Ecuador · 8 Days · 34 Moments · August 2017

Sue & Keith's tour through Galapagos

20 August 2017

Last day in Galapagos today (Sunday). 45 minutes up and over to north of Santa Cruz by coach and then ten minutes by ferry to the uninhabited airport island. Terminal seems to be powered by 3 wind turbines. Unattended luggage everywhere at the airport. Flight via Guayaquil to Quito by Avianca airline. Photo landing in Guayaqui. 2 hours to Guayaquil and then less than an hour to Quito. Photos taken with phone have now been uploaded thanks to significantly faster internet in Quito. They have been added to the blog. (Mainly our time on Christabal in early part of week, and Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz near end of week.) Our Galapagos blog is now complete. Hope you enjoyed it. We've had a wonderful time. Adios amigos 😃

19 August 2017

Santa Cruz has population of 20,000. Puerto Ayora is main centre where we are staying. Our hotel is called Lobo De Mar...much larger than the other 2 we have stayed at. 2 views from our balcony. Water taxis line up for customers. Move over sea lion!
After lunch we took a water taxi across the bay to the Germans beach and then walked on to a swimming hole between lava cliffs called Las Grietas ....past salt lakes and giant cactus plants. Crabs, heron and a cotton wool tree ...bird nest material.
We walked to Tortuga Bay to go kayaking in the sheltered bay behind the beach surrounded by mangroves. Galapagos mocking bird on pathway and lots of different finches. Lots to see while kayaking including turtles, small black tipped sharks, herons, eagle ray. Blue buttons like small jellyfish (not poisonous) washed up on the beach and sponges. A sea lion trying to decide on a pair of shoes! A sexy pose.... By Keith or the iguanas! Water warm enough for swimming here. Then on the return walk we bumped into a giant tortoise which totally made my day.

18 August 2017

After dark.... Small black tip reef sharks at the Santa Cruz jetty come in to feed on the tiny fish shoals attracted by the bright lights. Also saw a few manta rays but a little too deep for pic on this iPad. Double bike lanes all around the town and out to hills. Traffic mostly one way through the town.
The farm we visited had a few side lines....making rum and molasses from sugar cane. Donkey did the job a bit faster than Keith + Michael and Brett with Kirsty feeding the sugar cane into the grinder. The juice was then transferred to a bottle and we tasted a glass of this sugar juice with a drop of lime added. This was great but even better when some distilled 50 proof rum was added! Molasses was also made from the sugar and was served on mini pancakes. Organic coffee in 3 stages and then a sample of the final product.
Lava tunnel walk with wasp nests at the entrance. Same area in highland region. Manzanillo tree... This is the poisonous little apples tree growing everywhere. Digestible to tortoises.
Afternoon bus trip into the highlands to see the giant tortoises in their natural environment. The smaller ones stay in the dryer areas near the coast. They are fairly hard of hearing but sense our footsteps and draw in their heads with a hissing exhaling sound. Loads of them around to take hundreds of photos! They are C. negrita species and these are their poos (full of seeds to disperse the plants). There is another species on Santa Cruz.... Fairly newly identified so no detail of this other one on poster photo.
The last photo is real life Diego, (saddleback species with a long neck) brought back from San Diego zoo to do his bit to save the species. He has a cracked shell as he got dropped in transit.
This centre is restoring populations of the 11 remaining species. Lonesome George from Pinto island (last one of this saddleback variety) died in 2012. He is now stuffed and exhibited in air conditioned room. More info from posters in next bit....
Arrived on Santa Cruz island by speed boat at around 8am ....2 hour journey. Hotel is 5 mins from jetty. A very friendly rat greeted us on pavement opposite hotel. Breakfast and then a short walk to the Darwin Research Station. Passed the fish sellers. Varied customers but mainly pelicans waiting patiently for the throw away bit. Keith queuing with a sea lion. Frigate birds circling. These guys look like pterodactyl.

17 August 2017

Afternoon cycle ride went a bit wrong! This was an unescorted mission without Jose our Intrepid guide. First we went the wrong way and ended up at a quarry. Positive of this was the mocking bird we made friends with. Then I got a puncture on the way to the wall of tears (made for no purpose by prisoners of war.) so we never got there! If only they had told us to keep pumping as gel inside mends the puncture. Anyway we now deserve a beer😀👍
Hiked to top of biggest of the volcanoes this morning...Sierra Negra. Ferns... Are we in NZ? Guavas growing on trees everywhere on route (dispersed by animals ...birds, tortoises) but they are introduced plants and attempts have been made to get rid of them. Ripe and tasty today. Darwins bush, an endemic species with little white and yellow flowers. Mockingbird joined us for lunchstop. Standing in front of the enormous caldera filled in with lava and also in front of a fairly recent vent from an eruption in 2005. Just pretending to push Keith in! One lava lizard and some finches and giant bees. Same route up and down. No volcanic activity going on. Good training for the Inca trail! Galápagos Islands formed 15-20 million years ago. Land bridges joined them but species evolved independently on the different islands when the land bridges disappeared around 50,000 years ago. This island of Isabela is about 120 miles long and mostly uninhabited by humans.

16 August 2017

Marine iguana footprint and its tail mark in sand compared to human foot of Keith. The flow pattern and crack in the lava on the beach. Happy hour with our intrepid friends. Sue's speciality tuna, coconut and quinoa dinner. Very nice!
Galapagos flamingoes ....about 500 on these islands with about 100 on this island Isabella. Sharing these brackish ponds with a few marine iguanas. Finally saw one swimming... Think this was because I nearly fell over him snoozing on the path and he jumped into the water to escape!
This afternoon we visited the tortoise centre helping to restore numbers. Estimated 45,000 individuals now in total on all the Galapagos island. People used to hunt them and eat them! The tortoises can digest these little apples but they are really poisonous to humans and the leaf sap is irritating so there are lots of warning signs to keep clear of them. Different species of tortoise in photos has much flatter shell. These big ones are our age but may live to 150 or so! I'm looking forward to seeing them in their natural environment. Maybe tomorrow when we are walking up the Sierra Negra volcano.
Puerto Villamil is the name of the town where we are staying. Lunch and stroll around the place. Ecuador flag and interesting scaffolding. Now resting!
Isla Isabela Another great breakfast this time at hotel San Vicente and then off to pier for short boat trip to visit the volcanic lava areas just off shore ....home to white tipped sharks, marine iguanas, sea lions, crabs. Our one and only Galápagos penguin. We are at south east end of island near Volcano Sierra Negra.
Keith was snorkelling too... Will get some photos of him next time! Pity we can't show you the view under water. Today lots of turtles some as big as us. Pencil like fish that changed colour as you got closer, loads of giant sea cucumbers / sea slugs. Shoals of small fish, colourful bigger individuals, a big fat puffer like fish. On land a sea lion posed for us. They manage the tourists here very well. Groups are taken to different areas and don't overlap. It seems like you virtually have the place to yourselves. We saw just one kayaking group.
Beach with mangrove. Mangrove roots. Best pose from an iguana. Coral ground up by prisoners in 1940s makes the golden sandy parts.
Now on Isla Isabela Galápagos penguin posing on rock by sign that says don't touch the penguins! Sea lion poop. A dead sea urchin held by our intrepid guide, Jose and a dead marine iguana. A group of school kids on a nature walk.

15 August 2017

Left Christabal at 7.30am by speed boat. Rough sea and 2.5 hours later arrived at Isla Floreana. Population only 150. Met on jetty by red marine iguana gang. Crabs are red here too. A walk to a beautiful cove and snorkelling with 3 turtles, one manta ray and a playful sea lion pup. Really enormous marine iguana on beach we weren't allowed to land on. Yellow hairy seeds related to and smelling like cucumber. Lunch at Lelias restaurant. Then a stroll along a black sandy volcanic beach. Leaving at 3.15pm by speed boat for Isla Isabela. ETA 5.15pm. Check by officials for sand before we leave. Keith's shoes failed the test when we left Christabal so we need to prepare! Now on Isabela after a good snooze on the boat. Snooze interrupted by passing group of Brydes whales. This island has 7 volcanoes and population of 3,000.

14 August 2017

Woken by sea lions and English speaking cockerels this morning. Early start for boat trip to Floreana island. Our hotel and the local hibiscus which is used by birds for nesting material. Very few pollinators here so few flowering plants. All yellow and white flowers. Finch, frigate birds nesting, more to follow..... Note: Kaitlin we have seen a booby (blue footed).... Not a booboo!
Casa Nelly, our hotel on Isla Christabal. Wrong pic in previous bulletin!
Lunch on board and then to Puerto Grande beach. Sue posing in front of mangrove. Sleeping lion rock from beach. Returned to civilisation and then a 45 minute walk around an interpretation centre to the top of a hill with views of nesting frigate birds.... The flying dinosaurs. Picture taken alongside Charles Darwin statue. A finch beak in profile. Yet more sunbathing sea lions ! Sea lion on path on way to restaurant for a very fishy dinner (with fries and salad). Another amazing day. Great news: Only a very small corner of Christabal is inhabited. Island is about 50 X 25 km and most is inaccessible.... No roads and no access allowed to most of the rest of island interior by humans. Some problems in this island paradise in the inhabited areas ( population of this island is about 7,000): A bit of litter around and plastic bottle lids Cats as pets seems common although they are meant to be neutered Some morons have carved their names into giant cacti Sewage isn't treated
Day 2 on Christabal: Breakfast fresh fruits, home made yogurt plus eggs and something that looked like hash brown but wasn't! Tasty... Possibly plantain. Coffee still very good. Off to Sleeping Lion rock (no. 2 on map). Passed the red crab club on walk to jetty, pelicans, iguanas and some finches before boarding. Lots of cruise ships max 90 passengers in the bay and some blue footed boobies (this ones for Kaitlin.... Not a boo boo!) Photos.... Handsome couple in front of the Sleeping Lion rocks and the full Intrepid team in shark pose. Water is 100 ft deep, straight down and you can almost see to bottom. Noddy birds on narrow edges and sea lions everywhere. Swallow tailed gull, 2 noddys and a blue footed booby posed together with a whole pile of s...t! Snorkelling for an hour or so near the rock was more than incredible. Starfish, sea urchins of all colours embedded in the rock wall crevices and holes; shoals of colourful fish, some larger individuals including small sharks.

13 August 2017

We are staying 2 nights in San Christabal at Casa Nelly with ocean view (well small ocean 'peak' view). Jose, our local guide walked us 100 yards to the beach and this photo shows our first wildlife! A sea lion.... Then we saw a million more. They are everywhere. We got fitted with wetsuits and snorkelling gear and proceeded by bus to a 10 minute coastal and beach walk. Passing enormous marine iguanas basking on the rocks. Some varieties of Darwins finches, lava lizards, sea lion poop, frigate birds. So much wildlife! Definitely this is animal environment and we are the interlopers. Then to snorkelling. It was like being on a coral reef but just a regular sandy /rocky shore. Colourful fish everywhere, sea urchins, shoals of little ones and solitary big fish. Then an enormous turtle swam by. One sea lion joined us ....bit scary! Feel like we have seen a lot already. We had a group dinner at a fish restaurant and then early to bed.
On our way... Airport wants us to throw toilet paper in toilet. Wow! Cotopaxi volcano in distance as seen from Quito airport. Views leaving Quito. Quick stop on Ecuador coast at Guayaquil before landing at San Cristobal, Galapagos. Photo of boats and island taken just before landing at San Cristobal.

12 August 2017

World class award winning Ecuador chocolate. We are testing it out with a cuppa. You'd like it dad but Keith prefers cadburys milk.
Lunch.... No that is not sue at the doorway! Not very adventurous with a ham sandwich but made friends with the cafe lady. She told us (in Spanish) what to have next time. Then we met the 5 others in our Galapagos group. 2 couples from Australia and Kirsty, an actuary from London (about Harriet's age). Daniella and Bicentie, our intrepid guides took us up the basilica and on a chocolate and ice cream tour. Original engraved copper door of basilica. 95% Catholics here but other religions well tolerated. Quito is surrounded by 7 volcanoes... Some active. Earthquake last year by coast over 200 km away but felt in Quito. We leave here at 6am tomorrow so off now for dinner and to the festival light show. NOTES... I have been feeling quite tall today. I have used the Spanish Lynn, Sue and I learnt in 1969. An elderly gentleman having a pee in a drain on the roadside. Full frontal! Told that all used toilet paper must be put in bin rather than down the toilet. (A job for you here Kev)
Some of the locals. Eating, walking and selling. Also a typical elevated bus stop. Spot Keith, coffee and the statue.
Lots of shoe shine boys. Some really young. One man feeding the pigeons. Only saw one bike this morning. The basilica in distance. Sooo many churches. And even more police. People smiling and friendly although one lady warned me that someone could snatch my ipad and to hold it close.
Very impressed with clean streets and underground bins so I took photo! Tempted to buy a strawberry cake from this stall. Lottery ticket sellers and taxis everywhere. lovely old ornate buildings. Can you see the oldies on the steps waiting patiently for cash from worshippers exiting church. They seem to be taken care of. Coffee shops look enticing.
Hotel Plaza Sucre boutique hotel in Quito, Ecuador. Arrived in dark around 9pm Friday 11th Aug. Taxi driver did a great job getting us to within a few blocks of this hotel. All streets closed for celebration of independence from Spanish (Glad it wasn't the British!) We lugged our cases through hoards of party goers and breathed a sigh of relief to get here. Photos show view from breakfast room of Virgin Mary who protects the city from atop nearby hill. View in other direction not so pretty but can see neighbours roof garden. Breakfast was wonderful. Quaint hotel and I can vouch for the Ecuador coffee. Eat your heart out Starbucks! Boiled water readily available and temperature very comfortable for jeans and t-shirt. And so to a walkabout town. Hope you can see this first slide show dad.😀