Time for some tourist experiences with Ben, Mckenna and Kristine. We are going snorkelling and island hopping!
27 Marts. We wake up at eight, leaving us half an hour to find breakfast before we are supposed to be at the dive shop. End up at a bakery for a cinnamon role and a bottle of water. We get the gear we found yesterday, and walk the short distance to the pier. We are joined by tree Danes, who have been diving too. That gives them one huge avenges; they have rented wetsuits too!
We sail out to a small island; Isla Lobos, and jumps in. It is COLD! My goggles fog up even though I do all, I use to do, while diving. Here are not that much to see, but Marine Iguanas on the rocks, sea lions in the water, a ray, some sea ouches and puffer fish. I return a bit early to the boat; I having cold cramps in my legs.
Next stop is Kicker Rock. Just the huge rock - or actually rocks, are impressive. There are a ten meter gab, 40 meters tall, and another place, a two meter wide and 30 meter tall one. I have a distinct feeling of the water will be colder, the debt considered, and remain in the boat till I get reports of hammerhead sharks.
They only see two Blacktipped Reefsharks, and I see them from the boat in the real clear water. Problem being; I getting slightly sea sigh, sitting in the boat. We sail round the rock and stop just a bit further around it. I remain in the boat with Kunal, and the others returns within that long; it is after all; cold.
I make a sacrifice to the fish, and then we head in near the coast for lunch. Real tasty fish and rice with vegetables. No one wants to explore the coast, and we head back to Port. I have gotten quite some sun in my head and on my stomach, and the others are slightly glowing too, despite their seven layers of sun blocker.
We meet the Canadians at the dive shop, and returns to the hostel. Some go to sleep at the beach, some in the oven, our room have turned into. The water is once more out, but at least our laundry are ready. At six, we watch the fastest sunset possible; equinoxes at equator: The sun is almost blurry in photos!
Then we head out for a common supper, our last together. Mckenna and Kristine are leaving from Santa Cruz on our island hopping, Kunal and the Canadians head home next weekend too. We meet with Geovanny at a BBQ place. $6,50 to 10 for a dish, but they are HUGE! I am starving, and choose a grilled giant shrimps (no lobster today).
Someone mention cheesecake, and we end up at a new cafe, serving both a milk cake and a chocolate cake. I can't decide, and end up with one of each and a latte. While some go back to the hacienda, others stay put at the hostel. I still have to work my way through the 150 photos of the last days.
28. Isabella day.One more early morning, and again without a shower; Still no water in Hostel Albatros. We search for breakfast, but the town is so Sunday closed. Reach the pier at the dot; 6.45. We get our tickets checked and the luggage too. No fruits and alike for the other islands.
Then we start waiting. Many come and go, some for islands, some for fishing and some for snorkelling. We can see our boat; The Sunfish, but nothing happens. We send platoons out looking for something to eat, and I take a lot of photos of the pelicans and fishes around the pier. Funny enough: The fruit they finds are brought on the boat without any problems.
Finally, we find a guy who can tell us; we are delayed due to a late booking. Considered how small the island is, I find it hard to figure how we can get to wait two and a half hour! Two others get a refund, and climb onboard another boat - just before it is swarmed with 10-12 years old kids.
They last of the passengers finally turns up, and we set off to Santa Cruz. We get the bench behind the captain while the rest are below. Half way over, the engine get overheated, and we slow down a bit. Then we passes Santa Fe, a small inhabitant island with its own Land Iguana species and a lot of cacti.
We finally reach Santa Cruz, half pass twelve, "only" tree hours delayed. We buy a ticket at the pier for Isabella at two, and store our extensive luggage at the office. Then it is time for lunch, and we search in the less touristed streets. This is really a tourist town. All shops are open on a Sunday, and we have to walk several streets back from the marina, to avoid tourist places.
We find a place, packed with locals, and get some huge dishes with excellent fish courses. Bye an ATM and the Publicus Banjos, and we reach the pier on the dot. High powered boat, not filled, leaving only slightly delayed. We sleep most of the way, but I manages to get a few photos of the islands we passes. Some are tiny but tall. It is a bumpy ride, but we do fine - thanks to some pills, I guess.
Where Santa Cruz looked a bit like Monaco from the seaside (but not close on!), Isabella's port and town; Poerto Villamil is way more relaxed. Only 2000 inhabitants, and no paved roads; the main street it a muddy track and the light poles raw tree stems. Isabella is the largest island of the Galápagos with an area of 4,640 square kilometres, and length of 100 kilometres; nearly four times larger than Santa Cruz, the second largest of the islands. It have an altitude of 1,707 meters.
We take a taxi to Coral Bianco, but check a few other hotels in the area. We end up with a tree bed room there for $12 each. While Mckenna and Ben occupies the hammocks, Kristine and I take a walk back trough town and back along the beach. Here are a new species of Lava Lizards, not sure which...
The beach is awesome! One cove after another, all with white hour-glass sand. Back to pick-up the gang - and a ice cone, and out to Casa Rosada and its bar; Pink Iguana for Happy-Hour and a chat with Claudia. She is a huge personality and a perfect fixer. We get a talk about what there is to see, and she books our tours. Sure sounds like we could use some more days, but the girls have to leave from Sana Cruz soon. Mean while, we sip passion fruit juice with (lots of) the local rum; Caña Manabillo, called "Conjac".
The bar is filled with small Marine Iguanas, and more are crawling in. The sun sets, and we head for the recommended BBQ restaurant. Two large spears with mixed vegetables, meat and seafood for $10. After having eaten too much once again, we head for the beach. It is illuminated by the almost full moon, but we don't see any turtles. Some places, it is almost quick-sand, and that have to be tested!
Once again, we have an relative early start on the day, but I have 200 photos and a diary to sort out before I head to bed, and it gets late.
29. We have booked a $35 tour to Volcan Negra and Volcan Chico. We manages to find water and some bakery, before we meet for rubber boot trial in front of Hotel Volcan. We head into the middle part of the southern part of Isabella with taxi and the National Park Guide; Lobos.
It is going upwards; 1000 meters in total with the car, 200 more on foot. First, we drive through the rather arid costal stretch. Here are pretty green due to the El Nino year, but here are also many tall Opuntias. Then we passes a real arid belt of newly made lava before we gain height, and all turn greener.
Further up, huge trees are found along the smooth, paved road. We turn off at a giant fig tree, and start passing farms in this lush belt. The road turn worse and worse due to recent rain. Some cracks are half a meter wide and almost two metres deep! The surrounding nature is struggling to survive the invasive Ipomoea, a vine that covers all.
Finally, we reach the border of the national park. Unfortunately, that does fare from mean we get rite of the invasive plants, but here are beautiful. We are fare from alone here. Other groups are here to do the same tour, some on foot, some by horses. The area are huge, there are several tracks, and it don't feel that overcrowded. Here is a fantastic view over the entire southern Isabella.
We start walking up by the cleared/sprayed borderline of the park. It is a slightly muddy start, but I could have worn my military boots and saved the $2 for rubber boots. On the other hand; I have gone so custom to walking in rubber boots, I don't get bothered by it.
I only see a few new plants on the first stretch. Either they are familiar from San Cristobal or they are invasive: Especially Guayabo and different ferns. A single new bird; Dark-billed Cuckoo; Coccyzus melacoryphus - native but not endemic. Here are also some finches - names pending for now. A few insects, spiders and snails catches my eyes.
We are keeping a good paste, and taking the long way to the crater. When we reach a high plateau, more endemic plants takes over. Here are the Darwin Bush, Galapagos Cotton; Gossypium darwinii, Cat's Claw Zanthoxylum fagara, Colinvaux's passionflower; Passiflora colinvauxii and P. foetida, Tournefortia rufo-sericea, Peperomia galapagensis, Croton scouleri, Tree Ferns; Cyathea weatherbyana, grasses like Cyperus anderssonii and some I haven't a name for yet, one being a parasitic plant.
We reach the giant crater, second largest in the world, around five kilometres in diameter (?). The old wall surrounding it is lush green, but the button are dark brown lava from the 2005 eruption.
We shift to normal footwear - or not, and have a sandwich under some huge, invasive trees. Then we get over the edge, down to Volcan Chico, and then it is dry! Here are really few plants, a low Scalesia; Scalesia affinis, Opuntias and Jasmincereus. The last eruption was last year, and the lave we walk on are fantastic!
Here are all kind of sculptures, down to finger size, long tunnels, layers, steam and sulphur spraying cracks and steep holes. A Japanese guy are lost, and he should not be left alone! We bring him along for safety keeping. We crosses through the Chico area for some time, and I find new motives all the time.
On the way back, we follow another, rather narrow trail, going on the edge of the huge crater. Many plants are invasive, but the overall impression of the nature and especially the crater is awesome. Well back at the starting point, we head back. On the way, we passes a lake with a few pink flamingos.
We had talked about doing the walk to The Wall of Tears and tortoise place, but it is almost four when we are back - and we have been walking for seven hours. The girls crashes, Ben go searching for food and I check the 400 photos and start on the diary.
At little pass five, I leave the sorry bunch sleeping, and head for the Happy Hour at Pink Iguana. I start out alone, and feel I have to make it for us all. Chat with an Canadian biologist, working in Quito, till they pick me up. We head for a restaurant that say we might have to wait a bit.
After two hours, the girls get pizza and what they call Cesar Salad while Ben enjoys a langouste with tropical sauce, and I humble do with a Spaghetti Bolognaise. Back at the hotel at ten, we are told: We can't get the room after this night. On top of that, we seems to ran out of money, and there are no ATM on this island. Further more, we have to stay one more night to catch a ferry back to Santa Cruz. On the bright site: We get some great tours on the island and some other free experiences too.
30. We are going on one more tour, this time; real expensive: £60. We have been told it should be the money worth, and now we are here, we want to see the best - if not it all!. We meet with Claudia at Hotel Volcan, but she does not have snorkelling gear enough, and we have to rent it at our hotel for additionally $5.
We are fourteen, well mixed people, sharing a bus to the harbour and then divide up, in to two boats. On the way out of the huge, natural harbour, we passes some rocks with the tiny Galapagos Penguins on. Here are also Blue Footed Boobies and Brown Pelicans along with a few Galapagos Sea Lions.
Out on the open sea, I see sea turtles resting on the surface, and fins of sharks cutting the surface from time to time. Suddenly. a huge, white area moves, just below the surface. It is one of several giant Manta Rays. We get real close, and see their flat but enormous bodies from both top and belly. Guess some could be seven metres?
Here are also many seabirds; Lava Gulls, Frigate Birds, Petrals and some, unknown to Bihrmann at present time. We pass the Union Rock, a stable of rocks, forming a tiny island with a few sea lions and birds on, way out on sea. There are no doubt; the water is deep around here: The swells are gentle but huge! 20-30 meters in-between and three or even five meters in height.
We head into a labyrinth of lava rocks. Not slow, but at full speed to gain control over the waves. Then we reach a lagoon with smooth waters and some fantastic lava formations. We have reach Los Tuneles; lava tunnels that have been eroded, leaving one bridge after the other.
Here are penguins and other sea birds, sea lions, sea turtles and sharks, right under Opuntias, Jasmincereus cacti, mangrove trees and a few other species as Bursera, grasses, Portulaceae and leaches. We stop deep in the mace, and walk over numerous bridges. I focus on the plants, but get distracted time and time again by sharks and sea turtles, right underneath me.
We head a bit out in the bay, and jump in the rather cold water. Here are underwater reef with a lot of colourful fish, sea ouches, starfish, sting rays and much more. We can get real close to the penguins and pelicans, without they seems to care. I get to swim with one penguin and I just have to dive under a submerged arch, before I head for the boat.
We race out to the sea again, and catch a couple of sea turtles, making love. Then we turn into another lagoon, this time with mangrove. Jump in, and swim near it. Here are sharks, stingrays, lobsters, starfish with 20 arms, plenty of small and colourful fish. Unfortunately, it is getting high tide on a full moon day, and the water is slightly milky.
We head the long way home while the sun disappears. A bit later, we get a shower. No one ask for the penguin dive at the harbour, and I sure don't mention it. Never the less, it have been a great tour, but not really the $60 worth to me. I end up with 300 photos, but there are so many of the arches.
We walk back to town, passing the post house which is kind of cute. We are not free of feeling a bit homeless. Luckily, we have Casa Rosada as base, and we stash our gear at the hammocks. The sea is extremely high, floating the Ipomoeas at the top beach, leaving absolutely no sand beach. We head for a good long swim in the huge waves in front of Casa Rosada, and then at the playground. I find a colony of young Marine Iguanas, but I have not bought my camera, due to the rain.
In the dunes' Ipomoeas, I see what I first think is a hummingbird. Didn't know here were any, and it turns out to be a huge, green hawk moth. Its way of flight and eating resembles so much hummingbirds, and I'm sure I'm not the first one to make the mistake.
Back at "base", Claudia offers the tree young people a tent and a piece of her garden to put it up on, for $5 a night. I rent a room for $20 a night at the Dolphin House, taking care of luggage and offering the kids free showers and battery charges. The rain have stopped, and they are looking forward for a night on the beach.
We meet at happy hour, and enjoys some drinks, celebrating the cheep nights - for some. I leave a bit early to write diary, but join up with gang for supper. Once again, we follows Claudia's recommendations - but not exactly her road desecrations. Never the less, we end up at the right place, offering a menu for $3,50. We get a real good cheese soup, meat and vegetables in a sauce with rice and a glass of cinnamon juice.
We walk back, but I bed them goodnight at my hotel. I still have to go through the photos of the day.
31. Nine hours of perfect sleep, wondering how they have done on the beach. Already from my balcony, I see a new animal; the Caribbean Flamingo, in the lagoon a bit inland. After a shower, I head down to them. They claim; it have rained during the night! The hammock was out in the free and three people in a tiny tent, two suffering from claustrophobia are not a success. Never the less, they insist on doing it one more night.
We visit the usual - and only - bakery in town, and then we head our of the Wall of Tears road. It is a pearl string of sights, and most take a taxi the eight kilometres out, and walk home. We have the whole day, and we might catch a taxi back?
We skip the first minor sights to follow the beach out to Playa de Amore. It is low tide, and the perfect sandy beach is 50-100 metres wide. Plenty of Marine Iguanas and birds like Brown Pelicans are sitting in the flat sun, and I take a photo or two...
At Playa de Amore, some huge male Marine Iguanas are taking it real easy. The biggest don't mind me taking some real close-ups. A small heron are fishing in the tide pools and other birds are folowering the waves in and out. Some red crabs are making pearls of sand on the beach, and I manages to get some good close-ups too.
We turn inland, and find our selves in a dense mangrove. The road have been cut right through, and we can see a wall of mangrove trees on both sides. Several tracks leads into more dry areas with cacti or to lagoons, edged with trees. One track leads to a small hill, offering a good sight around.
Next track leads to a long lava tunnel, six metres wide and two tall. The inner part get more and more floated, and I guess it ends right out in the sea. Some strange animals are found on its low water, can't tell what it is. We head back to the main road, which leads through tall Poison Apple trees and other tall trees. Then we get out on a green plain, and a rather huge hill, or rather a small volcano raises in front of us.
Before we reaches is, I spot a tortoise in the side of the road, hidden under bushes. It causes for more photos, just like the local mockingbird, the finches and the huge Large Painted Locust; Schistocerca melanocera some plants and nature in general.
The 150 metre tall volcano offers a fantastic sight of the area, but I almost forget to take any photos of it, due to a Galapagos Hawk; Buteo galapagoensis. It is almost not paying attention to us, but returns after small patrols. A mockingbird does not appreciate its present as much as we do.
We are finally on the last, three kilometre stretch to "Muro de las Lagrimas"; Wall of Tears. Build by prisoners, used for punishment. Slightly disappointing (or as we say in Danish: To cry over), but we have had a great tour up here. We don't even go the last bit down to it, but returns. We are low - actually; out - of water, and there are no chance of a lift back.
We stop to have a swim at El Estero, and I get a few more bird- and Iguana photos. Back in town, we buy water and small, sweet bananas for five cents each. Then a menu to four dollars; real good. I head for the Centro de Crianza de Tortugas to see the local tortoises while the kids gather strength.
A board walk lead through swamps and deserts, offering many excellent sights. I first have to make my way through twenty Marine Iguanas on the start of the boardwalk. Then some tiny ducks; White-cheeked Pintail Duck; Anas bahamensis galapagensis and some Common Gallinule; Gallinula chloropus, which are so shy!
I slowly work my way through mangrove to forest and then desert. Here are a few plants I have been looking for, and they are even flowering. I make it to the tortoise centre, and do several walks around the path. There are hundreds of young animals in different sizes, and huge areas with their parents. So huge, I can't get a descent picture of one of the two species they have. I have to depend on Charles Darwin Research Institute for that - or return. I had promised my neighbour a video of mating tortoises, and I get it!
On my way back, I meet the kids, who might be able to reach the centre before it closes at five. Home to down-load the 750 photos of the day, and get some of the facts and ideas down in the diary. Back to Casa Rosada for the last Happy Hour. I meet the rest of the gang, and they get a key for my room. Our guide from the first day mixes me an excellent Mojito, and I follow it up with an Iguana: Passion fruit with local rum.
I have a chat with Claudia, talking bar, thanking for her help and offering her a internet site. Then we head for the restaurant we had success with last night. It is not that good, but all right. Back to let the others do their evening toilet. I hope they get through the night without rain. Then work with the pictures, but I don't finish at all!
There are still many more experiences waiting for me on the Galapagos Islands, see Diary 6.