|Arrived back in Quito after a long haul - Cartegna to Bogata' to Lima - slept in the airport from 10pm till my 5 am flight them to Quito arriving at about 8.30am. To my surprise and delight I was met and escorted to the Hilton where I was allocated a large twin room. I was supposed to be sharing but the other person didn't turn up so I took over the room. Had a very long hot shower and used two towels....decadent!
Intended to catch up on some sleep but ended up taking a longer than intended walk to post a parcel home. Had our trip meeting and then did a night tour of the old town - it was worth it to see some of the buildings lit up. When I got back to the hotel my key card wouldn't work so a trip to reception and I was told they had put me in the wrong room and I had to pack up and go share! I explained that I had already used the bathroom and the bed and was it really worth their while to move me - I ended up staying in my own room - my first single non-tent accommodation for neatly 5 months - bliss!
A 5am start the next day soon put me back on track.
The flight to the Galapagos was in two parts - 45 mins to Guayaquil. And then another 1.45 hours to Baltros a tiny island off Santa Cruz -so a bus to a ferry and then another bus
across the island to Pt Ayora part of the biggest settlement on the Galapagos. Onto rubber dingies and so to our boat the Xavier III. 9 cabins so a maximum of 18 passengers - we had 16.
Again I was supposed to share - I had booked a lower berth as it is cheaper but when my name came up I had been put on the upper deck - sharing - I ended up on the lower deck in a double room all on my own - sounds good? To a point my 'honeymoon' suite, Quite a decent size with a double bed was right at the front of the boat near the boat near the an or our first night was quite rocky. A new moon causes big swells and we certainly had them -followed by at about 1 am the anchor chain be I g pulled up - the was a problem so it took a good half hour to get it up - sounded like it was in my bed - turns out they call it the honeymoon suite because no one is expected to get any sleep in there!
Highlights of the trip over here include seeing giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz, snorkeling with a sea tortoise off Rabida I followed it for about 100 m as it headed towards shore soooo cool! Star fish lots of varieties of coloured fish - snorkeled most days even tho the water is not as warm as I would have liked, Sally Light foot crabs by the thousands - very pretty, Blue food Boobies Frigates still waiting to see one with its chest puffed put like a big red balloon, Lava lizards - the little ones in the photos, Iguanas, again hundreds of them, masked boobies, a couple of red footed boobies, Albatross nesting in the rocky heights of Espanola the southern most island we visited, Mocking birds - cheeky little birds that check out your gear to see if they can find any water in it - put a cap of water on the sand and they will Drink from it right at your feet - this is of course frowned upon by the rangers. And sea lions - small medium and large they are everywhere on some beaches you have to be careful not to tread in their poo lots of it and they don't exactly smell great - but the young ones will play with you in the water they follow you so if you do circles they copy we had really good fun with a group that just stayed around or ages and then followed the dingy part way out to our boat. Went to a Galapagos Interpretive Centre which put the islands in perspective and gave some history - bit like a school trip. Up to another highland area where baby tortoises are hatched and kept for a few years before being released into the wild - made me think of my Tasman!
On Floriana there is a post office you write you card or note and put it in a box - the next people who come along look through the addresses and if there is one near them they take the card and deliver it - I have two that I will deliver when I get home - this system has been in existence for years starting -with sailing ships.
Fresh sea air tends to make one sleepy and after our 7pm dinner it is unusual to see anyone awake after about 9om in fact if you last that long it is considered a late night. The meals on board have been magnificent hot breakfast with cereal a two or three course Lunch - soup main and desert and a two course dinner main and desert. We have two chefs on board catering to at the moment 14 passengers and 9 staff - our guide Will, captain Victor, Gustavo- mechanic /engineer,Arnaldo- first mate, Daniel sailor and general smiley dingy driver, Ricardo - cabin boy - the cabins are cleaned beds made etc every day better than a lot of hotel service, Arbel and Edison chefs. And not forgetting Richard our barman and table service person who spends three weeks doing this and then three weeks as a dive instructor.
I'm writing this blog while sitting on the deck of the boat we are two hours behind schedule today because last night we lost a boat that was to be our means of transport around our next island - apparently the rope broke during the night and we spent over an our searching for it the boat belonged to the captain so I imagine he's not too happy - for us not so bad when we got up this morning we were led by a pod of dolphins my photos aren't great but I think you will get the picture.
The water her is turquoise and for the most part the snorkeling is really good my first dive gave me my best turtle - others just nice fish but two dives were special. The first was around an extinct volcano you can just see the tips in the middle of the ocean- very cold tho and I gave up on putting on a wet suit it was just too hard! So I didn't see much that time but others saw quite a few white tipped .Our next sea dive was at Kekee Rock the water was much calmer and much warmer this time I saw not only sea turtles but also spotted rays and I managed to see the outline of a couple of white tipped sharks amazing
The captain's family hired a couple of speed boats and found his boat - so he's happy. Used the rubber dingy for our look around. Some amazing caves where you could see the fish and the bottom even tho there was no direct light. Did a walk on volcanic rocks very hot but saw a few fur seals - not many but any is good. And a swim/snorkel my longest took about an hour to swim from the beach to a headland around the corner and to a cave where a baby sea lion was playing. The water was pretty deep and I got a little nervous when at one stage I couldn't see the support dingy but was pretty proud of my effort to get to the cave and in the end the fish scenes made it worthwhile. I was looking down at the bottom at what I thought was weed being moved by the currant but then realised that it was fish hundreds of thousands of them just hovering above the sea bed. No wonder the birds and seals and sea lions like living there and of course no fishing is allowed. Watching a boobie dive in and bring out a fish is amazing they dive vertically and very fast and then pop up and eat - their very own pantry.
Our final morning was as 5am start with 6.30 trip to the mainland and to the Darwin Centre. This is where Lonesome George used to live. We missed him by about three weeks he died at age somewhere between 100 and 120 depending on who you talk to. He was the last of his species there used to be 14 species of tortoise George was number 11 and now there are just 10 species left but the work they are doing in incubating eggs and returning them to their spot on their island has increased most of those species. We met Diego who has fathered around 1000 eggs he's a pretty big boy!
And so back to Quito via bus ferry bus and 2 flights and back to another bight of Hilton luxury.
Photos are on Facebook!