Centre of the World (on the outside obviously!)
26/01/2008 - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
We've had a busy few days since the last update, but this won't be half as long as the last one, we promise!!
Days 14 and 15 (GPS: N:14.5565, W:19.7339, Alt:1545m)
We were based in Antigua, and the group from our trip slowly dwindled to just 3 as everybody left to go home or continue their travels elsewhere. We spent a lot of time in internet cafes playing with our photos, we are taking 2 different backups, so that hopefully at least one copy of each picture will survive to the end of the trip!!
We wandered around Antigua, which is a lovely old town, though you have to watch where you put your feet for fear of twisting ankles on the rough cobble stones. We walked around the local market, where for the first time in a long while we weren't harrassed by people hawking, they were harrassing the locals instead which was a nice change! In the evening we watched a concert in the town square, no idea who the band were but they were certainly popular, and a large crowd was enjoying the show!
Day 16 (Miami GPS: N:25.7955, W:80.2383, A:18m, Quito GPS: S:0.2012, W:78.4910, A:2830m)
Up at 0445 for a flight to Miami which was only a couple of hours, there we had a long wait at USA Immigration and then Customs, but our bags arrived safely, and we transferred them to the pile for Quito, Ecuador. That left us with a 3-hour wait for the next flight which we had planned to use shopping for electronics and memory cards, however Miami International Airport is rubbish for shopping after security, there was a pizza place, a newsagents and a bar, so much for shopping!! We passed the time by ordering and then trying to eat the worlds largest Pizza, as we had worked out it was cheaper than buying a few slices of one! Our valliant challenge ultimately ended in failure we're afraid to report. Eventually, we boarded our B757 for Quito, but due to passengers not turning up and baggage being offloaded, we sat on the plane for 2 hours without going anywhere, very boring. The flight when we did finally depart was fine and we arrived Quito, Ecuador at 9pm. There our problems worsened as only Nicky's luggage had made it to our flight, the Americans Airlines rep told us that Cameron's bag wasn't one that they "knew had missed the flight" and suggested we wait for the next flight from Miami (which due to our late arrival was only half hour behind us), thankfully panic over as his bag had been put on the later departure and we made our way out through customs and were suprised to find someone still waiting for us even though we were 3 hours late by this time!! Our hotel, the Rio Amazonas, was excellent, our best and most luxurious so far - and the first of the trip to actually have plugs in the sink!
Day 17 (Equator GPS: N0.0000 (or S!), W:78.4541, A:2498m)
Started the day with a city tour in a small mini van with Heather and Darren, an American couple we had met at the airport last night. Our Guide took us through the new town of Quito and then we walked around the Old Town with its pretty squares and churches. We were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard outside the Presidents Palace, and Ecuadorian President was actually there and was waving from a balcony above the square!! The crowd seemed really happy to see him, but he's only been in power a year so maybe the popularity will wear off, our guide certainly seemed to think so! We also resisted the urge to shout 'el presindente' loudly as they had a lot of guns. We drove up to the Panecillo, which is a high hill overlooking the city which gives amazing views across Quito. From there we were driven to the Equator line where we could see the experiments with water flowing in different directions in either hemisphere (Cameron is still not convinced and thinks he spotted how we were tricked with the water going down the drain in different directions!). However, we got our photo taken with one of us standing in each half of the globe, and Cameron got his photo with the GPS to prove it! In the evening we met up with the group of 16 that would be on the GAP trip to Galapagos. 6 of us went out for an Indian meal, we had starter, main and drinks - the total bill coming to $32USD, thats just 17 pounds, or less than 3 pounds per person. BARGAIN!! - and it was really good too!!
Day 18 (SantaCruz GPS: S0.5000, W:90.5176, A:0m!)
Off to the Galapagos Islands which meant a flight from Quito to Guayaquil, (on a B727 which meant we climbed out skirting around the mountains as we didn't have the power to climb over them!! Very odd to find yourself still below the mountain tops quite a few miles after take off!!) An hour on the ground there, and then a flight on to Baltra which is the only airport on Galapagos. From there it was a bus, boat and bus again - across another island to find our boat which was moored up in Port Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. We were introduced to our Guide Ivan, and the crew of the GAP ADVENTURER III. Our cabin, which could best be described as 'pokey', was 2 bunk beds, and the worlds smallest en-suite! but was fine for the limited time we spent in there! In the afternoon we took a trip to the Charles Darwin Research Station where we got up close and personal with 6 Giant Tortioses, and saw some brightly coloured Land Iguanas as well as many kinds of birds. We had free time after the visit and so we went back to the Tortoise enclosures to see if we could spot Lonesome George who is the last remaining Giant Tortoise from Pinta Island. He has been living at the Research Station for 32 years now but they've been unsuccessful in finding him a mate so he is the last of his kind. After waiting and watching for a good half hour, we eventually spotted him hiding in the bushes at the rear of his enclosure, so the wait was worthwhile! On our way back to the boat we saw fishermen sorting out the days catch and feeding the waiting sealions and pelicans with the left overs as they prepared the fish to sell.
Day 19 (James Bay GPS: S0.2407, W:90.8593, A:0m)
Overnight the boat had motored around the island, and when we awoke we were on the West coast of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately we were up an hour early as Nicky had forgotten to reset the alarm clock to Galapagos time - which is an hour behind Mainland Ecuador (what a muppet!), however on the plus side we were able to watch a stunning sunrise, and the birds doing their early morning fishing. We took a walk around the Island and the first thing we saw was a turtle who had laid her eggs on the beach at night - but hadn't made it back to the sea before low tide and was now stuck and exhausted on the rocks, if left our Guide said she would die before the end of the day, so the group leapt in to action and the lads manhandled this giant turtle over the rocks and to safety, she was clearly not pleased to have her life saved, and her flippers flapped wildly at them - making her even more difficult to carry over the slippery rocks!! Thankfully they made it, and she swam away in to the sea. Continuing our walk we saw some big Land Iguanas about 4 feet in length some of them and a lovely yellow orange colour, we also encountered Galapagos Hummingbird and Galapagos Flycatcher birds. Back on our boat for lunch we had a cooling swim in the sea before sailing on to James Bay on Santiago Island. On our afternoon walk there we saw many Sealion, Marine Iguanas and Fur Seals, they were all completely unbothered by us walking around just feet away from them. We got a wonderful picture of a Galapagos Flycatcher bird who was intrigued by its own reflection in Cameron's lens and came to investigate, Amazingly Nicky managed to catch it with her camera as it hovered to have a close look!! It's a cracking shot - make sure you check it out in the Gallery with the other pictures from the trip. Back at the beach we donned snorkelling gear, and took to the water with the Sealions, they were incredible swooping around us, very fast in the water!! Nicky managed to find a turtle passing by and swam with it for a few mins which was really cool! Back on the boat the chef had prepared us pizza for a snack, as we motored on to another island. - he must have read our minds - heaven! We arrived at Bartolome Island about 8pm, and shortly after everyone was in bed totally shattered after a great day!
Day 20 (Brown Beach GPS: S0.2822, W:90.5565, A:0m)
When we awoke, it was to find 4 Sealions had made themselves at home for the night on our dive platform at the back of the boat! We climbed to the top of Bartolome Island which consists entirely of Lava and Ash - the whole island held together by just a thin crust of solid lava preventing it from disintegrating. From the viewpoint at the top we could see the entire Island and many of the other islands making up the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Bartolome is surrounded by 7 underwater volcanos, the crater of one could clearly be seen from our high vantage point. Heading back down we went to Brown beach where again we donned our snorkels and set off to explore the rocky area. It was incredible, we snorkled with the Galapagos Penguins, more Sealions, Eagle and Sting Rays, another Turtle and most exciting of all - a couple of White Tipped Reef Sharks! As we followed them around they again seemed unfazed by the attention they were getting, and we rued not purchasing an underwater camera to capture the moment. Whilst we lunched onboard, the boat motored on to North Seymour island - along the way we saw Eagle Rays launching themselves out of the water in a stunning series of backflips, before crashing back down again, our Guide telling us that they did this to rid themselves of the parasites who clung on to their underside. North Seymour island was small and very, very hot - there was no shade. The island is most famous for its large colonies of breeding Blue Footed Boobies and Frigate birds with their odd red neck pouch which the males inflate to attract a female! There were so many of them everywhere, on the ground, in the trees and in the air. Near the beach areas we saw more Sealions, Marine Iguana and and Galapagos Gull, with their pretty red ring around the eye. To cool down we took to the water once more, launching ourselves off the top deck of the boat in to the lovely water below. (well Nicky did whilst Cameron caught the action with his camera and preferred to stay dry!) That evening on the boat was our last night and the crew had made us a chocolate cake (again reading minds), wishing us goodbye, and we consumed many cocktails before heading for bed!
Day 21 (GPS: to come when we find the scribbled bit of paper!)
Up at dawn and straight in to the Zodiacs for a trip to the Lagoon at Black Turtle Cove. This shallow lagoon surrounded by Mangrove forests is home to many breeding species, we saw mating Turtle, loads of Rays including stingrays and a huge white spotted Eagle Ray - and more Sharks! They swam around just a couple of feet below us in our inflatable, as we floated silently by. Breakfast back on the boat and then we had to pack to leave. 2 flights and several hours later we made it back to Quito. 6 of us headed out to an ALL YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK MONGOLIAN BUFFET, the price for this feast? A mere $10 a head!! The drinks included were all cocktails, so we made sure we covered the entire list between us before calling it a night, with the world swirling around us, just like on the boat! What an incredible few days.
Two more days here in Quito, and then next stop Easter Island. More soon. Thanks for all your messages - keep 'em coming, they're really appreciated!
Luv the Intrepid Travellers
Nic and Cam xx