Posted by: glenswatman | October 1, 2009

200909-2-Ecuador inc Galapagos Islands

WEDNESDAY 16
SEPTEMBER –
We are up at 5am and Raphael is waiting for us with his
taxi at quarter past.  Again driving over
the highlands we get rain but it is dry once we reach the canal.  Arriving at 6am we are a little early but
know we cannot have missed the zodiac.  Around
6.30am the boat comes into view and anchors in the distance.  We have binoculars but cannot see a zodiac
being launched and 15 minutes later it begins to sail off into the
distance.  Surely we haven’t missed the
boat again!  Raphael is a boat Captain
and knows most of the boats and crew and asks if we have the name of anyone he
can phone.  We have the number of Williams
the guide on board and when he calls him finds out they didn’t receive the
message to pick us up but will send a zodiac now.  It arrives at ¼ to 8 and we end up chasing the
boat for 45 minutes and catch it up anchored in Bachus Bay.  There are 6 classes of boat in the Galapagos
the top being Luxury then Deluxe, first class, tourist superior, tourist and at
the bottom economy.  Poseidon is first
class and a traditional boat with lots of polished woodwork.  We are welcomed aboard by the Captain, shown
our cabin and 10 minutes later sit down to a cooked breakfast.  The boat carries 16 passengers and the
lounge/dining area has 4 tables seating 4 so it will be very cosy.  After breakfast the zodiac takes us ashore where
we catch up with guide Williams.  He has
just returned from a guided walk and says he will take us on it a little later
once the 90 passengers from the “Celebrity Xpedition” have left.  In the meantime he tells us a bit about
Galapagos National Park rules then suggests we have a snorkel.  On many boats you have to pay $5 day for
snorkel and goggles but it is included on this one.  Steve goes out and reports some nice fish but
nothing outstanding.  On the walk we pass
the remains of a barge used by the Americans during the Second World War when
they used the islands as part of the Panama Canal defence.   At an
inland lagoon we get our first sighting of marine iguanas, piled one on top of
another sunbathing on the beach.  There
are also a couple of flamingos.  As soon
as we board the ship Diego is waiting with drinks and snacks.   We
meet the other passengers, mostly from England. 
 Return to do our unpacking which
takes about 2 minutes.  The cabins are modest
with single beds but to a motorhomer more than big enough.  We get a 3-course lunch with water, tea and
coffee included.  Shortly after we stop
at Baltra to refuel then sail for a couple of hours.  There are 2 decks with sun loungers but it is
too hot to stay on the top deck for long. 
Chugging along we admire the beautiful blue ocean and passing
landscape.  We anchor off from Black
Turtle Cove then board 2 zodiacs for a 2-hour trip through the mangroves.  At the start a pelican lands on the back of
the other dinghy then flies over and lands on Pete’s cap.  We knew that the Galapagos wildlife was tame
and not afraid of humans but didn’t expect that.  Venturing further into the mangrove they cut
the engine then begin to paddle.  We see lots
of white tipped reef sharks, eagle ray and golden rays and pacific green
turtles plus many birds.  It is an
amazing experience and the time passes quickly. 
On return we again have drinks and snacks waiting.  Williams comes to our room so we can
discretely pay him the $1050 agreed for our trip (reduced from $1100 when we
missed the boat yesterday).  The normal
price for this cruise is $3100 and we would find that hard to justify.  Whilst we are on a very nice boat there is no
comparison to this and the big cruise ships and it makes us wonder what the
lower classes of boat are like.   

GALAPAGOS 2, GRAN POSEIDON 1

 

Shipmates

UK, Phil & Chris, Matt & Sonia, Pete & Sue, Neal
& Helen, G2 & Ann, Holland Arno & Martin, Wim & son

 

THURSDAY 17
SEPTEMBER –
It has been a rough crossing to Genovesa.  We are directly above the engines which make
it noisy and the ship has rocked all through the night, unfortunately too much
to make it pleasant.  At breakfast it
seems no one has had any sleep.   The
zodiac takes us along the coast to enable us to climb Prince Philip’s
steps.  At the top we are in an area with
hundreds of “Nazca boobies” nesting.  It
is an amazing sight and we snap away using our zoom lens.  This turns out to be a big waste of time as
we take off on a walking path and find ourselves within inches of the
birds.  They are totally oblivious to our
presence and we can see newly born chicks and eggs under the birds.  This is the Galapagos experience we have been
waiting for and we find it hard to believe that they are all so tame.  Williams takes us on a walk across the island
pointing out the different types of birds and explaining about the land.  Steve spots an unusual bird and Williams
identifies it as a dark billed cuckoo, only the second time Williams has seen
one in 25 years.  We return to the boat
for snacks and the next activity is snorkelling from the dinghy.  Steve does it and reports that he was able to
swim with a sea lion playing beside him. 
For our mid day meal we have tree tomato mousse as dessert.  Steve is not keen so I eat his portion as
well.  Big mistake, once we set off on
our afternoon walk at Darwin Bay I begin feeling sick.  So much so that I end up turning back and
halfway back to the beach give the birds an unexpected extra feed.  I curl up on the beach with a towel over me
to avoid being blessed by the birds and hope that the nearby sea lions don’t
come too close.  Once we get back to the
ship I go straight to bed for the night and with ear plugs manage to get in a
few hours.

GALAPAGOS 3, GRAN POSEIDEN 2

 

FRIDAY 18
SEPTEMBER –
I’m still feeling a bit delicate but determined not to miss
out so join the pre breakfast dinghy trip to see the penguins in Sullivan Bay
by Santiago Island.  Mid morning we go ashore
on Santiago, an amazing volcanic island with great lava formations.  Again I have to turn back and this time hitch
a left back to the boat on a dingy and just make it in time to dash to the
loo.  Steve comes back with photos of the
colourful “Sally Lightfoot” crabs, monitors and lizards.  Unfortunately he also arrives back with an
upset stomach so we both opt out of lunch. 
The afternoon tour is to climb to the volcanic cone of Bartolome for
fine views but we are both too weak to even attempt it.  By late afternoon I am feeling considerably
better whilst Steve is getting worse.   We
set sail for Santa Cruz.  Our evening
meal is delayed until 8.30pm as cook couldn’t prepare it whilst we were
sailing.  Prior to eating all the crew
line up in the lounge in uniform and thank us for being their guests whilst one
of our group responds and thanks them for having us.  The majority of passengers do this as an 8
day tour beginning and ending on Saturday from Puerto Ayora.  There’s an option to go ashore after dinner
but Steve is still poorly so we decline. 

GALAPAGOS 4, GRAN POSEIDEN 3

SATURDAY 19 APRIL
We have to get up early as everyone else is leaving today.  Heading ashore we drop a few people at hotels
in town then set off over the Highlands, rainy as usual.  Stop at a couple of sinkholes to check for
birds but there is nothing new.  Today
Williams is finishing as guide and once he has escorted his guests to the
departure area we are introduced to our new guide Andre.  He come from Belgium, speaks 4 languages and
seems very nice.  10 new people arrive, Sabine
from Germany, Zack USA, 2 young lands from France and Andy & Vivien, Rob
& Helen and newlyweds Ian and Rachel from England.  Before returning to the boat we stop at the
tortoise farm.  At once stage almost all
the tortoises on the Galapagos had been wiped out but once the National Parks
took over they rescued what were left and brought them either to this farm or
the Darwin Research Station to breed then reintroduce.  We don wellie boots to walk the muddy paths
and are immediately rewarded by seeing one of the giant tortoises.  They are huge, can weigh as much as 4 men and
it is possible for them to survive up to 1-year without food or water.  The size is a reflection of their age as they
grow approximately 1cm a year so this one is probably 60 or 70 years old.  Further into the farm we see many more and
can get really close.  At the end of the
tour Andre shows us a couple of old turtle shells and says you can slip inside
them for a photo.  Rachel is small and
petite and fits in easily so Steve has a go so I can take a fun picture on this
his 55th birthday.  Next stop
is to walk inside a huge lava tunnel.  It
is quite long and really high and at the entrance we spot a short eared
owl.  Finally we make it back to the
boat.  We’ve been moved to cabin 7 on the
upper deck which should be much quieter.  Our original cabin 2 being known to be the
worst on board as you are above the engine room and beside the kitchen so get
lots of noise and strange smells.  After
lunch we return ashore to visit the Darwin Research Station where we learn a
lot more about the giant tortoise and meet “Lonesome George”, the last of his
particular species alive.  Before our
evening meal we get a proper introduction talk from Andre, safety briefing and
info on tomorrow’s itinerary.

GALAPAGOS 5, GRAN POSEIDON 4

UK shipmates Rob & Helen, Ian & Rachel, Andy &
Vivian, USA Zack, Germany Sabine, France 2 lads

 

SUNDAY 20
SEPTEMBER –
We set sail around 4am and it is notably quieter in our new
cabin.  We wake up anchored between North
and South Plaza Island off the east coast of Santa Cruz.  On shore we begin a hike on South Plaza and
immediately see both water and land iguanas. 
There are lots of sea lions and we learn the differences between them
and seals even though the sea lions here are the fur seal species!  The landscape is beautiful with a kind of red
coloured cactus type grass.  As usual we
get close to much of the wildlife and birds. 
Return to the ship for a couple of hours sailing.  Andre has brought some DVD’s on board and it
is great to watch the BBC one on the Galapagos Island reiterating how each of
the animals sustains another such as the small birds that feast on the ticks
when the tortoises stand up and the lava lizards that eat the flies off the sea
lions.  After lunch we arrive in the bay
of Santa Fe, a really pretty spot with beautiful clear turquoise water.  We begin with a snorkelling session from the
dinghies and I brave the waters, surprisingly not too cold.  The bay is protected by a lava wall and along
this there are lots of fish including yellow tailed surgeons, sergeant majors, and
damsel and parrot fish.  There are also sea
lions that like to play around you.  From
underwater they are so elegant and great fun to watch.  In the middle of the bay we also swim over a
large turtle, a really excellent experience. 
Later in the afternoon we land on the beach amongst over 100 oblivious
sea lions.  They are so entertaining we
almost don’t know which to watch.  Lying
in heaps you regularly see another try to join the pile by clambering over the
top and wiggling their way in.  Pups
amble round trying to find Mum and whilst they don’t mind whose milk they
suckle the Mums will only allow their own pup to latch on so they suffer many
rejections.  A tiny pup is in its last
throws of life at the back of the beach and the Galapagos hawks are already
standing by.   As a National Park the policy is now to let
nature take its course.  We do a short
hike up around the island through an attractive forest of opuntia cactus and as
usual Steve is happy to encounter many more iguanas.  On the way back to the boat we pass over a
shoal of large eagle rays and quite a few turtles.  Probably our best day yet.   Before dinner we have a welcome meeting with
all the crew dressed in their whites. 
After dinner we watch another episode of the BBC Galapagos.

GALAPAGOS 6, GRAN POSEIDEN 5

 

MONDAY 21
SEPTEMBER –
We sail until around 4am and it is a rough crossing with
the boat pitching up and down.  Anchored
by Espanola Island things calm down. 
There are 3 other boats in the bay so Andre tries to time it so we all
go ashore at different times.  We land
around 8am to begin our 2-mile walk around Suarez Point.  There are lots of fur seals on the beach but
the sheer number and size of the marine iguana is the most impressive thing
initially.  They are black with yellow
blotches and piled up one on top of another as if someone has flung them
there.  We’ve heard of the book “Driving
over lemons” and here the take on it is “walking over iguana” as in one place
they completely cover the path and there are bushes stopping us going
around.  The trail takes us past many
nesting blue boobies with some going through their courting routine.  We pause to watch the water spray at a blow
hole and have many close encounters with waved albatross and their young.   At the top of the cliffs we look down at the
rock pools and can see the marine iguana battling to get in and out of the
ocean and then climb the steep cliffs.  There
are also many species of “Darwin finch” on the island.  Andre is an excellent guide and you never feel
rushed or as though you are asking a stupid question.  This week he has his eldest, 10-year old, son
Willie with him and next week he will have his youngest on board.  After lunch we re-locate to another part of
the island, the beautiful Gardner Bay with a stunning white sandy beach.  Obviously a popular spot on the cruises as
there are even more boats anchored up. 
You can snorkel from the shore out to a rocky outcrop and Steve enjoys
this and sees manta ray and many fish.  I
enjoy walking the length of the beach and watching the barking sea lions playing
in the surf.  At the far end of the beach
turtles are also enjoying a bit of surfing. 
At the end of our evening meal the lights are dimmed and the chef
appears with something on a tray accompanied by Diego with a lighter.  I suspect it is a baked Alaska but am proved
wrong when they head towards Steve singing “Happy Birthday”.  A couple of days late but a very nice touch
all the same and a huge cake that can be shared by all.   After watching the final part of the
Galapagos series we retire to bed.

GALAPAGOS 7, GRAN POSEIDON 6

 

TUESDAY 22
SEPTEMBER –
We’ve been warned to get up early as just before 6am we
will be circling “Leon Dormido” (The sleeping lion) rock formation.  We are all up on deck and get a talk from
Andre about how the vertical tuff stone formation was formed but seeing a lion
shape is stretching things a bit.  Docking
on San Cristobal in the Galapagos capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno we head
off to the Interpretation Centre.  There
is an excellent 3d map showing how the islands were formed and lots of
interesting history.   The is free time to wander the town so we
check out a few hotel options  and decide
the best for us is Nelly’s at the edge of the village.  On the 3rd floor there is a room
with twin beds and en suite, a shared kitchen area and huge patio with
loungers, table & chairs and hammock. 
Negotiate to take 2 nights for $50 (£30) total.  Back at the pier the zodiac arrives with our
luggage plus that of the French lads and Sabine who are flying out this
morning.  We arrange to meet up with the
ships tour at 3pm and meanwhile head up to our new digs.  We have stunning views of the bay and town
and with a further 2 mini balconies on our room can see in all directions.  Nearby is a school with a large “Bingley Grammar
School” mural which intrigues us as there is a Bingley Grammar School near
Keighley.  Will have to check out
tomorrow to find out if there is any connection.  After a quick walk through the town, most
things closed for siesta, we meet the ship group at 3pm then go by bus to Loberia
Beach by the Airport.  The newbies have
arrived, a young couple from Israel so for the next leg there are only 8
passengers.  After being driven alongside
the airport runway we arrive at a beach with black volcanic rocks and walk
along the back of it.  Loberia is a
pleasant beach with a small lake behind but at this stage in the trip has
nothing we have not already seen.  The
itinerary says they have the largest marine iguanas in Galapagos here but we
don’t even see one.  It is a wild windy
afternoon, the water looks choppy and uninviting so we are happy just to take
in the scenery.  Back in town we set off
along to find something to eat.  It is
just after 5pm and the main restaurants haven’t opened but in the main square
the BBQ’s are up and running and Steve has a meal of potatoes with salsa then a
mixture of cow’s innards, $3 (£2).   Lots
of locals are eating this and even the Police car pulls up and the officer sits
inside eating so it must be good?  No so,
other than the liver Steve says the rest is rather chewy.  I spot a bakery and my meal is a sausage roll
followed by a chocolate topped kind of vanilla slice.  We sit out on our terrace having a drink and
admiring the view until just after 6pm when it is dark.  Reflecting on the last week we are both very
glad we opted for the full cruise and also please with our choice especially
after seeing some of the other yachts. 
By 7.30pm we are both really tired and drop off to sleep. 

GALAPAGOS 8, SAN CRISTOBAL, HOSTAL NELLY

$25 (£15) night

 

WEDNESDAY 23
SEPTEMBER –
We both have a really good sleep and wake at 6.30am when
the streets become a little noisy. 
School starts at 7am and most people seem to get up early here.  I take a walk out and buy some cereal,
yoghurt and fruit juice so we can take our breakfast on the terrace.  It is interesting that on this island all
prices seem to be rounded up to the nearest dollar and even if shown otherwise
you never get the residual change.  Walking
into town we stop at the school and learn that a group of 15 students from
Bingley Grammar were over earlier this year. 
Needing the Internet we head for Mocking Bird café and supplement the
$1.50 (£1) hour session with coffee and brownies.  Late morning we set out to do the “Cerro
Tijeretas” (Frigate bird Hill) walks that begin behind the interpretation
centre.  We are alone on the trail and
really enjoying the silence.  The track
leads us to a lovely lookout point from which we can see “Leon Dormido” in the
distance.  There are lots of side trails
and I figure if we take them all and keep turning right we will end up back where
we started.  On the rocky beach Steve
takes a snorkel but the water is so clear anyway that it doesn’t need him in
there to tell me there are no fish.  At
the top of the next hill and lookout there is a fantastic tall statue of
Charles Darwin plus an iguana, sea lion and giant tortoise.  We settle for a snack and drink whilst
enjoying the view.  Further on is a large
cannon and a sign saying it was put there in 1970 but not why.  We join the seals on the sandy beach and when
Steve takes to the water he also has turtles swimming around him.  Sitting down for a quiet read our peace is
disturbed by a group of American teenage girls arriving.  They talk loudly and keep using our pet hate
phrase of “it was like” so we pack up and leave.  In the evening we walk into town to a pizza
place we spotted last night.  They
advertise $12 (£7.25) for a family sized pizza and coke.  We are the only customers and place our order
for a meat pizza.  A few minutes later we
see her taking slices from the one in the display case and preparing to pop it
into the microwave.  Explain that we
would like a freshly baked one then realise that this involves her husband
preparing it, lighting the oven and baking it. 
Meanwhile he has nipped out to buy the bottle of coke to go with our
meal.  Anyway the pizza comes out of the
oven but the base is still very doughy so we have to ask for it cooked longer,
after it has been put back in the oven twice more we realise the oven really
isn’t hot enough to cook it and settle for it as it is.  We want to take a ferry to Santa Cruz island
tomorrow and by visiting a couple of travel agents finally figure out that
instead of one large boat it is numerous 20 seaters that  do the run, surprisingly all at 7am.  Trying to get any more information about the
boats is difficult and we don’t know which to choose until the girl in the 3rd
office offers us a discount.  Reduced
from $30 pp to $26 (£16) she secures our business. 

GALAPAGOS 9, SAN CRISTOBAL 2, HOSTAL NELLY

 

THURSDAY 24
SEPTEMBER –
Getting up at 6am we notice that it is raining, the weather
pattern here seems to be very early morning rain easing off to drizzle.  Late morning things dry up and you get a
couple of nice hours with clear blue sky and sun in the afternoon before the
clouds close in.  At the pier there is a
bag check for foodstuffs that they don’t want transporting inter island.  This is not the only check as a sea lion is
in the middle of the loading ramp and when anyone gets close he tries to push
you off.  A man and a boy have just
disembarked and cannot come ashore. 
Eventually someone walking down from the top entices him to take to the
water.  Our boat Costas pulls up and 11
of us board.  It has 3 engines and is
very fast, good job too as the thin cushions do not make for a very comfortable
ride.  Call in at a small island to hand
over gas bottles to a waiting boat and arrive on Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora
about 9.15am.  It is still raining so I
settle myself and the bags into a café whilst Steve sets out to find us a
room.  He reports back that many of the
cheaper places are full up but he wants to show me a room at “The Francis Drake
Hotel”.  It is on the main street and
from the front looks very nice indeed however the further you walk into the
building the more signs of neglect you see.  
Walk along a balcony with small dingy rooms (a big hotel is being built
next door blocking off all the light) then out to the back where there is a
large corner light and airy double room with 2 big windows.  He has bargained the price down from $50 to
$30 (£18) and our choice is this or back to Hermanas where we stayed before at
$35.  The deciding factor is that this
one has satellite TV with movies in English and sport.  Resting on the beds we realise we are close
to a school when we hear their break time drums as we did in the last
place.  After lunch we set out to do the
walk to “Tortuga” Beach.  At the edge of
town you enter the National Park where the ranger asks you to sign in for the
walk and also explains park rules.  A 2
1/2km cobbled path has been created to take you over the hills and to the other
side of the island.  It is a very
pleasant walk and we emerge onto Playa Brava, one of the most attractive
beaches in the Galapagos.  The ocean here
is too rough for swimming and the walk is not over.  Hiking about 1km along the beach we arrive at
a rocky headland with lots of very big marine iguanas.  The track takes us along an inlet to what
looks like a lake, then through a forest of cactus trees to reach turtle beach.  There are no turtles to be seen but it is a
lovely beach for sunbathing with plenty of shade.  The water is pleasantly warm and although it
does open out to the ocean at the far end it is calm like a lake.   Making the most of the hot sunny spell we
sit and read then set off back once it clouds over.  Hiking out we are amazed by the sheer number
of locals walking in, reckon this must be the best place around for them to
take a hike.  In the evening we walk down
the side street opposite the hotel for our evening meal.  At 6pm the street is cordoned off and the
small restaurants spill out into the street with their tables and chairs.  At the Chinese we get really good hot fresh
food with most main courses $5 (£3) or less. 
I surprise Steve by ordering the fish and vegetables as I am not a
veggie person but have almost missed having many this last couple of
weeks.  Retire to the room to watch TV.

GALAPAGOS 10, PUERTO AYORA, HOTEL SIR FRANCIS DRAKE

$30 (£18)

 

FRIDAY 25
SEPTEMBER –
After the rainy start I nip out to buy cereal for
breakfast.  After lunch we take a water
taxi, 60c (36p) to the opposite side of the port.  There are a few exclusive hotels here
including Finch Bay eco resort which is where the trail leads.  Continuing further we pass some old salt flats
and then begin lava rock hopping.  After
about ½ hour we reach “Las Grietas” a beautiful mini gorge with water in the
bottom.  The top layer is freshwater from
the highlands with sea water underneath. 
Steve swims to the end but there is a landslide preventing him going
further.  A few local lads arrive and
entertain us by jumping in from the top. 
Stop off for an hour or so on “Playa de las Alemanes” then head for
home.  Have really enjoyed our land based
hikes but the cruise has to be the highlight of The Galapagos.

GALAPAGOS 11, PUERTO AYORA, HOTEL SIR FRANCIS DRAKE 2

 

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