Ecuador: a travel report

No matter how much I like writing, maintaining a blog is something I’m less good at than I initially thought. I’ve been back from Ecuador since a week and it’s high time I put all my adventures on paper, before I forget them.

After three flights I arrived on May 2nd at San Cristobal, one of the main islands of the Galapagos, which are about 2 hours flying from mainland Ecuador.

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I could see my parents as soon as I passed through “security” and what I noticed right away was their tan. Even my dad, who only wanted to take long-sleeved T-shirts with him because the sun is so dangerous for your skin. We walked back from the airport to the marina and ordered lunch in a small bar so I could eat and use the internet to send some messages.

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The local street dog of San Cristobal: sea lions

After that we went to the boat, I dropped of my bag and changed so we could take a nice walk on the island.

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Dad and me with Kicker Rock in the background

It was a really nice walk and good to get back in active mode. Luckily I wasn’t jetlagged either because there’s only a two hour time difference between Boston and the Galapagos. After our hike we walked around the small town and I learned our plans for the next day: a snorkeling/walking tour to Punta Pitt. I discovered my Spanish isn’t as rusty as I though it was going to be and mom and dad were grateful I was there.

The next day we left on our tour to Punta Pitt and on the boatride we passed a bit closer by Kicker Rock. It’s a very popular snorkeling place as well, but we just stopped to take a couple of pictures. Tourism is pretty much the only source of income here, and everyone keeps to their own business.

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Closer look of Kicker Rock

I saw a lot of very pretty and colorful fish while snorkeling, but we also got a chance to play with the sea lions in the water. (If you have their attention and do some tumbles or so, they mimick you)

Punta Pitt is a very popular naturepark on San Cristobal, because that is where the blue-footed boobies build their nests.

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They’re very funny looking birds!
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Building a nest together

The blue-footed boobies build their nests on the ground, which allows them to be observed at a very short distance. They are also used to human visitors and know we have only good intentions, so they are not bothered by all the people gaping at them and taking pictures. Sometimes they even seem to pose!

Apart from the blue-footed boobies there are also the red-footed boobies. They have, as you might have guessed, red feet. But their beak is still red, which is a very strange combination if you ask me.

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A couple of red-footed boobies

It was a busy day but I really enjoyed it, the guides knew a lot and I learned and saw so much!
On the boat ride back we also got treated to this spectacular view:

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A group of dolphins started showing off on our way back

When we got back to the boat, we had some unwanted visitors:

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They look funny, but smell and leave terrible stains everywhere they go!

De volgende dag was lekker rustig, we zijn naar de kant gevaren en hebben wat inkopen gedaan en op een terrasje iets gedronken om te profiteren van het internet. Mama en papa hebben ook dankbaar van mijn Spaans gebruik gemaakt om wat betere deals te kunnen doen op de markt en in de late namiddag waren we onderweg naar het volgende eiland, Isla Isabela. Het varen ging vlot, er was een goed windje dat ‘s avonds helaas weg viel en we verder op motor hebben gevaren. Mama en papa hebben ondertussen al een mooie routine om ‘s nachts te varen en toen ik de volgende ochtend opstond moesten we nog maar twee uur varen.
Isla Isabela is een pak groter dan San Cristobal, maar dat wil niets zeggen. Er zijn geen bankautomaten en betalen met kredietkaart kan, maar dan is er wel een oplage van 22%. De taxi’s zijn er niet zo talrijk en het “toeristische” gedeelte van het dorp beslaat 1 straat van ongeveer anderhalve kilometer. Maar er zijn niet zo veel zeehonden, dus ook minder stank.
Nadat mama en papa de boot hadden ingecheckt bij de agent van dienst (geen politie, wel iemand die zich bezig houdt met het inchecken van zeilers) zijn we op zijn aanraden naar de reuzenschildpadden gaan kijken. Onderweg kwamen we ook deze prachtexemplaren tegen:

The next day was very relaxed, we did some grocery shopping at the local market, got some souvenirs and had a nice drink to take advantage of the internet. My Spanish got us a couple of good deals at the market and late that afternoon we were on our way to the next island, Isla Isabela. It was smooth sailing, we had a nice wind in the beginning but unfortunately when evening came we had to use our motors. Mom and dad already have a pretty solid routine when they are sailing during the night and when I woke up the next day we were about two hours away from our final destination.
Isla Isabela is a lot bigger than San Cristobal, but don’t let size trick you. There are no ATMs on the island and you can use your credit card but get a surcharge of 22%. There are not as much cabs and the “tourist” part of the town is one street of about a mile long. But there aren’t as many sea lions either, so it smells a lot nicer!
After mom and dad checked the boat in with an agen, we went to see the giant tortoises and on our way there we also got to see these beauties:

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Even though he doesn’t look it, he’s still alive. Being an old giant tortoise isn’t easy!

On our way back we booked our activity for the next day: snorkeling in Los Tuneles. The organisation was nice enough to pick us up on the boat and from there it was only an hour sailing. Los Tuneles (The tunnels) is a complex of bridges and tunnels made out of lava and there is much sea life to be found because of the shallow and warm water.

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With some Galapagos penguins and a blue-footed boobie

Contrary to Punta Pitt the fish weren’t as colorful, but I did see sea horses, rays, turtles and sharks. I definitely can’t complain!
On the way back I also saw a couple of manta rays jumping out of the water in the distance, which was pretty spectacular.
The next day was pretty quiet, mom and dad took out their bikes and after renting one for me we cycled to El Muro de las Lagrimas (The Wall of Tears). It was quite the climb at the end but we made it and even saw some nice things on our way.

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Mom and me with a giant tortoise, who pulled his back quickly when we got too close
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At the Wall of Tears
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At the top, with a view of the harbor in the back

The Wall of Tears was built from 1945 until 1959 by the prisoners that were on the island at that time. There is absolutely no use for it, except to keep the prisoners busy. The wall is about 33o feet long and 80 feet high and has taken the lives of many prisoners. Sad, but impressive nevertheless.

The day after that was already my penultimate day with mom and dad, and we booked a trip to a volcano for which we had to rise early. The volcano, Sierra Negra, is one of the many active volcanos on the island  and the last eruption dates back to 2005. There is however no real threat to the inhabitants because these volcanes erupt in the same way a pot of sauce boils over.
It was about a three hour and a half walk to the top but luckily we started walking at eight so temperatures were very bearable.

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View of the volcano
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Dad and his tradional way of dressing

We were very lucky, the guide spoke understandable English and it was a very nice day. Mom had heard from others who made the hike and couldn’t see anything of the volcano because the fog was too thick. Talk about bad luck! On the way back talked a bit with mom and dad and around three we arrived back on the boat. I did some reading, some sunbathing and the day was almost over! In the evening we went out for dinner and then sailed back with our dingy to the boat. Low tide, light of a flashlight and a lot of rocks. Definitely not easy! But with our help, dad managed to avoid the rocks and we got home safely. And that was my last night on the boat. It’s incredible how fast everything went by! The sailing in itself is pretty calm, but everywhere you go there is so much to do and see, especially for mom and dad, because what are the odds they’ll ever be back there?

Of course I’m very grateful for this amazing vacation and super proud of my parents that they have taken this decision! It is definately very inspiring for later!
More about Quito later this week(end) 🙂

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