A Self Guided Tour of Darwins´Islands
21.10.2007 - 28.10.2007 26 °C
After arriving at Baltra airport on San Cristobal island on our direct flight from Quito (Which took about 3 hours) we were immediately seperated from our $100 entrance fee EACH! This is for the initial park entry fee... and combined with the minimum $350 flight ticket tab meant everyone... well unless you´re ecuadorian.... shells out $450 before you even set foot out of the airport!
It was then a free for all as we all crammed onto a free bus to the ferry.
The ferry journey was short but it took longer as everyone piled their bags, boxes, cases, new TV´s etc. precariously on top of the boat before we left the dock!
The water did look gorgeous and so clear though.
We then all shoved ourselves onto a bus to Puerto Ayora, the main town on the island.
Squashed at the back with 4 kiwis the bus took about 1 hour down to the other end of the island, where we were to start our Galapagos adventure proper!
In Puerto Ayora we headed straight to Hotel Espana where we managed to bargain the senora down to $25 for a room..... apparently the extra cost was because it had aqua caliente ("Hot Water...... ???")
After dumping our bags we headed straight out and bumped into the kiwis from the bus, Katie, Hamish, Paul and Bryce.
Puerto Ayora is a different world to Quito.
It was so slow paced and within a few hours af arriving we had already seen sea lions, iguanas, pelicans and brightly coloured sally lightfoot crabs!
A little research was made as to what to do in the next couple of days before meeting up with the guys for a few cervezas and some food at one of the cool little kiosks on Charles Binford.
The kiosks seemed full of locals and we chose a busy one called 'Williams' (But of course!!! ,)
The atmosphere was lovely and the food was delicious.... although I did feel a little silly asking for the menu to find out that there were only 3 dishes ON the menu.
Chicken and rice, prawns and rice or fish and rice!!
Alan, myself and Bryce chose the prawns, which were delicious!!
The next day we decided to head for Isabella island for a few days and found a 3 day, 2 night deal that worked out cheaper than doing everything ourselves!
So early that afternoon we caught the bouncy little ferry to Puerto Villami, Isabella. It took 2.5 hours.
Apparently en route a manta ray jumped out of the water but I woke to everybodies 'oohs' and 'ahhs' and missed everything!
We had to take another smaller boat to the jetty at Puerto Villami as the water was too shallow for the ferry, myself and the 4 kiwis left Alan to catch the second small boat with 6 backpacks to carry ha ha!
On the jetty we found Dario, our guide on Isabella, who dropped us off at our hotel.
The Hotel Brisas Del Mar must have been very surprised with the uncontained excitement, of six bacpackers, at the sight of private rooms with private hot showers AND a TV, even though there were only 2 channels and all in spanish!!!!
10 minutes later we were picked up and taken to the tortoise breeding centre where we saw tortoises ranging from tiny babies up to the senoir citizens of the islands being all of 90 year olds., Although they can live up to 150 years old!
Then it was a quick trip to the flamingo lagoon (to see 5 flamingoes in the distance... very exciting) before walking through the laid back town centre to Lobos, Darios' restuarant, on the end of a pier surrounded by a gorgeous beach!
The Bar was every Surfers dream we reckon... a bar at the end of a pier surrounded by pristine waters, Gorgeous beaches and of course stunning Surf!
We had very nice chicken with..... um..... rice (of course) and washed it down with a few beers.
It was during our meal that Dario informed us that from June to September was American tourist season,
November to January was European tourist season while at the moment we were in 'little people' season!
Well its comforting to know what we are!!!
After dinner we felt like another beer so stumbled into a wee bar on the way back to the hotel.
The guy made us lots of free popcorn as we listened to Bob Marley.
This is the life!!!!
The next day we were woken at about 5 am to the chants of the "Galapagos army" as they jogged around the sandy town..... hmmmm!
After our boiled eggs, ham and cheese toasties for breakfast we were all raring to go and heading to the base of Volcan Negro, that had errupted as recently as 2002.
While waiting for the horses we all visited the most bizarre (and very clean) flushing toilet..... out in the middle of a field literally half way up a mountain all on it´s own! Very Cool!
Alans horse was a little feisty young stallion called 'Pony', he ran off to the front and more or less stayed there all of the time up the volcano and coming back.
As Alans hat fell off he stopped Pony to dismount, Pony didn't like stopping and reared up a few times before running off into the bushes!
Very funny for everyone apart from Alan.
Pony and Alan soon resumed their pole position.
My horse was quite happy amongst the horses AND amongst the dust!!!
The crater was huge and is apparently the second largest in the world. At the top we dismounted the horses and went for a wee walk onto the volcano and the 5 year old lava flows.... cool (well they were by now anyway )
The ride back down was a little faster and I even got to gallop at the dege of the crater.... cool. Much of the rest of the time we were trotting, getting very very dusty.
Alan and Pony were a good ten minutes in front... of course!
At the end I looked like I had been down the mines but still laughing!!
We jumped back into the minibus for the trip back down the Volcano and on the way down Bryce suddenly spotted a Hawk perched on the side of the road. The van reversed a little bit and surprisingly... it didn´t move!
We all got out of the van... and it still didn´t move!
We all started taking pictures and .... it turned around as if to question what all the fuss was about!
This place is great and the animals make it tall the better!
After a much needed shower back at the hotel we all geared up for a snorkel in a shallow bay.
The water was cold but the snorkelling was great as we were surrounded by at least 8 white tip reef sharks, a stingray and numerous colourfull fish. Just before getting out we had two sea lions playing around us!
On the way back we saw marine iguanas and blue footed boobies, that crashed into the rocks as they tried to fly off... clumsy buggers!
That night at Lobos it was fish, mmmm.
Of course we had to go for another cerveza, popcorn and more Bob Marley at our favourite local!
It was an early start again the next day, ready for the ferry at 5.30am.
We arrived back in Puerto Ayora nice and early, dumped our bags at Hotel Espana and went for breakfast.
A little later we walked to Bahia Tortuga (turltle bay).
The 30 minute trail led out onto a gorgeous white sandy beach with turquoise sea and huge marine iguanas splashing around!
There were a large group of turtles bobbing around close to shore, waiting for nightfall to climb up the beach to nest (but unfortunately the beach closed at 6 pm and there were no tours to view the spectacle).
As we walked along the beach we reached a sheltered bay where a blue footed boobie posed nicely for a photo. We met the other guys, knee deep in the calm water surrounded by white tip reef sharks and the odd low flying pelican!
Later on we all met up for a cheeky cerveza and a chicken.... and rice..... on Charles Binford.
It was another earlish start as we were at the dive centre at 7.30am only to learn that (as it had been a full moon last night) the tides had been bigger than expected and the boat was beached!?
9.30am we left on the now un-beached boat. It was about a two hour boat ride to the dive site of Seymor Norte.
We donned our 7mm wetsuits and after a little weight test rolled in.
I mis-judged my weights and struggled to sink (I must have the floatiest bum) but eventually did!
The dive was very challenging with strong currents but so rewarding. As soon as we descended a sea lion was playing around with Alan who equally kept the sea lion entertained I think!
We saw hammerhead sharks, white tip reef sharks, sting rays, eels, puffer fish and numerous schools of colourful fish!
After the first dive we were all tired but went in again for another dive. I put another 2 kgs on my weight belt but was still a bit light!
The aqautic life was even better, this time we saw a green turtle, eagle rays and even a big galapagos shark (I think the guide was even more excited at seeing this than us). It was a bit of a struggle though due to strong currents and I went floating calmly off at one stage, Alan managed to grab me and we made it back to the other two divers!
We had to grab the rocks to pull ourselves along (something that fellow divers know you shouldn't make a habit of.... especially when there are stone fish around)! Alan cut his finger on one of the rocks...... the white tip reef sharks were quite friendly then!!!!!
All in all it was the most challenging but most rewarding dive I have done yet!
That evening we had a few farewell cervezas (as the kiwis were leaving on a tour boat tomorrow) and a fish and RICE supper at Williams!!!
Alan and myself did a little asking around, the following morning, for deals on boat trips and day trips! We decided the boat trips that were offered were a little expensive and we had seen so much already, what else could $1000 give us? We were interested in some other day trips but they were full at the momento so we could try again tomorrow!!???
We gave up for now and headed for the Charles Darwin centre, a short walk from town. After a little interprative centre we walked to the tortoise enclosure, similar to the breeding centre on isabella, but this time we could walk amongst the giant tortoise.... cool!
This is also the home of Lonesome George, the last tortoise of his species. He did have two chicas fighting for his attention but alas he doesn't fancy any of them..... he is probably 100 years old!
The centre also had land iguanas.
The following day we found a tourist office that had trips for the following 2 days so we proceeded to change our flights for a few days later at the Tame office in Puerto Ayora. This was very quick and free.
We changed the flights back 5 minutes later when the senorita at the tourist office informed us that the trips may not go...... like I have already said we had seen a lot already so didn't need to waste any time and spend any more money!!
After this palava we decided to rent bikes (with dodgy seats and pedals) and grabbed a taxi to Santa Rosa where we cycled down a dirt track in search of El Chato tortoise reserve, where we could spot tortoise in the wild!
Along the track we spotted a wild tortoise and about hundred metres we spotted a lonesome bull in the middle of the path, yeah he wasn't too keen on us so eventually he won..... we turned back.
After the initial slog on the dirt track it was all down hill to Bellavista, where the lava tunnels were. The lady let us have a few minutes rest, and some free bananas, before handing us a torch and letting us wander off into the lava tunnel ourselves.
The tunnels were about 700m long and incredibly dark as the small lights only came on halfway into the tunnel. I decided I was keeping the torch..... didn't trust Mr Williams with the torch as last time we were in a similar situation he turned the torch off and left me!!!!
It was then another downhill ride back to Puerto Ayora. Many locals said hello while we were cycling.... not many gringos hire bikes..... we are the tight arses!!!!
Just 2 kms out of town we spotted a tortoise plodding along the side of the road, with all the traffic whizzing past ha ha.
Just 2 kms....... we had cycled about 20kms to spot a bloody wild tortoise!!!!!!
Back in Puerto Ayora we dropped the bikes back to the hire shop which doubled up as the towns lavanderia! We then had yummy icecream and chocolate cake!!!
Later that evening we treated ourselves to a really nice meal (the restuarant was full of gringos but the food was good)!
Our final day in the Galapagos was spent crammed onto buses, ferries and running for the departure desk at the airport. It was a complete shambles but good fun..... we realised that ecuadorians will push, pull and knock you out the way for the chance of a better seat..... I think we gave them as good as they got...ish!!!
So it was Adios Los Galapagos........ what a magical place!!!!!