Continued on from Pretrip, Days One and Two
You last left me on my 9 (ish) day tour of Galapagos finally arrived on the largest of the islands, Isla Isabella staying in a nice hotel called Hotel Iguana. I shared a three bed room with one other person. Day three was a 6am start to join the full tour group at a local place just down the road for breakfast (not included in the tour price). It was a few dollars, there was jam, bread, and fruit. And coffee – maybe black tea but that was hard to find anywhere in South America!
From there it was a short bus ride to the Tortoise Breeding Centre. Our first (of a few it would turn out) encounters with Giant Tortoises. Here the tortoises were protected from predators but had to live in fenced-off enclosures. The babies were cared for and protected by wire. When humans came to the islands hundreds of years ago they brought new predators with them, and some species of the giant tortoise have been completely wiped out.
The main challenge of the day was to hike the Sierra Negro Volcano, the biggest volcano on the island. It was a hike that started pretty reasonably, and although it was uphill it wasn’t that steep. As we hiked upwards vegetation decreased and soon there was no escape from the sun. I applied sunscreen on three or four times during the hike but I still got well and truly cooked. From this point on I always covered my shoulders with a jacket and wore long trousers on hikes.
We reached the top where the volcano crater spreads to a width of 11 kilometres one way and 7 kilometres across the other way. Then we went down the side of the volcano. This area was all hardened lava, we had to be careful where we walked because of possible of lava tunnels under where we walked. We saw a number of small craters including one from the 2005 eruption. Then, we had to go back up. I couldn’t keep up, I felt so unfit and useless. The group went on and I was last by 200-300 metres at least. I couldn’t see the person in front of me.
I met the rest of the group at a hut we’d lunched in at the top. Some of the group stayed there as they wanted to avoid the strenuous trekking. Maybe I should have stayed too. Walking back down was no problem but I could feel blisters coming through. Back at the hotel I had a large blister on my right foot than ran under four of my five toes! Still, it had been an amazing day. But I’m still not happy at being left behind on the side of a volcano.
I wrote in my diary at the end of the day and also wrote (couldn’t post with the speed of internet there) my blog post for the day. In my diary I wrote that I wasn’t enjoying doing a tour and wanted more free time and freedom. In fairness to me, it would have been the hardest day of the entire 2-month trip.
7 am start for breakfast at the same place as the previous day. Today we had a tour to the island of Los Tintoreras, which included snorkelling. If the previous day was making me doubt doing the tour, this day showed me just how amazing the Galapagos Islands were, even if it did have setbacks along the way.
This trip was an optional trip that we had to pay extra for – I think it was $54US. Our guide had really pushed this excursion as being extremely worthwhile and I think we all signed on. We also had to pay for the westsuit – with this Intrepid Tour (‘Venture’ it’s called) there were a lot of ‘optional extras’ if you like. The tour price didn’t include hiring wetsuits, some day tours and most meals.
So we got out wetsuits and then headed to the boat to take us out to this little island. On the way out we had loads of wildlife, birds (frigates mostly), sea-lions (one having a lazy sleep on a buoy) and a penguin too. We also saw the fabled blue-footed booby from quite a distance. Then we were on what seemed to be a mostly volcanic small island.
We walked around and saw just loads, hundreds, of dark iguanas. It was photograph city! They are not the rainbow-coloured ones that more frequently appear in the brochures, but they are amazing nonetheless.
We came to a large pool connected by a tunnel to the ocean. There were many white-tipped sharks Not huge sharks, I guess a metre and a half in length or so. Along with other fish of course. Then we headed back to the boat.
The boat took us out and we got into our diving gear, and into the water. This was the point that my underwater camera decided to just stop working. We swam around for about 20 minutes. The water was pretty cool, low to mid-twenties at a guess.
We saw many fish, rays and even a friendly sea-lion popped up. The final stretch we swam through another tunnel, sharing it with many of the white tipped sharks. It was a little nerve-wracking, but also quite amazing to say the least! We returned to the boat and that was the tour done. Lunch as usual was left to our own devices.
The afternoon a couple of us did our own thing, I went for a walk past a sulphur-infused lake and to the beach, the majority of people went for a bike ride to a cave. When they came back they said that it was a bit disappointing. Bike hire was extra.
That night I ate with a few of the group in the main strip of the township. There are township on the main islands and they are bigger than you might expect. The food was average that night.
Another silly-early day starting at 430am. Bus across back to Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, the island with the biggest population. This town has loads of shops and places to eat. The boat left at around 7am or maybe 630am, but we were on early as per usual to get the best spots on board.
There was an issue with the motor as well on this journey. They had to stop the boat – which wasn’t going nearly as fast as the boat over – and another boat came up to it and they swapped one of the motors. Voom! We were off again and well before lunch we arrived at the busy (ish) Puerto Ayora.
We were at a different hotel to the one planned as it was apparently, unexpectedly I guess, full. We stayed at the Hotel Isla Azul, blue island I guess. And it was a really spacious room and there was filtered water in the bathroom, a television and still sadly slow wifi. It was a pretty decent choice.
From there it was a bus trip to the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz where we saw loads of giant tortoises in a very green, almost European, environment. There were some enjoying mud baths, and they were free to come and go as they pleased. There was a lava cave we could walk through too.
From there we went to the Charles Darwin Research Centre. A lot of animals to be seen there, and once again the most common was the giant tortoise. We had a guide around the centre who talked about the different kind of tortoises. The necks vary in length and there are normal shells and saddlebacks as well. And we saw various iguanas as well.
The rest of the day we were left to do shopping – if you’re looking for nick nacks, souvenirs or postcards Puerto Ayora is probably your best bet. Keeping in mind that post from South America can be a little…. Slow. The port is great to walk around, we saw a small fish market and several pelicans too.
Dinner we were left to our own devices. Back to the hotel for, you know, sleep.
We certainly had had our fair share of giant tortoises by this point, but the next day would see us travel to Isla San Cristobel, and there, the animal of choice was the sea-lion. So that’s yet to come – this post has already proven very long! Thanks for reading, take care, and May the Journey Never End!