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10 August 2016
EL PINZON TOUR P2 - FINAL DAY GALAPGOS
After our first snorkel it was rime to warm back up while we drove to Isla Pinzon, just off the western coast of Isla Santa Cruz. This was pretty much our last activity for our time in Galapagos and boy it did not disappoint.
It was scary getting back into the cold water, but we soon forgot all about that. First up we saw a giant turtle and followed that a while (you'll see we forked out to rent a gopro this time and it really paid off). Next up we went into a little cove and got the treat of our lives - 3 sea lions playing around with eachother. We followed them for ages and they stayed right next to us the whole time.
Also in there were a bunch of sharks, which was incredible, but hav to say the sea lions playing stole our attention.
To cap it off we saw boobies dive bombing into the water to catch fish. It's so hard trying to pick photos and videos that capture it all. If it was only this we did in galapagos i'd be a satisfied customer.
EL PINZON TOUR P1 - LAST DAY GALAPAGOS
our final full day of Galapagos (flying out next morning) we managed to organise the isla el pinzon tour, after a couple of failed attempts. It was a US$100 each for a full day tour, but when we saw our boat we were a little worried as it was nowhere near the standard of Isla Isabela tour. However we soon remembered the boat isnt what we're there for.
It was another overcast day largely, and about 45 mins to the first snorkel spot. Me and ash got full length wettys for this one knowing full well how cold it can get.
On the first stop we saw a bunch of marine iguanas, includin a dead one (my first dead animal sighting, quite a milestone). And we got our swcond major highlight - another sea lion playing around near our boat which me and ash followed around for a good 20 minutes. So cute. I dunno what the rest of our group were doing but they either werent impressed by sea lions or too cold to stay in the water, but i thought they were nuts.
9 August 2016
THE SANTA CRUZ RETURN GALAPAGOS DAY 5
After our brief 2 night stay on Isabela we were back on the 6am boat heading back to Puerto Ayora Santa Cruz for our last two nights. I dont think anyone threw up on the boat back so that was nice. Back by 9am and checked into same hostel, El Pinzon with our mate (well hostel owner anyway) Marco.
We did 3 key things this day: visited the lava tunnels (accidentally, as we weren't that interested but they were right next to..), visited El Chato and the giant tortoises (or turtles, i dunno), and booked our El Pinzon tour the next day.
The giant turtles were cool and although it felt like a chore doing it (as we'd been trying to find time since day 1) we were glad we went. They're pretty ridiculous to watch moving, and a lot more wary of humans so i would have expected (probs cos theyre over 100yrs old and still remember whalers and pirates eating them). Anyway ticked the box and took the obligatory photo in a turtle shell. Noice
8 August 2016
CONCHA PERLA P2 - DAY 2 ISLA ISABELA
Our decision to go snorkeling on day 2 of isla isabela instead of volcano climbing really paid off.
We saw starfish (bit boring), a marine iguana swimming, a couple of giant turtles and best of all we finally got to swim with a sea lion.
They're normally just sleeping on shore or off fishing it seemed to us but when we saw one of these guys making a move into the water we were there! It swam around a group of us for some time, and although the photos arent great quality with the camera i had but got a heap of good videos. It was such an amazing experience - we were riding high after that, even though we were freezing and still trying to catch up on sleep with so much excitement packed into each day.
CONCHA PERLA, DAY 2 - ISLA ISABELA
Part of our 2 day Isabela package was a volcano hike at 7am on day 2. We were still in a fair sleep defecit which we took into Galapagos do we decided that if the weather was shit in the morning we'd skip it - and lo and behold it was cloudy and sprinkling, so we slept in.
Later we heard that the skies cleared for the hikers once they got to the summit, but it was still 5 hrs hiking and we've seen our fair share of volcanos. Plus we hired snorkeling gear instead and walked to Concha Perla which was awesome! Lots of lizards and sea lions lounging about, and in the second snorkeling sesh of the day we got a huge trip highlight (photos to come). Isabela was definitely the island that made us feel like we were really amongst all the wildlife galapagos has to offer. There was a sea lion sleeping under the bench we got changed on t go snorkeling. Watching these guys you cant help but see they are soooo much the dogs of the sea. Playful and lazy to a tee.
7 August 2016
LOS TUNELES PART 2, ISLA ISABELA
After our snorkeling session at El Finado (i think) we headed to Los Tuneles, a collection of lava rock formations in incredible still and clear waters (especially cnsidering the waves and open water only a couple hundred mts away). In warmer times ppl get to snorkel here too, but considering everyone was frozen from the first snrokel they decided to do a boat and walking tour instead. This place was awesome - saw sea lions, turtles and heaps of blue footed boobies.
I was very skeptical that any bird watching would be interesting, but these guys are awesome - they walk super awkward and you can get right up close to them. Plus it was breeding season so lots of flimsy cotton balls flailing about. So good!
The 1 hr boat ride back was freezing, with some ocean spray hitting us from time to time, so we rugged up.
LOS TUNELES, PART 1 - ISLA ISABELA
Our first official tour kicked off on Isla Isabela and was a day tour of Los Tuneles. It was a two parter really - a snorkel first at a spot where apparebtly the water was a bit warmer and there were sharks (white tip reef sharks) giant turtles and sea horses here in particular.
The water was effing freezing. I think Ash was shivering from
The second we got in till we got out. Im shocked she didnt have hypothermia. But was great following turtles around and the sharks definitely kicked the heart rate up a little when they started moving around (even though we knew they weren't dangerous).
The next part of the tour was a boat and walking tour.
ISLA ISABELA, DAY 3 - GALAPAGOS
We really wanted to do a tour on Santa Cruz on day 3 but apparently no boats were going to El Pinzon on the sunday, so we bit the bullet and last minute decided to buy a 2 night 2 day Isla Isabela package, which included 2 nights accomm, transport there and back, the Los Tuneles tour day one and a volcano hike day 2, all for $220US, which wasnt a huge saving on doing them separately, but handy from an organisation perspective. So 7am we were on the water taxi to take us to our boat Neptuno and then 2 hrs open water to Isabela (the other of 3 islands open for tourists to stay on). Of the 30 ppl on the boat we had 6 chucking their guys into plastic bags - it was infectious! Me and ash were fine thank gawd. We were greeting with the most besutiful dock and weather on arrival, crystal clear waters. And the first sea lions we'd seen lounging about and mingling near tourists. Instantly happy with the decision.
6 August 2016
ISLA SANTA CRUZ
A few more pics from around Isla Santa Cruz days 1 and 2
TORTUGA BAY, DAY 2 - GALAPAGOS
After Las Grietas we had a quick cafe snack then began our walk to Tortuga Bay, which took about 45mins along a really looong paves rd that just kinda went off into the distance with really dry landscape all around. At the end of the path we arrived at a beautiful white sand beach, and a short 10min walk to the other end of that beach took us to a marine iguana hot spot before passing around the cove and reaching tortuga bay. The bay itself was a little disappointing as we didnt see any turtles - i think we were there wrong time of day or something. But we did another snorkel until we were freezing then decided to pull up stumps and head back in the hope of squeezing in the land turtle tour, but by the time we got back and had lunch it was like 4pm and Marco at the hostel told us everything would be closed by 5pm so not worth going that day, which was a little disappointing, but probably good cos we were buggered after the first twi activities.
LAS GRIETAS, DAY 2 - GALAPAGOS
Day 2 we decided to head out and do our own things on Santa Cruz, and went with a couple of other girls from our hostal. First stop was Las Grietas which is like a swimming hole formed between a big crevasse. We hired some snorkel gear then took a short water taxi and about a 20min walk to get to the spot. It was busier than we were expecting, but not a lot of ppl in the water - it was pretty bloody cold. There's not a lot f wildlife to see in the water, more that it's just nice scenery. We saw some really cool natural salt flats along the walk as well which created these pink ponds; i wouldnt wanna swin in it, looked gross, but we saw a guy farming the salt from it which apparently is traditionally used in making a local cured fish dish...or something like that.
5 August 2016
DAY 1 GALAPAGOS CONT
We got into our hostel around 1pm and were planning on doing the highlands turtle tour but in the end we feeling pretty tired still sl decided just to explore the town a little. We went past the statue of Charles Darwin, we saw an obscenely priced souvenir shop, i was surprised at the level of development of the town (for some reason i was expecting real bare bones sorts place with the whole conservation thing, but the few places where ppl can live are actually quite built up), saw cactus trees, a turtle shaped car, our first pelicans and sea lions at the local fish market and cooked our first meals in galapagos. We packed about 6kgs of food from the mainland (long life stuff, not fresh fruit and veg obvs) and planned to cook most meals while there, which worked an absolute trear and saved a mountain. All in all a successful first day and a nice warm up for things to come.
TRANSIT, DAY 1 GALAPAGOS
This has been an expected highlight of the year away since we began. We got the 10.40am flight from Guayaquil which took about 2hrs to get to Isla Baltra, Galapagos. Plane got fumigated, customs control was serious (in Guaya at least), $20 to be a tourist from Guaya then another $100 when we landed.
We took a bus from the airport to a ferry that took us about 50m from Baltra to Santa Cruz, and then another bus about 40min to Puerto Ayero, main town of Santa Cruz. What surprised me was the extent of streets and buildings in the town, although makes sense considering its one of three islands that people can stay on and given the amount of tourists coming through. The landscape when we landed was a lot more 'moon-like' than i'd anticipated. Had a strange desert/lava feel to it. Was a great feeling to get here, although were definitely still working on getting energy levels back up after Montañita and a few bad sleeps. But this isn't the place to stop and relax
4 August 2016
Not a lot to say about Guayaquil really as we were only there flr 1 night on our way toGalapagos. But we stayed in the touristy part of town so got a relatively rosy pic of the place conpared to the dingier side we were expected and ppl warned us about. Its more populated than quito, and wouldnt be my preference for a place to kill a week. But in a day we ate an american-inspired sandwich (it had mac cheese in it!), walked along the riverside where big cruise ships must take off from, saw a yacht, saw some nice buildings, and ate subway. Guayaquil: tick. The ppl seemed pretty grumpy in this town, esp. at our hostel.
3 August 2016
MONTAŃITA FINAL NIGHT
after 8 days for me and almost 3 weeks for Ash it was time to leave montañita and make our way to Galapagos. But not before one last hurrah back at Montañita Cabañas with Ash's gang (which is always a wise choice the day before transit). They had a cocktail making night on so the local mate Eugenio who has a cocktail stand in cocktail alley came along and taught us the ropes. We also had a challenge to improvise one drink each for the judges. I got last place, and a disgusting penalty shot for my efforts. But it was free. Naturally this led to some more phenomenal street burgers and a touch of karaoke. Not arrf bad. Bus the next day sucked big ones though.
LOS FRAILES, MONTAŃITA
after 5 nights at the place Ash was volunteering we moved to El Cielo hostal down the road a little. Owned/run by a really nice Brazilian guy Daniel and his wife. He suggested we go and see the Los Frailes beach so we took the public bus there one morning and did the short hiking circuit around a couple of other beaches first before getting to Los Frailes. It was a super arid environment which was a little weird to see, and hot and sunny which it hadnt been in Montañita all week, almost like this area, less than 2 hrs nth of montañita, has its own weather system. Yet again we had tuna, avo and tomato on crackers for lunvh which is like one of my favouritest lunches these days. The water was pretty chilly here even in the heat. So we had a dip and got a collectivo ute and a bus home, absolutely spent after a day in the sun.
28 July 2016
So the town itself is quite small and has all the halmarks of a recently undiscovered place. But becoming very popular with tourists and there are heappps of hostels/accomodations. There's no supermarket, just lots of little tiendas, so can be hard to fidn what you need. Most nights here there's a fair buzz around town and it seems heapsof travellers that come and party every night, even ppl studying spanish every day. There are a few streets here at night that are each dedicated to cocktails, hamburgers or ceviche. The hamburgers are sooo tasty and only $2.50US for a burger with the lot. The hawaiin blew my sox off! Oh and two hostels in a row had jaffle makers! Incredible.
26 July 2016
After my one week side trip to LA and Vegas with nicko i flew back to Ecuador and made my way to a little surfie town on the coast of Ecuador. Ash has been doing a workaway here for 2 weeks at a hostel/language school, so i had a sweet deal on the accomm first four nights, only $5 a night to stay with ash. But as she finished up work we moved on to a new hostel 'el cielo', which is quite small but still nice. We're here another 4 nights until we fly to galapagos babeee!! This is one of the first places we've been where ive seen serious wildlife in plain view, and its a regular spot on the side of the rd sunbaking, so you can just stand about 1m away and enjoy the show. In 10 yrs time Montañita is going to be seriously heaving as a tourist spot, but for now its still pretty laid back and gives the impression of a mildly dilapidated town, but really its more that there's so much construction going on.
15 July 2016
If you ever thought you went the extra yard to take a nice photo, well think again. Ashlee wanted to get a nice flower and lake background shot. Her commitment to getting the right angle saw her fall over on her side, so she just stayed there taking more photos. Didnt even try to break her fall. Onya Ashlee
14 July 2016
Well woweee this was a phenomenal view! Quilotoa is a tiny (borderline dog shit) town about 2 hrs from latacunga (also not a nice city). But about 100m from the Quilotoa town you reach the cliff edge of the Quilotoa volcano crater lake. It was magnificent. I took soooo many photos of that lake. We spent a night here, which is just right, cos its abosultely freezing at like 4000m altitude and our fireheater was leaking smoke into our room, so thin air plus smoke made for some difficult breathing for the night! It takes 5-6.5 hrs to walk around this place, which gives you an idea of the size of it. We only walked part way around the outside then halfway down to the lake, but energy levels were low so we weren't game to tackle any more than that. Definitely worth a visit this one.
13 July 2016
PAILON DEL DIABLO, BAÑOS
The devil's cauldron! What a sick name hey. Well this is one of many waterfalls besr baños and this the biggest and best (apparenty). We had planned on hiring bikes and riding to all the waterfalls allng the way from baños as well, but Ash wasnt well this week so we decided to just take a bus to Pailon del Diablo. It was bloody impressive, and we got nice and wet standing near it. I was reliving harrison ford's waterfall jump from The Figitive, and am now even more in awe of his feat. I feel its a survivable drop, but wasnt keen to test the theory.
12 July 2016
CASA DEL ARBOL (TREE HOUSE), BAÑOS
This is another popular attraction in Baños - the tree house swing, aka swing at the end of the world. It was a $20 cab there and back, and our cabbie was a legend cos he made extrs stops on the way back down to take photos and took us to another viewing point to get an overview of baños, which was lucky cos it was really cloudy up at the swing so didnt get any views of surrounding baños. I was also unprepared for how awkward the swing would be: there's a whole line of adults standing besde you watching while another grown man pushed you on a swing, and calls out instructions in spanish that i did nooo understand. Wasn't quite the same as using the swing as a little one.
10 July 2016
EL REFUGIO, BAŃOS
Well this was a relatively weird activity. We went to a place called El Refugio in baños which was recommended to us, and for $8US we got a 'serenity walk' through their gardens to the 'house of screams' on top of a hill where we were encouraged to therapeutically scream our troubled away. We then spent 45 mins in these crazy steam boxes, being doused with ice cold water every 10 min, and finally a fruit bowl and mud mask to finish. Firdt time ive done this (i know, how have i maintained such firm skin without it right? Good genes i gues). But it was definitely a hoot, especially seeing people boxed in up to their necks.
RAFTING, BAŃOS ECUADOR
Well this was a wild ride! $30US for a days rafting down Rio Pastaza in Baños on category 3+ rapids. Apparently category 6 you have to be a pro, and we were nowhere near that. But with dave and i at the helm, keeping the team in unison, i can proudly say we did not capsize our boat. The other group we were with did though, and one of tje guys looked pretty shake for a while after they got him out of the water. Think he got hold under a while in the rapids. So we were pretty careful after that one. It was also quite freezing in the watee, another reason to stay in the boat. But gee whiz this was fun.
9 July 2016
BRIDGE JUMP, BAÑOS
Here's a little post where i get to live vicariously through another, and in this case, me brother. A little scene setting: we're in baños, a little town smack bang in the middle of a bunch of ridonkulous mountain ranges as you can see in the photos. Anywho, there's a bridge there, and you can do a tarzan jump from atop. I was talkin a big game before we got there about doin it, but as soon as i saw it i said ferrk that! It was a real mom and pop operation, just a cupla guys hanging by the bridge, with their rope and step ladder hanging over the railing. Didnt inspire confidence - but fortunately we saw someone else do it and saw it was safe (enough), so nick and dave jumped on board. It looked terrifying! And its a rope on a harness, no a bungee rope, so not a lot of give. The photo replay shows a nice whack into nick's face for his efforts..LIKE 😋
A few pics from around Baños town. The hostel we stayed at in baños had the biggest breakfast included in the room price, i only ate it cos it was free, but i certainly didnt feel like that much most mornings. The surrounding mountains were 10 outta
Another awesome day and baños certsinly lived up to the reputarion of an adventure activity capital. Spent the day junping off waterfalls, rapelling rock faces, sliding theough the river and ziplining. Soo good!
8 July 2016
MOUNTAIN BIKING, COTOPAXI
Our final day in Cotopaxi was a mountain bike tour in Cotopaxi National Park. It was a nice sunny day, but also very windy, and the start of the ride was really tough, trying to get the legs moving at 3,500m altitude and a stiff cold breeze in the face. But after the first 15 minutes it was all downhill from there. The up close views of Cotopaxi were amazing as well. The last eruption was in 1877 and you can still see all the rocks scattered hundreds of metres from the volcano - in particular the huge rock we took photos at. The mind boggles at the force it must produce. Volcan Cotopaxi is closed to climb the summit at the moment, as it was active again 10 months ago (but no eruption). After our ride we went to a trout farm to catch lunch - i didnt actually catch one, just held the rod after our guide hooked one 😋 haha
6 July 2016
PASACHOA P2, COTOPAXI
Once we got through the cloud forest the views really opened up all around. We were really lucky to get a nice clear day, and could see down to Quito from the very summit. It took about another half hr from the cloud forest to get to the peak but there was a lot to see along the way. One of the photos you can just see Ash on the summit with views of Quito behind. It was a seriously berve racking place the summit as well cos on one side there was an incredibly steep drop over the edge - just peering over was terrifying! We had lunch up there and then headed back down along a different path - and as usual the descent presented a massive leg challenge with knees and thighs really taking a hammering. Such a good hike though, really loved it.
VOLCAN PASACHOA P1, COTOPAXI
Day 2 for us was a hike up Volcan Pasachoa, which has a top altitude of 4,220m. This is a few hundred metres more than the top of Acatenango, but extremely different conditions between the two, with Pasachoa a much easier hike and much less affected by the elements, and Pasachoa doesnt take you anove the cloud cover unlike Acatenango. Plus it was only 3hrs to the top of Pasachoa. This was our first proper since Acatenango and its taken since Guatemala for us to be ready to do the volcano/hike thing again. The hike took us in and out of forests along the way, with really expansive open plains in other areas and across the landscape in general. It had hailed the night before also so as we got higher it got wetter with lots of hail still on the ground. The cloud forest just before the summit was really muddy and difficult. But once we popped out of the cloud forest the views were incredible.
SUNRISE DAY 2, COTOPAXI
I didnt have a great sleep the first night but i'm glad i didnt because it meant i was already up and about at 5.30 and ready to feast my eyes on the glory of volcan cotopaxi. It was an absolutely incredible sight seeing it on a beatiful clear morning. There's a bit of repetition in these photos but i just can't help taking a thousand of the same shot when i get views like this. One of the photos also gives the view of the volcano from our second floor bedroom window - not bad hey! Make sure you click on the photo to see the whole panaoramic views. Plenty more of these to come 😋
5 July 2016
WATERFALL HIKE, COTOPAXI
In the afternoon of the day we arrived at Secret Garden hostel they took us on a hike to the nearby waterfall, about a 2.5hr round trip. So we got our farmer on in gumboots to do the trek. Evwn though it was super overcast it was still really nice hike, and when we got to the waterfall they gave us the chance to have a swim. It was only an irishman and a scotsman who took the plunge in the icy waters. Although by the end of the hike we'd all had a swim really as the rains and hail came down on the way back and we were absolutely saturated by the time we got back. Oh, and there was a llama at the end. Yay
SECRET GARDEN VIEWS, COTOPAXI
Here's the first lot of photos of the surrounding scenery to the hostel. These photos are all from the first day which was pretty cloudy by the time we got to the hostel. The highlight of the view is Volcan Cotopaxi which sits directly in front of the hostel and is surrounded by National Park. The summit of the volcano is covered by ice, and unfortunately it's closed to climbers at the moment as it recently became active again (October last year). In a couple of photos you can just see some of the ice peeking through the clouds - but even without a super clear view i can't tell you how brilliant this scenery was. The photos just don't do it justice (as always).
SECRET GARDEN, COTOPAXI
In the lead up to Ecuador we'd heard from a few other travellers a recommendation to visit Secret Garden hostel in Cotopaxi, which is about 1.5hr from Quito. So me and Ash decided we'd take them up on their 3 night package deal which is about US$50 per person per night staying in a really nice 2-story cabañas with a fireplace and includes all meals as well as a waterfall hike, a hike up nearby Volcan Pasachoa and a day on mountain bikes. So not super cheap days but really good value. The hostel/ Cotopaxi is at 3,500m altitude and evenafter 4 days acclimatising to the 2,800m elevation of Quito i've definitely noticed the air is thinner up here. Every flight of stairs takes a toll. But the hostel is gorgeous with stunning views (to come) and fireplaces and clear starry nights and cold mornings - exactly like the cosy crisp farm days in Trentham, and absolutely loving it.
3 July 2016
Does this deserve its own post? Maybe, maybe not - but it's got one so let's just accept that. As you can see my hair was at pony tail length in quito and inwas in pretty desperate need of a haircut. I've been umming and ahing about this since Medellin, but always managed to find reasons not to get one: that hairdresser's too busy; that one is too disgusting; that looks like a barber not a hairdresser; i dont like getting haircuts in the mall...etc. My last cut was in mid December, followed by a mullett trim by Ash in Costa Rica, but i have to say im surprised how slow my hair's grown compared to in melbourne. Anyway, i bit the bullett and went to a little barber shop and got a US$3.50 cut. Took 15 minutes and i was very impressed with the job. Looks like i won't need another cut until i'm home i reckon 😋 now aren't you glad you read all that!
2 July 2016
After our transit to Quito we weren't in a particularly strong mood to do much touristy stuff. So our 4 nights at Minka hostel weren't very busy. But we made sure to visit a mall (as in every other major city we've been) and finally had a chance to cook our own meals again at the hostel which was a real nice change from having to eat out all the time. I was especially excited about the presence of a jaffel maker! My gawwd theyre good. One thing we did manage to see though was the cathedral which was incredible. And from a distance we saw the virgin mary (i think) on the hill; oddly enough visiting that statue is a bit dangerous as its surrounded by a rough part of town so police usher you into taxis at a certain point rather than let you walk up (from what we were told anyway). Couple other things we missed this time round were the cable cars and visiting the ecuator line, but we crossed that on our bus to quito so c'est la vie.
- arrived in Ipiales on 1 July (hapoy birthday sister!!) at 7.30am and got taxi to santuario de las lajas (to come), the only reason to visit Ipiales
- 10am taxi to Ecuador border
- 1.5 hrs in line at Colombian immigration cos their computers were down
- seamless crossing through Ecuador border
- taxi to Tucan bus terminal
- bus to Quito (thought it would be 5, took 6 hrs to get to the city, but the northern point, then we stayed on the bus another hour and a bit while it went right down the side, to the south of the city, but nowhere near the city centre that we needed haha)
- taxi from sth bus terminal to hostel (30mins)
AND SUCCESS! Simples really...🙄
On Wednesday 29 June me and Ash left Nick in Salento and began our journey to Quito. The transit looked like this:
- 10am jeep to bus stop in Salento (10 mins)
- public bus to Armenia (an hour)
- bus to Cali from Armenia (4 hours - absolutely horrible, they have '4' seats up the back but they only fit 3 normal humans really, and i had some large turd next to me who refused to put his legs together and I couldnt lean back without beig jammed between shoulders on both sides, so i spent the first 3 hours with my legs together and leaning forward; plus it was boiling and the driver didnt use the aircon at all. This leg sucked)
- overnight in Cali, didnt see much, and dont think there's a heap to do in cali
- 7.30pm bus next day to Ipiales (12 hours - broken down delayed us by 2 hrs. And ps dont ya hate the buses where the recline is so strong when ppl in front do it you actually can't sit up straight or move your legs - the flogs in front of us reclined the second they sat)