting the Tuneles del Amor.
There are many lava tubes on the island that you can walk around this one has a garden path leading towards the tunnel.
Invasive pink flowers lead you to the mouth of the cave.
Lights are strung throughout the cave, which certainly can be turned on if you pay the fee to visit the tunnels – but no one was there to collect. Unfortunately, my headlamp was out of battery (silly me, should have checked that before I packed it!) so we just did a short exploration of this dark place with a cell phone flashlight.
Other tunnels on the island are free to visit, this is not your only opportunity to see one. You can grab lunch, or almuerzos as it is better known, in town at one of the local restaurants. Bellavista is also a better place to buy your coffee because it is more affordable. When you’re ready to head back down to Puerto Ayora, find the bus stop in town and hail down a bus for $2. For reasons unknown, the chiva wouldn’t pick us up on the way down – but the bus worked just fine.