No more working; now it is time to enjoy life on Isabella, before it is time to head home.
27. April Get up early and continue working with the photos. Finish at ten, and start my search for a cheep ticket for Isabella. Last I paid $30, which seems to be the price, but now, I get it to $25, and I buy a open return ticket too. Draw $350, just to have enough on the ATM-free island, hoping just to use less than half! Then I walk out to the Charles Darwin Research Station to thank them for their hospitality. Neither the girls, nor Ann is at their stations, and I visit Lonesome George instead: Sure he will be where he always seem to be.
He is, and in a new angle. Further more, his two girlfriends are awake, and I gamble on a "live" photo of him. Take some time, but he finally have a look at the parsing girl - not sure he knows why thought. If any doubt, he yawns intensely, before continuing his nap. No wonder he is lonely!
Back at the office building, I find the botanist; Ann, who seems pleased with my approach to kick in some new ideas on propagating. We agree on meeting on San Cristobal in the end of next week, to go through their problems there. In the nursery, Mari and Rosio are watering, and we have a short chat - languish different making it a bit hard. On the way back, I meet the two Australians, who I knew were coming today. They are accompanied by two friends, who are here for a short visit, and they will be going to Isabella today as well.
I head back towards town, but are tempted by a delicious looking banana cake and a cup of coffee. I passes the hotel to pickup a book, and find a bench at the pier, in the shadow with a light breeze. Then it is time for a final great cup at The Rock before picking up my bag at the hotel. I reach the ticket office on the second, and are guided to the bag inspection at the pier. I meet the Australians again, but they are on a other boat.
The boat are stuffed! It is either left or right shoulder on the back: The guy right of me get his right shoulder back, the guy to the left; his left. I lean back and sleep the two and a half hour almost undisturbed, just having a fast glimpse of the island; Toturga. The Australians have passed me, and I owe drinks. They are joined by a Danish girl in the group they have signed up with. While they are herded up to a bus, I get my bag sniffed by the dog and start walking.
Just as I leave the port, a car stops, and they ask me if I got a hotel. They can offer a single room for $15 and throws in breakfast. I say I was thinking $10, and they will have a go at the hotel. I get a lift, but they are stock at 15. Never the less, the make a few calls, and find me one at 10, without breakfast, but with hot showers. I even get driven round the corner to it.
Is is a surprisingly nice and clean double room with a real good madras. And it is right between my favourite merianda restaurant and my favourite bar, one street from the beach in centre of town. Knowing the city, I'm sure it will be quiet too! The couple who owns is are lovely, and Hostel Villamil is highly recommendable!
It is almost five, and I head for Happy Hour at the Pink Iguana. Here I meet several familiar faces: Jeff, who have it much better after the baseball attack, Lobos who are taking a day off and some other regulars. Unfortunately, Claudia is in the mainland, and I never seem to get that drinking bottle!
Jeff and Jeannette perform a song they have been working on for few days: I am astonished! It sounds like an old sailor tune, and I am sure it could be one of these tunes that will be plaid again and again. It is about a mermaid that want a lover. They get to play it several times to everybody's joy. Then I tell some other backpackers about my experiences on the islands before it is time for supper.
Back at my cosy room to write a bit, and make a plan for the rest of my stay. Seems like the first week will be total relaxing on Isabella, then a day on Santa Cruz and three on San Cristobal before I have to leave the islands for two nights in Quito.
28. It is raining during the night, but stops at dawn. I'm up early to see if I can catch some Marine Iguanas heading for the ocean. There are plenty of them on the lava rocks on the sandy beach, and a few are taking the plunged, but due to the low tide, they are actually sitting on dry land, eating sea weed.
I follow the coastline through mangrove and reach the port. The local Lava Lizards are enjoying the early sun, and I succeed to sneak up to some of them. Here are not much human activity, but plenty of sea lions, pelicans, fish trapped by the extreme low tide and more iguanas. I have once again reach Isabella on a full moon, and the tide is significant. Beside form fish, some sea sausages are caught in the tide pools along with a lot of tiny hermit crabs - as always: In big groups.
I find a pier with shadow, and sit for a rest. A sea lion with pup is right next to me, be soon relaxes. Another is eating a big fish right underneath us, and while I watch that, a Devil Ray cruses around. Just a small one, but still an awesome sight.
A path leads to a long boardwalk through the mangrove: The Concha de Perla Trail. Beside from real tall mangrove trees, only a sun basking heron catches my attention. The water in the lagoon is crystal clear, and I might consider snorkelling here one of these days.
I keep trying to follow the coast line, but there are no paths on the roughed lava, and I'm only wearing flip-flops. Further more, I'm sure it is off-limits. I find a tiny road leading out to a waste lava area behind some small houses. It is only slightly vegetated, but what is there, are interesting. Scalesia affinis, Jasmincereus, Opuntias and other desert plants. A Asclepiadaceae is new to me, and I even find a flower.
I risk it, and start tracking through the rough area. It looks like recently eruption, but it might be a million year old. Some areas are just a few centimetre thick crust, and I have to be careful where I step. Some areas are looking like they still are floating. I figure I have been risking my skin enough, both to lava and sun, and turn towards town. I end up in a industrial area, crossed by wild areas with lava and cacti.
A cup of hot milk with Nescafe on the way back to the hotel for a bit of R&R - and a look through the 200 photos of this morning. I have no doubt; I have to take it slowly exploring the area, if it is going to last for a week! I have already seen the highlights last I was here, and there are not that many accessible areas due to the national park.
At two, I walk the hundred meters to the water to have a swim. The tide is coming in, and as usual, there are some good surf. Strangely enough, I have the entire, perfect rock-less beach, several kilometres long, all to myself, and the water isn't even cold! Then the clouds are pulling up, and a wind start to blew from the cold water in from the sea.
I take a walk along the beach, and turn inland when I start to feel cold. A bit back towards town, and then pass the Marine Iguanas on the boardwalk through the swamps, toward the tortoise reservation. I had these "Marine" Iguanas suspected for nipping of the land plants, and here I get the proof: One big male is engulfing Batis; Batis maritima, like no one sees him. Why the rest throw them self in the cold sea and out through the tough surf, living on a fertile beach with plenty of eatable plants, beats me!
It start to drip a bit a wee, and I head back to my cosy room. Just in the door, it starts to rain properly. It is even strong enough the let me skip Happy Hour, but luckily, it stops just before supper time. To day, it is soup and a grilled steak, containing more butenolide-3-methyl-2H-furo[2,3-C]pyran-2-one than it takes to start a whole bunch of Xanthorrhoeaceae seeds (lost you on that?).
29. Once again, I'm up rather early, and when the sun breaks through the morning clouds at half pass seven, I am on my way out on the western beach. It is, as I expected, low tide, and I have the entire beach for myself, when I have passed a mother with a toddler. After a bit, some light clouds take over, and the temperature remains perfect for me. The photos on the other side, could do with a bit more light!
Among other findings, I come across a dead sea turtle, laying on the beach. The red crabs are numerous in some areas, but I almost let them be; doubt sincerely I ever get a better picture than the last I managed to take last I was here. The plants on the dunes are another story, and I'll ad some to my "collection".
I reach the same places we visited last, and I only shot a few pictures (I thought) of the giant Marine Iguanas, the Lava Lizards, the Lava Gull; Larus fuliginosus, the fish and other creatures in the tide ponds, the plants and the scenery in general. My biggest problem is; I am getting way too many excellent photos of the Iguanas, but only need a few.
My plan was just to follow the beach as fare as I could, and then return, saving The Wall of Tears for another day. Unfortunately, it seems like Playa Amore is the last point of sandy beach, before the lava takes over. With boots, I could cross the lava, but is is hazarders and not that rewording. Plant B is to walk some of the way to the Wall, and do some intensive studies of the sights on the way.
As I leave the beach, I find a dead Sula, a single hermit crab and in a lagoon; some beach birds with extreme beaks. The sun breaks through, and the temperature raises to about 37C. I reach some of the lagoons and the tiny coves. Once again, I focus on the plants, but can't resist "just a few more shots" of Lava Lizards and birds.
Then I get to Tunel del Estero; the huge lava tunnel near the water. This time, I figure it is one, very long tunnel where the roof have collapsed in the middle. I suspect there might be another exit, but it is too low for my comfort - and it seems pretty much alike, all the way.
I walk through the mangrove at one point, reaching a lava area with plenty of marine life. Besides form Blue Footed Bobbies, gulls and pelicans, here are a lot of life in the tide pools. Some are colonies of what I believe is corals or at least some other polyps. Plenty of different crabs and shrimps along with fish and sea sausages. And of cause the ubiquitous Marine Iguanas!
Within the mangrove, numerous signal crabs sits near their holes and signal with their enlarged claw. Strangely enough, they seem to be scared of my camera, but have no problem biting my feet! It would make a perfect picture with them on their perfect, green lawn, but I ran out of patience before them!
Back on the road, I reach the tortoise area. I'm not really looking for them, but never the less, I see seven, some on the road itself. Not that I really need more photos of these charming, armoured reptilians, but who can resist? Then I see the parasitic plant, which seems quite common in this particular area. This time, I manages to get better photos, "before it escapes...".
The tall, mirador-volcano have not its Galapagos Hawk this time, I and I passes it without climbing it. I have realised I am going for the Wall after all, and it is a rather long walk, especially on only one litre of water. Finally, I reach the viewing point for the Wall of Tears. This time, I decent to it, and have a walk in the area.
It is huge! Around five to nine metres high, around six in wide at the base and 60 metres long. It is said to have been 190, but I se no sign of that. Guess it have coasted blood, sweat, tears and lives! When I reach the end of the Wall, I spot a snake, sitting in it. I sneak closer, and get several photos before it sees me, giving it a shock. It redraws itself into the wall, and I let it. It must have a good life here; the wall is teaming with Lava Lizards!
Some stone steps leads up to a viewing point, right above the Wall. From here, it leads on to a point from where there are a magnificent view op on the northern part of the southern Isabella. A small and most likely "unofficial" track, which don't seem to be used often, leads further up the volcano. The dense vegetation and chance for an even better view lures me through the bushes and over the Opuntia spines.
I am not disappointed! Here are a fantastic view, not only to the north, but all the way down the south coast. Not only that, here are a few "new" plants that I believe are native. I try to video the scenery, but it is simply too large for any of the medias I have!
The track behind the Wall are tempting, but there are a sign telling it is a hunting area for invasive animals, and access is propitiated. Doubt sincerely any are hunting there now, but I'm running low on water, and it is a long way home. I saw three cars at eight, and they returned at ten. Since that, I have been alone, and I can't count on a lift home.
A few new, and some known tortoises on the way home along with two Haematopus palliatus galapagensis on the beach are the most interesting on the eleven kilometre walk back. I make a few, better shots of plants I have seen before, and when I reach the perfect beach, I enjoy a cooling swim.
I reach town little to two, take a shower and get two bananas of my host. She show me where the cluster is, and tell me to help myself. Then I head down to the main road for a cup of coffee. While I sit there, I get a strong feeling: My bed needs me!
After a nap, I start on the diary and the 350 photos of today. At five, it is time for Happy Hour at the Pink Iguana, hoping to meet the Australians, hearing what they have seen around the island.
They are not there, actually, there are only Jeff and an Australian guy. After a while, we are joined by a Dutch girl, and then an American. We go searching for dinner together, and join up with an English guy, updating the Rough Guide. I get an excellent merienda for four dollars, but no soup.
Back at the hostel at ten, starting sorting and tagging the photos of the day. Way too many good of iguanas, lizards and turtles, but what can one do? Stop at eleven, got to have something to do tomorrow too - and I am tired.
30. Early up, but only to work on the computer. I still have four more days here, and only entertainment for two - if I stretch it a lot! Work on Latin names for animals, sort ruthless in them, along with the ones in other groups, but end up dividing them into "Highlights" and "All". I even add the extra "0" in the file name, just in case. I have only planned to take 9999, and I have already reach 9368 (starting at 999). By adding the "0", I get room for 90000 more - and that should be enough!
At noon, I get a cup of milk with coffee and a short walk around town, just to get my mussels working. Then back to the computer, deleting even more photos. Of the 6254 that survived first, rough sorting, only 1362 are in the tours, 1135 are of animals and 1296 of plants - some are double (404), and it "only" sums up to 3389. That means I have kept 36%, indicating I have either been better taking good shots - or worse at deleting them...
I have spend ten hours at the computer, and half pass five, I figure I deserve a drink! Meet up with the same bunch as last evening and a few more Australians. We find a restaurant along with their guide, and I have a chat with him. Seems like I really have seen all on Isabella - and the other accessible islands too. I go back to prepare the weekly upload and work a bit more.
1. May. My last week on Galapagos, and I don't have many plans - which is unusual for me! Start making slideshows while I let the sun heat up the lagoon, I plan to snorkel in, just before it start to get high tide. Unfortunately, the sun does not cooperate, and instead, I head for a walk on the road, I hope leads out of town.
It does, and it lead through the lava area with Opuntias, all the way op to the distance mountains and the remaining island. I left the heavy boots at home, and remain - in general - to the road. There are plenty of interesting plants and lava-motives along it, and I only leave it for shorter excursions.
I passes the island's gasoline station and the power plant for the entire island. Then, I'm out where the nature is completely unspoiled, and soon after, the sun get through the light clouds. Here are a few plans I haven't seen before, most being endemic, I think!
The ground is rather newly erupted lava in huge plates. They are broken up in many places, and plants have found a bit of moisture in the deeper cracks. At first, it is generally small annual plants, Opuntias, Jasmincereus and other tough vegetation. One is a Asteraceae bush I haven't seen before.
There is a fork in the road, and I choose the greener branch. It turns out to be a rather short road, leading to the fancy but small national airport, which seems totally deserted. I add a few plants to my "collection" and returns to the mountain road.
Then it become slightly more green; Bursera, Clerodendron and other arid bushes start to mingle. I see one of the local Dark-billed Cuckoo; Coccyzus melacoryphus and some different finches. I'm a bit puzzled about the numerous dragonflies. There are both some brownish-red ones that are mating and some bright green ones: Where does the multiply?
A new species of butterflies is visiting the tine flowers of the herbs. I was not aware of the wind before I try co get it with the camera. It turns out to be impossible! No much more luck with the Cacti Finches either. Does not help the vegetation are fears, and my flip-flops does not offer me any protection.
I reach a low area, and it turns out to contain a small pond. This it the origin of the dragonflies. I fight my way through the aggressive bushes, and get a nice footbath along with many blurry photos of dragonflies. Sometimes, I would like to have manual focus!
Back at the road, I reach what look like a giant wall. It is the edge of a more recently eruption. A few drops of blood and many more of sweat brings me up on it, but here are only a few islands of plants for as long as I can see: Back to the road.
Here, the surrounding vegetation are dominated be small trees, and it is rather dense. I find some flowering Darwin's Bushes of the narrow leaved type, and a Scelesia - probably affinis - with enormous leaves. The Beach Morning Glory have followed me the entire way. In some areas, it is almost alone with its more than ten meter, single vine. Here, they have seeds along with flowers.
I have been walking for two and a half hour, and it seems like I have reached a huge area without significant alterations. I turn around, and start looking on the other side of the road. Not mush new, but the sun is on the first part, and I can't help myself; got to get some more lava shots! It is a bit strange to see this huge, completely flat area with lava. There are many kilometres to the nearest volcano!
After four hours, I'm back in town, and I try to find a cup of coffee. My usual place is closed, and the next seven restaurants I ask in, do not have it! Some Australians recommend me the small but fancy hotel at the beachfront. They have it all right, but instead of paying one dollar, I have to give three!
Back at the hostel, I find a new, little table in my room; perfect for the computer! I used a draw on top of a small cupboard, but this is much better! Write a bit while I download photos from the camera. I tried not to take too many, but end up with 250! Then it is time for a swim, and once again, I have the perfect beach all to my self. There are some good waves, several up to two meters, and I catch some real good ones.
My normal coffee joint have opened, and I save two dollars; buying one more cup. Back to work on the photos of yesterday, until it is time to seek out to the bar. I have a long chat with a cave explorer from Texas before I head for a restaurant by myself.
I'm invited to this evening's toga party, but I don't feel up to it. Then again; how often do you get an invitation like that? Turns out to be a quiet but cosy party, and most are in - well; sheets. I spend a long time talking with a Dutch couple, who have been sailing the world for the last two years. When the party change bar somewhere after midnight, I sneak off.
2. I rented some snorkelling gear last evening, and now, it is only to wait for the sun to do its stuff. Meanwhile, I work on my Reptile, Bird and Plants pages; exchanging most of the borrowed pictures with my own. I have not seen all species, and I am not confident enough to set name on all my finches photos, so I keep nicking 15 photos. I just don't have the patience to upload the change pages, until I get home!
I ask my host, if she can wash some of my cloths, assured she have a machine for it, considering it is a hostel, and both towels and sheets are changed every second day. Rather surprised, I realises she do it by hand. Then I would have done it my self. And she only charge $2, just like the machine laundries.
I walk out the the lagoon, next to the harbour, bringing mask and fins. The water is rather cold, but at the same time: Taming with life! I see up to 30 species of fish, most of them rather colourful, two types of sea ouches, crabs, Marine Iguanas and at least two species of corals. I do all the tour around the inner lagoon.
It is a mix of shallow water, from half a meter, deep gorges that have a significantly lengths, mangrove roots and rivers, coming from the deep mangrove forest. A few seals and a stingray completes the tour, and when I return to the long boardwalk, I'm cold enough to climb up.
I dry and warm in the sun, and just as I'm about to leave, a guy assents from the lagoon. He have been out in the outer lagoon too, and have seen a lot of interesting stuff. When we have talked for fifteen minutes or so, he ask where I am from. He turns out to be a Dane too! We chat for a hour or more - now in Danish, before walking back to town. Real nice to meet a so interesting and well educated Dane as Mathias!
At two, I have made an appointment with Jeff at the Pink Iguana, starting to design a internet site for Pink Iguana, Casa Rosada, Iguana Men and their tour operation. And you can't do that without a few drinks... It slowly, and very comfortable, slides into Happy Hour. The Mermaid song have been recorded, and I get a copy. Then I find some internet to upload the changes, I have made to some of my pages, but it is down for the second day in a row.
Too early to find anything to eat in the more or less Sunday closed village, and I figure I might read for an hour. Then I discover how few restaurants there are open on Sunday evenings. End up at one with a huge BBQ. An Australian architect joins me, and we have a real long and interesting chat. Back to read some more, not knowing what else to do.
3. Working a bit in the morning, and then out to the tortoise place. The path itself is very interesting. It start with a long boardwalk, filled with Marine Iguanas in the very start. It crosses some small lakes, then it turn into swamp, forest and finally desert. It is a nice stroll, and I have it for myself. There are ten flamingos in one of the larger lagoons - on the fare shore of cause.
I arrival at the breeding centre just at feeding time, and there are lots of activity in the corrals. I focus on the adults, trying to get some characteristic portraits. Last time, I only got some good one of one of the species, today, I only get good ones of the other species they have.
A few finches want to get photoed one too, and somehow, I end up with 423 photos! I'm almost by myself, only a Danish family of four passes fast through.
Back at the same cosy track, and I'm home after four hours. Upload the photos to the computer, while I wait for the surf to be perfect. It is a real critic sort, and I get the number down to 43 - but they are pretty god. Out to have a swim, but it is rather chill and I make it a short one.
Try to make a reservation for the boat tomorrow morning, but the office have closed. The hairdresser has open, and I get my first multi-length haircut without scissors, ever! And it get significantly shorter than I wanted it, but what do you get for four dollars? After I have made a few adjustments myself, it look quite dissent...
At five, the boat office have open, and I get my booking. Then out to the Pink Iguana for the last Mango/Passion/Cana-Manabilo drinks. They can tell I have been here quite some time: At first, customers complain about a fly in their drink. Then, they just pick it up and continue drinking. I have reach the point where I just drink...
Little pass seven, I find my favourite merianda place and then I check the internet. It kind of works, but not in a speed that I can live with! I go back and throw my stuff back in the bag, leaving the big boots out. Someone should really come up with some real small, ultra lightweight and maintains-free, real rough boots!
The tradition is to get really drunk at the Pink Iguana the last night, but somehow, I can't stop thinking about the boat trip tomorrow morning at six. I'm getting old: I think ahead...
4. Heading homewards - slowly. I wake up five minutes before the watch start beeping at five: It is pitch black and I feel like staying for a month or two more. A good walk to the port, the bag searched through, port tax paid, and we set off on time, with a nice, half full boat. I doze of most of the rather bumpy ride, and wake up in Santa Cruz's harbour. I don't know if the pills I bought helps against seasickness, but they are perfect sleeping pills!
The Dutch sailing couple are with the boat, and I ask: Why? It turns out they are not aloud to sail between any of the islands, not even the inhabited! They have a twenty day permit, but some can only obtain a six day permit for the entire Galapagos. And; it can easily take four working days to get all the paperwork done, requiring a daily visit to the emigration office. And two more days to get the papers, required to leave the islands again. Considering it take two weeks to get here from the mainland Ecuador, and three weeks or more to head on to the next western islands, I would feel cheated! And the price too! My three months for $100 was a barging!
Signup for a $15 room at Elizabeth, just for one night, and I get a double with hot showers - or rather: A heater that does not work. Back to the harbour to find a cheap ticket for San Cristobal for tomorrow. It seems like the price have gone up: Where I usually pay $20, I now have to pay $25, and not for the single-seated luxury boat.
A cup of coffee at a restaurant with lots of plants in the front. All are foreign, and while I sit thinking about that, one of the gardeners from Charles Darwin start talking with the owner about which native plants that would look good here. I turns out they have contacted the Station to get advices. I sure hope this will spread all around the islands!
It is a slightly cloudy day, and there are a few wind tears. I have no plans, and I try to upload some of the changes I have made for my site. It fails after the photos are up, but before the pages that shows them: Bummer! I check my Continental/Air Panama/Copa/SAS flights online, but have to walk to the Tame office to confirm that first leg: It is 25 metres down the street. This flight is on the expected time as well.
I don't bother walking all the way out to the Totuga Beach, not the Charles Darwin Research Station, but what do one do then? I'm out of books, can't spend all day eating (or at least; I shouldn't), and there are not that much to do around here, considered it is the central for tourism on Galapagos!
Work a bit, and at noon, I take a walk around town. Just when I am outside a conditoria, the rain picks up, and I am forced inside. Tough life, but I just have to live it! When It quiets down, I continue my walk, but i am not able to find anything interesting. Back at the hostel, I buy a used novel, and head for the pier to read. The sun comes out, but only in shorter periods; I am glad I didn't plan to "tourist" the day away.
A new walk, and I meet a couple of the cave explores, and have a chat with them at a street restaurant. It is getting greyish again, and I head home to do some more deleting of photos. This time; 200 reptilian photos must go. It is supper time, and my main reason for taking a night on Santa Cruz is, beside from dividing "all the fun" with sailing, to have a superb dinner at The Rock!
The Dutch couple have just arrived there, and we have a cosy chat for a couple of hours. I see it as my farewell-dinner, and treat myself with Mixed Brochettes, Penne Gorgonzola, Walnut Semifroddo and a coffee. I could get eight meriendas for that amount - but they would not tasted that good!
5. Another greyish day, and I still haven't found a site I want to explore. I start working on the internet site for the Pink Iguana, trying to make something nice, that are so small, it can be seen on any internet cafe in South America - and THAT is a challenge! Leave the hostel at eleven, not really knowing what to do before the boat leave at two.
I have heard roomers about my big bag, which I left underneath Hacienda Tranquila's roof, have been taken down from there. If it then is placed on the floor, everything will be so mouldy! Then again; if it just are there! Another unpleasant roomer is; some sort of epidemic are loos on San Cristobal: One have died, and the hospital is full. One said Dengue Fever. Can't really recall my status on vaccination, nor if it is the one you get away with the first time, but not second? Well, it is going to be exiting to get back to San Cristobal!
Just before I board the boat, I meet my Finish friend from San Cristobal. I ask what he does on Santa Cruz, and he tells me he had have the Dengue Fever for a week. He have broken his back tree times, but are not in doubt; Dengue Fever hurt much more! Well, you don't know it before you tried it, and I get on the boat.
I must admit, I find it a bit un-ensuring; I'm the only one on this 30 person boat, beside from the captain and his helper. Well, that mean I get to ride with them on the top-deck. And I get away from the Hepatitis problems on Santa Cruz, I just heard about. Two and a half hour later, we reach San Cristobal. I go to the Charles Darwin's office to check-up on the botanist; Ann. She will arrival tomorrow afternoon, and I arrange a meeting with their local gardener; Marcos tomorrow morning - if I can find the nursery before he leaves.
Then I start looking for some Hacienda Tranquila volunteers. I only have to walk a few meters before I'm embraced by Austen. She have been out shopping for her farewell dinner, and I join her, John and the new (and last) volunteer; Eva from Australia. We meet Jose, and it turns out he have brought my huge bag down to the office, and we pick it up and throw it into Hostel Albatros. We drop him off at home, on our way op to the hacienda.
At the hacienda, I check the nursery. Beside from dyeing of thrust, all the plants are doing fine. The interior of the house have gotten a layer of paint, and everything start looking a bit dry outside. There are even cracks in the ground! I'm told the plants die for them, when they plant them in the bone dry ground up the hills. Guess they would benefit from some water. The cat recognises me, and get out of the kitchen, just I look at him. The chickens have grown into hens, and are still just as annoying as they use to be.
We help each other preparing spears while Carlos make the fire. Cosy dinner and real tasty: We eat the first spear right next to the BBQ. The we move inside, and before I know it, my taxi are back at half pass nine. It is a new driver, but it turns out the usual one is sleeping in the back seat. Guess they have to: It is pick-ups: There are no trunk to sleep in...
I get a nice, single room with cold shower and no visible mosquitoes. Here are quite noisy compared with Isabella, but it quiets down after eleven. I stay inside my room, working on photos and diary. They have sprayed a lot for mosquitoes, but I see no reason to tempt fait!
6. I drop off my laundry, and then find the nursery. Marco's English is worse than my Spanish, and we agree on meting tomorrow in the presents of Ann. A cup of coffee at the Mockingbird get me in gear, and I figure I try to find a way to get up to the special endemic plant, I want to see in habitat. All I know is; it grows near a gravel dig, near the tortoise place, around 20 kilometres from Port. Sure I can take a taxi, but that is usual $40-45, and no guaranties to find anything! Rent a bike, but I have not ridden one of these low-tech things in 30 years, and 40 kilometres of hills seems a bit rough!
Stand on the sidewalk, trying to find one of the taxi drivers I know. While I wait, Austen drops by, and while I talk with her, one of our most used drivers, passes. Austen explain to him what I want, and we agree on a price of $20 for the estimated 40 kilometre drive and half a hour waiting. It is kind of a lottery ticket, but I just have to try!
I find a spot that look like the one Ann described, and there are an enclosed area with endangered plants. Not only that, it is the place where Talinum galapagosum grows! Some big, old lava boulders forms a little mountain, and among the scattered vegetation, these small bushes grows. I even find some with flowers in.
Luckily, I have brought my special camera licence that not only zooms a lot, but also work around corners! Surprisingly how dirty I become by standing on a boardwalk... I take 80 pictures of these plants and their habitat, and after exact 30 minutes, I'm back at the taxi and the sleeping driver.
Back in town, I check: We have driven 40 kilometres, and it all have taken a bit more than two hours. If just my photos are good, it was easily worth the $20.
I download photos, and start reading my diary from the first days. Here, I mention a Visitor Centre, which I have forgotten all about. I might walk out there, and see what it is all about. The true name is: Centro de Interpretacion, and is is located in some nice surroundings.
Here are mainly posters with text and a few pictures, explaining about the geological, natural and historical aspects of the islands. Not much new to me, but if one have not been reading about the islands before the visit, it will surely be interesting. What is new to me is the three tiny Lava Lizards I have seen today; the first hatchlings.
Back to have yet another cup of coffee at the Mockingbird, and then down to the Charles Darwin Office to see what time Ann have time to go to the nursery tomorrow. Pick up my laundry and treat myself with two burgers at my favourite smoothie place - accompanied by a passion fruit smoothie. Back to read; some in a novel, some of my own writings.
7. I start stuffing my belongings into my huge bag. No challenge at all, its size considered. The challenge is: Not to borrow anything in it, I might want to using within the next three days, considering the two cold nights in Quito and the avenges by being dressed properly for the US custom/immigration check.
Out to find coffee and swap my old book at the Mockingbird, and back to check; No, there are still no water at The Albatros - a rather common occurrence! Out on the porch, overlooking the entire natural harbour, just accords the main street to do some reading. I have no real plans before meting up with the botanist; Ann in the afternoon. Somehow, I find myself eating a sandwich and some fried plantains with cheese at my favourite place, accompanied by a passion smoothie. Four dollars, and worth every cent.
Then, it is time to go to the Charles Darwin office to meet Ann and the gardeners. Unfortunately, they have had the understanding I could work with them next week, and I have to give them the short version. Next week, Ann and the ten gardeners from all their nurseries will meet, and have a synopsis about what I have told some of them, and I promises Ann to answer any mail questions - as good as I can, as an external consultant.
Here, I try to come up with solutions to some of the problems they are having, and add more ideas and techniques they might might find helpful. They show me their extensive seed collection, and I advises them to store it at 5C, considering; they doesn't necessarily use them with the first coupe of years.
Right outside the door, I bump into John form the hacienda, and we agree on meeting up later at the usual joint. I take a last stroll along the marina, enjoying the late afternoon sun, the sea lions, herons, gulls, crabs and nature in general. Shot some videos, just to record the sea lion's voices. A huge hotdog at the marked makes up supper. Then I enjoy the sunset from the hostel's porch.
I joining John, Eva and the the third volunteer; German Sara, who just came back from her island hopping. They share a beer while I enjoy my first Pony Malta on this tour. They haven't had dinner, and I recommend my smoothie place. They agree, a quite good hamburger and smoothie for only three dollars.
There are some thing going on on the city square, quite some local people gathered around the area, but we find it rather dull. Back for another beer and Pony, and then down to the harbour to watch the sea lions play around in the illuminated harbour bassinet. The lights shots off at eleven, and they drive back to the hacienda, I hit the bed.
8. I take a stroll through the marina and end up at The Mockingbird for coffee. Back to sit and read on the roof, enjoying the sun. I just have to get the time going till I drive out the airport half pass two - and I am so restless! Finish my book and swap it at The Mockingbird, then lunch at my favourite place, not knowing what supper will be - or if it will be at all.
Taxi to the airport at half pass two, meeting up with John and Sara, who will continue their exploration of South America - wish it was me! I might not have been home much of the last year, but I am not really longing for it either...
Smooth flight pass Guayaquil to Quito, and our bags are delivered real fast - faster than in Singapore! We share a taxi, dropping Sara off at a friend's place, heading on to The Secret Garden, where we both have a reservation. Well, I thought I had, but there are a free bed, same as I had last. Coffee and beer on the roof, but no food.
Get to bed near midnight, but can't sleep: Bloody cold, especially my feet, and my body expel all the water it have been restored for the hot days. When I finally get some rest, the rest of the dorm room returns at five - rather noisy.
9. Good breakfast on the roof, and then I try to catch up on mails and news. I even get the virus killed, that have taken over my computer for months. Turned out it fought virus-killers! Finish the last slideshows and try to streamline the entire Galapagos site - unsuccessful. Don't really feel like walking out in the town; I have been here enough times, and the sun won't appear and make in cosy warm.
At one, it helps, and I take a couple of hours, waling around, but don't see anything new. There are quite some people on the central streets in the old town although it is Sunday - or because of it? Back to check the weather prognoses for Denmark: It seems like I'm not ready for it yet: 10-15C at daytime, down to frost at night. Not really what I hoped fore, but what can I do?
Do a back-up for John on his photos to his Ipod. Then I first tell a Australian, the two Belgians about what I would recommend on Galapagos. It have gotten half pass twelve, and I have set the watch for four! The boozers in the dorm pops bye at two and go to bed at three.
10. I don't feel fresh, when I get out of bed, a few minutes to four. Taxi to the airport, get tickets, check-in the big bag, but are rejected at the immigration: My visa have expired 27. Marts!!! All internet sites say: Any tourist from all over the world get a 90 day visa on entry. All papers I have filled out said I needed 88 days in Ecuador. They don't give a dime: I just can't fly today. I have to pay a fine in a bank down town at $200, and they don't care about how I get a new flight ticket. It might be one of them who have made an error, but what will I do about that?
Not much else I can do, but take a taxi back to The Secret Garden. I'm here at six, and go straight back to bed. Breakfast at nine and then out to find a taxi that can find the Copa Airlines office. They can confirm my flight to Panama tomorrow, and if a pay "a little more than $2000", they issue a ticket for New York and Copenhagen the day after. Not really what I had in mind!
Nice girl tell me; I can try at the Continental Airlines office, they might be able to swing something. It is only a kilometre down the road. New nice girl, and neither she can't figure why I only have gotten 45 days, and not like anyone else; a 90 days visa. She find me the whole tour on the same flights I missed - just two days later, but she have to charge $250 plus taxes. I talk a lot, and she try to contact her supervisor. No luck, but I can try later.
Find the right branch of bank, but can't pay the visa-fine with Visa card, even thought they have 20 employees in a special Visa-department. Out to withdraw it in a ATM and in again to pay. I walk around the area, try a Taco Bell, something I never have done before - and hopefully won't repeat again. Explorer a huge, modern mall and I am back at the office, just before siesta closed. She still have not gotten in contact with the supervisor; I can try later.
I have an idea of; the little and nice botanical garden is rather close, and I start looking for it. Fifteen minutes walking through a green park, and I'm there! That is near in a city that is 20-30 kilometres long. Have been here before, but enjoy it once again, and the $3,50 in not much to pay, if I end up saving $300. Back at the office at half pass three, but now, there is another girl on work. She say. They never skip that fee, but I talk her into calling her college. She then call her supervisor, and she say; I can change it for free! Nice lady!
Then she just have to make the tickets. Take almost an hour, because they are made out in Danish Crowns. Finally, I have a new ticket, all the way through to Copenhagen on Wednesday - two more days in Quito, but it could be worse. Out to find a taxi who know where The Secret Garden is. That is hard, and I don't have the address. End up in car number 18, and ask him to go to Markedo Central. That is the nearest I can remember to the hotel. Stop him, when we are real near.
Back to figure, if my American visa then are good. That is hard to to find information on, but I finally figure I have 90 days, and I got it on the 12/2 and go back on the 12/5, and due to the short February, I only have been away in 89 days. If Island don't spray ash out over Denmark, I'm safe. BUT: Ireland, Portugal, Spain, the Canary Islands and a few other airports are closed, and the prognoses point on Denmark, exactly when I should get home.
Lay low during the evening, supper on the roof, chatting with other backpackers and rather early to bed. I have gotten a new bed, and the boozers have left. Unfortunately, we have gotten some new...
11. Rather early up - mainly because I can't sleep anymore. Keep sitting on the roof, chatting with others, sharing my experiences on Galapagos. Then a long talk with the owner of The Secret Garden. Just as I thought, it is a struggle to run a thing like this with volunteers that are her for so short time, and locals that just don't get it.
At one, I head out to the town. A rather good merianda with big, filled soup, quarter of a small chicken accompanied by beans, rice and a few vegetables, a banana and a fresh juice for $1,40. Walk through the old city, see some markets and squares, but I still fails to see something new. Back to read and see how Volven are doing on Island. Fine, I guess, but a lot of airports are not!
Chatting the evening away, take a shower and go to bed around eleven. Watch set for four - ready or not.
12. Going home. Sleep surprisingly well, and meet the boozers, coming in two separately taxis, in the door, while I wait for my pre-ordered taxi. A girl take a taxi fifteen seconds before mine should be there, but I'm a "Stand-up-guy", and wait for mine to show up, even though I could have saved six dollars. Well, I do that in ten minutes, before I have to walk down to a bigger road, and flag-down one.
A real bad experience in the airport: On the list for flights the next eight hours, there are only one for Panama City, where I am going - and that is at twelve! Did I misunderstand something, and should I have gotten to Panama yesterday??? Turns up, it is just not on the list, but I felt a bit anxious for a moment!
Get a bigger lecture at immigration: Can not return within the next nine months. No plans, no worries. Well, except for my flights being delayed... Or Copenhagen being closed due to ash from Iceland... Or the American immigration giving me a hard time - or the dengue fever kicking in... Or someone not liking the huge machete in my big bag...
Accordantly to my travel plan, I have 70 minutes in Panama City and 85 minutes in New York. That is cutting it sharp, and there are not much time for American finger-scanning, photo, interview, luggage check-out - poke through - check in, but if Continental Airlines think it can be done, so do I.
We are twenty minutes delayed from Quito, but I get the connection in Panama City. We circle numerous times over New York, and even though I make all the short-cuts I can, I reach the in-check for my "checked-through" big bag, three minutes after the plain have left. Monday, I got six mails about how it got delayed two hours in the end. Today, it was on time...
Find the supervisor, but she can only offer me the same flight tomorrow, and I have to pay for hotel myself. They are not responsible for US-Custom delays. I explain; they made the booking, they was delayed on arrival and I can not be held responsible for any of it. She finally agree to book me on a flight to Edinburg, Scotland in two and a half hour, then further on in two hours to Copenhagen. I should arrival only five hours delayed - or two days, five hours...
I get a lot of papers and the direction to the next security check. After that, I figure I don't have my passport! Got a feeling of, the ticket-lady didn't return it, but having a hell, working my way back to her - especially without a passport! Luckily, it was her who held on to it, and I can continue my un-planned world-tour. First stop is brochettes and coffee. When I reach the gate, they are boarding.
13. The seat next to me is free, and the third in the row moves on to his golf-mates. That give me five hours of good sleep, laying down. Arrival in Edinburg, Scotland early in the morning, 2C, but extremely nice people all the way! Great to have escaped the USA!!!
I get my personal guide, who double check that my big bag reach the right fly, get me boarding card and delivers me to the business lounge for breakfast, coffee and whatever I desire. I spend a little hour here, and then find my BMI flight to Copenhagen - only fifteen minutes late.
The temperature raises to 9C, but it is late spring; tiny leaves on all trees, except the cherry, which are in full flower. One train to the Copenhagen Central Station, one more to Roskilde, and I'm home little to three, Thursday afternoon. Except for the unexpected bank holyday and no chance to buy food, all is well. My neighbour have turned on the heat and my fritz, and all my plants are alive.