|Where to begin...? I have spent the last few days on Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. We left Friday afternoon at around 2. The weather on the island was not brilliant, which meant that the sea was rough and wild. The journey lasted around 2 hours, most of which was spent bouncing up and down as the boat sped through the waves, in an attempt to find the path of least resistance. Ironically at the port, myself and Dan, (along with the rest of the group which consisted of 4 Germans and a Dutch guy) bumped into Paddy, the British traveller who we were staying with in Quito. He was also heading to Isabela for the weekend, which made the trip that bit more interesting. After having survived the 2 hour boat ride, we were met at the port by our guide for the weekend, Paulo.
Our first port of call was the hotel to drop off our bags before heading out to see the pink flamingos. Our mode of transport, an old Toyota land cruiser, with the back removed, and replaced by a wooden box with 3 benches. It was an uncomfortable journey and at times nerve racking. The driver choose to drive down a number of steep declines, which we would have to head back up once the tour was over. As if that was not bad enough, he choose to make matters worse by driving the truck into the lake where the flamingos were resting, so that we could get a closer look. Having taken a number of wildlife shots, we headed back out of the lake up the steep hills to return safely back at the hotel. Dinner was not until 7 so in the spare our we headed into town to explore. The town itself is small, and simple, with sand roads and a population of around 300. Thus after 15 minutes of walking, we had covered its length, choosing then to walk down the beach. We eventually came to a halt at the pink house, a bar / restaurant. The owner was a strange character, very persistent that we enjoy the benefits of her happy hour (2 beers of $5), whilst looking and soundly like she had in the past been a hardcore drug addict. We managed to escape her, head back for dinner and then bed.
On Saturday we awoke early for breakfast before heading up into the highlands, with our tour guide and unsafe vehicle. The higher we rose, the more the rain fell. After around half an hour or so, the vehicle came to stop, and in front of us stood 9 horses. Now the adventure up to the volcano begins. Mounting my horse was easy, once on top, the panic began to set in. Having never ridden a horse before, and with little instruction from the guide, my mind was racing as to the outcome of the journey, would I fall off, would I hurt myself? Fortunately neither of these two things happen although I came close to both on a number of occasions. As one horse began to gallop, the rest would follow, and before long we were racing along this road, and I had no way of bringing the horse to a stand still. Fortunately, he stopped himself, and I was able to compose myself. As a group again, going at a steady pace we began to climb the volcano. Due to the rain, the ground had become slippery, and I could feel my horse slipping as we climbed. This in turn brought on more panic, as I was sure I was going to fall. However after about a 40 minute ride, we broke through the clouds, the ground beneath out feet hardened, I began to relax and enjoy the journey, at times making my horse gallop and lead the way. After such an adventure I can now honestly say, that I enjoy the sport and would happily do it again. We eventually reached the volcano creature, a Crater 9km across and 8 km wide. It was an amazing site, I felt like I was on the moon, as as far as the eye could see, there was rock after rock. We soon followed the guide to check point 2, another volcano creator, but this time on foot. We were able to descend into this Crater as its last eruption was in 1979, where as the first had erupted last in 2005. I then felt as though I was standing on the moon, for again all around me lay lava rock, HOT lava rock. We were able to see the path the lava took, as the colour of the ground differed significantly, reds, blacks, browns... After lunch in the Crater, we headed back to the horses and down the volcano. I was now confident on the horse, which made the rest of the journey an enjoyable one, yet as expected, the lower we went the heavier the rain, the heavier the rain, the more slippery the ground.
In the afternoon we boarded a boat, headed out to a small island of Isabelas coast and snorkeled with the sea lions turtles and fish. What an amazing experience, words can not describe such an experience. We then headed onto the land to explore the island, to see blue footed boobies (a bird with blue feet) Galapagos penguins sea lions and iguanas. As we walked, I wondered how Darwin and other great explorers felt seeing a new species for the first time.
We were due to depart the island on the Sunday morning, but we choose to stay an extra day. So on Sunday, with beautiful clear blue skies above us, we embarked on a 15m walk to the wall of tears. I am not to sure of the history behind the wall, but it has something to do with prisoners of war captured during the 2nd World War I think. The walk was hard, but along the way we saw another side of the island; crystal clear lagoons, surround by mangroves, sandy white beaches and all species of lizard and gecko. The walk lasted the entire day, and only when we returned to the hotel did my legs begin to ache from the horse riding of Saturday and the 15km walk of Sunday. We all headed to bed early that evening, as the boat left at 6am the next morning, which meant the transport would pick us up at 5:30 to take us to the port. The boat ride back to Isabela, took only 1 and a half hours. The waters were calm, the boat bigger and more powerful then the one from Friday.
We docked at 7:45, 2 hours before my lessons began for the day. Having made it to school on time, I was informed that my teacher would be absent for the rest of the week on a training courses, and that if possible could I take the lessons solo from tomorrow. I could hardly say no, seeing as I am here to teach, so come tomorrow I will be flying solo, the students understanding little English, and myself speaking little Spanish. It shall be a challenge to say the least. I also learnt today how poor my school truly was. On Friday, the headmaster had sent out letters requesting each child to contribute $10 to the school to help fund the purchase of new resources. On days like this I realise how lucky I was to have an excellent education provided free of charge.
Tomorrow shall be a test of my teaching capabilities, and in my next blog I'm sure you will read of the success and failures...