Category Archives: Ecuador

Too many goodbyes…Goodbye Galapagos, Ecuador and Cosima! :(

October 28th 2011- October 29th 2011

So in the morning we headed off to the airport and flew toGuayaquil. We spent some time in the airport together, had a sandwich, pan de yuca and yogurt (Ecuadorian thing it is soooo good! It’s bread made with yuca and you have it with yogurt and fruit) and then said goodbye. Cosima is heading back up toColombiaandPanama, and I am going down toPeru,Bolivia and then Argentina. We were both really sad because it is always really nice to have a travel buddy with whom you get along so well with. So there I was inGuayaquilairport, alone, waiting for my 11hour bus toPiura,Peru. I was so tired from waking up early, flying and all that I was able to sleep, until the border. Then it was tossing and turning until arrival destination. Then, I had to wait another 2hs for a bus because they were full. That 3 hour bus went by soooooo quickly! And then I had another bus to take toTrujillo, which I thought was 3hs also, but it ended up being 4h.

Trujillo is a really big city. I arrived there and didn’t feel like staying. I wanted to hop on another night bus to Huaraz, but it was full. And the bus for the next day as well unless I wanted to pay almost triple the price…So…I didn’t know anymore. Because I have a flight from Limaon November 3rd, going to Huaraz was a major detour and I would only really be there for two days. I met an Aussie girl in the bathroom who wanted to go to a place called Huanchaco, beach surfer town so we decided to share a taxi there. And we also looked for a room to share and got a private room with shared bathroom for about 4$ each so that’s cool. I was really exausted after all the buses and soooooo hungry so I ate, had some beers and passed out ahahaha.



Last day in Galapagos!

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Thursday October 27th 2011 

Our last day in Galapagos!!! To anyone going, one week is definitely NOT enough! There are so many islands, so many things to do and to see! We actually regretted not staying on Isabela an extra day, the diving would have been better (smaller group) and well we would have been able to see more! Next time!

TheGalapagos islandswere created by volcanic eruptions and have been preserved by limiting tourists because at some point there were 230 000 people going a year, now this number has dropped to 150 000. Also, the boats and cruise ships, travel agencies and little businesses are only owned by the people from the Galapagos. This excludes also Ecuadorians and anyone else. The only way someone from another country or fromEcuadorcan own land or a business or anything in Galapagos is if they are married to a Galapeño. This is what makes the islands different thanHawaii; technically,Hawaiiis older: double the age of the oldest island in the Galapagos (Espanola has 5 million years).

So we started the day by going to Las Grietas, which is an accumulation of water in a tectonic crack. The water is semi-salty and crystal clear. Unfortunately there were a lot of wasps, and I got stung. Argh. But we stayed there about two hours talking with a girl fromBelgiumwe had met diving and when everyone left, we went in the water. It was really nice! On our way back we stopped at this beach calledFinchBayor Playa de los Alemanes. This was a little ironic because I was traveling with Cosima, who is German, but whose last name is Finkbeiner, and fink means finch ahahaha. Definitely her beach!

In the afternoon we met our friend Renny and went to a few different sites that we had not yet visited. One is called los Gemelos which are two crater collapses. It is pretty impressive and big. The trees that grow there are very weak and fall when it rains, creating organic soil and then more trees grow over it.

The Scalecia forest that grows nearby is the only endemic one on the island, it usually grows in the 400-500m altitude zone and plays an important role in the ecosystem because it traps and collects rainwater, and it provides a substrate for many plants. It is also the habitat for 8 different types ofDarwinfinches as well as the vermilion flycatcher.

Afterwards we visited a farm, where there are many tortoises that you can see in their natural habitat. Interesting facts: the female does not enjoy sex. She has 3 holes beneath her tail one for pee, one for poop and the other for the shabaang! Ahahaha. Tortoises have very sensitive skin, prone to bacteria so they take these mud baths and afterwards they call for the finches to come and eat the bacteria off their skin! And they can weight about 250 kilos! Suuuuper heavy!

Our last stop was at the tunnels, which were created by lava. They are underground and really big at first and at the end you crawl on your stomach because they get so small.

Renny asked us this question: why do pirates wear a patch on one eye? Some would say that it is for protection, other because it is easier to look into the binocular. However, it was for when they went into the dark below deck or in tunnels the eye under the patch was already used to the dark and so the pirate would switch the patch sides and be able to see perfectly. That way if there was any danger or enemies they would see!

That night we cooked for Renny. I made some shrimp pasta (yuuummm!) and afterwards we went out until about 1am at a bar/disco. It was a great week, but next time I will take a cruise to see the islands you cannot access otherwise and to see more animals!

Under the sea!

So last night I slept terribly. Partly because I was really, really excited to dive the Galapagos, and also because I was scared not to be able to because of my cold. Last time I tried diving with a cold or the end of one rather, I ended up going down 5 meters, getting excruciating pain in my sinus and not diving at all. And so after all precautions and attempts to get rid of the stuffy-ness, I was just really worried. Also, the diving in Galapagos is getting pricier by the month. Last month it was 150$, this month it is 170$ for two immersions. Luckily, I have started getting pretty good at bargaining here and was able to get it for 150$. When you put that amount of money for diving and can’t get down, you are quite angry, and plus, they do not refund you (not even for the dive you don’t try to do!). So at5 am, one hour before the alarm, I started google-ing it to reassure me, which it did. If you can equalize on land, you probably will be fine underwater. Also, the trick is nasal salt water stuff, which I had no idea but will definitely be added to my travel bags ahahhaa.We set off by car, and then by boat.

I did have certain expectations that were quite deceived with the operator we ended up going with. Firstly, yesterday when I asked what level were the people, if they were  all beginners, I was told it was a mixture of both, that it was a good group and two instructors would be there. Ok, that works. However, after speaking with people today, I was with all beginners, 7 of them which meant we were quite a large group. It is not like I have that many dives myself, but four of them were doing their first dive after the Open Water course, so no experience at all. Then, the instructor made everyone go in the water to check the weight belts, made everyone get back in the boat to then go to the diving site. I thought this was ridiculous and a complete waste of time. The times I have gone diving, the instructor brings extra weights in case people do need more. Then, to get in the water they made 4 people sit on one side and 4 people on the other side of the boat and said 1-2-3-go for everyone at once to get in the water. I have never seen this and it is the stupidest thing ever, especially with inexperienced divers who aren’t sure or don’t know what they are doing. The result was that Cosima got hit by an unknown swimming object on her head.

The whole time the crew of dive masters were helping everybody out with their equipment, or rather just doing it for them. They kept trying to do the same with me but I didn’t need help and it was just really annoying because I can tie my BCD by myself thank you. All in all, going down during the first dive went well with my sinus and ears and so I was really happy. However, the dive was a disappointment for me. There were nice fish, we saw some eels and sharks but they were trying to get photos of everyone, it was a photo session more than anything. Everyone was all bunched up together and really we did not cover much terrain at all. I also had a lot of air left and could not dive for longer even though I was told I could they gave me the sign to come up. Up until then, the morning was not at all what I expected with the instructor and the way things were going, plus, the marine life was not what I expected either. At least, we were in turquoise crystal clear water and I was watching pretty fish, for 150$ ahahaha. (Maybe I had high expectations because of what others had told me, maybe we did just get unlucky you never know what you see!).

The second dive was much, much better. We went to another area and I have never been surrounded by so many fish and schools of fish in any snorkelling or diving experiences before. So that was really cool. There was much more diversity in marine life and well, unfortunately there were some troubles with my ears. The dive went much better and was less of a photo session. After maybe 30-35minutes, people were running out of air and going up, but this other girl and I stayed longer with the instructor. It was going well, but I was a little annoyed and uncomfortable with my left ear but kept making sure I was equalizing it properly and not going deeper if I didn’t need to. Next thing I know we are right by a school of whitetip sharks! Like about 25 of them just swimming around! It was really cool to see. The whitetip shark is about 2-3m long and is a reef shark. It is very tranquil and shy and so it swims away if you get too close to it. I really really wanted to see a hammerhead shark, but unfortunately I didn’t! I would have had to go to another site known as Gordon Rocks where there’s a 99% chance of seeing them. Cosima doesn’t have many dives and it is meant to have stronger currents. Also, it was hard to arrange a diving day during which she went to one and I went to the other, so we stuck together! Anyways, I think my biggest disappointment of the day happened at the end of this dive. The instructor signalled that we were meant to finish the dive, after about 57 minutes so that was cool. I still had air left but it had been a very good dive. So as we go up, I know that we must make a security stop, because of the depth of the dive and you are always better safe than sorry right! Well anyways, I gave him the 3minute at 5meters safety stop sign, which he ignored and told me to come up and I was slowly ascending and tried to signal him again but he would not care. And so as I am doing my safety stop after a minute he is getting angry and pointing at the boat and telling me to come up. I did in the end which I really shouldn’t have because of the risks involved. I was very disappointed in this unprofessional and unsafe way of working and at the same time am angry at myself for not listening to myself, especially when I know I am completely right. All in all, if diving in the Galapagos, I do not recommend Sharksfriends at all.

In the end it was a good day, really there have been worst days worst that this one in a lifetime, and I take the experience as a learning one, only adding to my knowledge and experience in diving as well as in attitude. I do not think it was a waste of time or money and would have gone again, if my ear was not still blocked at the moment and if I had more money in my pocket.

Beach day

October 25th, 2011

We left this morning at about 6am and we hoped to sleep on the ferry…but wow there was no way that would have been possible; it was so wavy and uncomfortable! And so by the time we got back, we ran a few errands and had a one hour nap. During breakfast, we made our lunch, which we packed in plastic bags,latin Americastyle (because we don’t have tupperwares ahaha). I sayLatin Americastyle because when people buy food off the street, it is given to you in a little plastic bag and you eat with your spoon or fork from it.

TortugaBaybeach was recommended and now we understand why. It is a beautiful beach! One of the nicest I have seen so far. The white sand, the turquoise water, waves for surfers, the bay area for mangroves and snorkelers and it was a sunny afternoon. As we walked along the beach there were many big black iguanas just hanging out in the sun and several birds eating little crustaceans. And the sunset was just breath taking.

Sierra Negra Volcano

Monday Oct 24th 2011

So we set off nice and early this morning with Renny and the German couple. There was a 40 minute car ride and then we walked for a total amount of 5 hours. Its highest point is only at about 1200m. We went up to the crater which has a 10km radius, making it the second biggest active crater in the world afterIsrael’s. Its last eruption was in 2005 and you can see the difference between black and green soil/lava rock/vegetation. The first vegetation that grows after eruption is cactus.

We were lucky to see several different types of birds like theDarwinfinch, the Galapagos mockingbird, and two other kinds I am trying to find the names!

After lunch, we were all pretty tired and headed off to the beach for some relaxing. We were also meant to go diving on Isabela Island tomorrow (Wednesday), and after organizing everything with the scuba school, we called to change our ferry date and the woman wouldn’t let us. We called her back 3 times and tried to call other agencies that might be able to sell it, but no one would or could help us. Cosima and I felt really bad because Renny’s friend had found a third person to go diving with us and well…it was either we bought another ticket (They sell for 25$!!!) or we went back with our previously purchased one. And well, for economical reason, we decided to go back on Tuesday morning because it was going to cost us a lot more, it would also give me an extra day to rest from my cold and we would dive the following day as planned. We were tired and had beers, a meal and called it a day.

Que bella Isabela!

Sunday Oct. 23rd 2011

Definitely got a cold during snorkelling yesterday…super lame now I just have to fight it to be able to diveeeeee!!! Argh. So we decided to go to another island for a few days and then dive.Isabela Islandwas recommended by a few people we had spoken with. After the tour yesterday, we decided not to book anything and to go by our own means. And so we bought our ticket for the ferry in the morning and headed off to the Charles Darwin Station, where still today, research and breathing of some animals is done. There we saw tortoises of all sizes; little baby ones to really big old ones. (for those who don’t know, the difference between a tortoise and a turtle is that the first is on land and the other under water) Because it was Sunday, the museum part was closed, but outside there were signs with interesting facts. One thing that shocked us both was that during the incubation of the eggs, whether the temperature is higher or lower is what makes the tortoise male or female. The difference is like 1.5 degrees too! So little, it’s crazy!

We also saw some iguanas which are extinct and unfortunately we couldn’t see the other parts of the station. If we have the time, we might go back and check it out.

Then we headed off to eat some lunch and went to catch the ferry. Once there, they inspected our bags to make sure we were not bringing organic foods to the other islands. Then, there was a lot of confusion as to which boat Cosima and I were meant to be on. One of the guides helped us out a bit and we ended up on the boat with him. His name is Renny and he was really nice and we chatted for quite some time.

Isabela Island, named after Queen Isabela, is the largest one of the Galapagos, but most of it is out of reach for people, especially tourists. It also only has a population of 100 people! On the map, it has the shape of a seahorse. It is also the only one to have the equator cross it. It has 6 volcano craters, 5 of which are still very active.

Once on Isabela, Renny offered us a ride with him and the German couple he was going to guide around during their stay in Galapagos. He even helped us find a reasonably priced place! Once again, we were lucky and got something for 10$ a night. After we settled in, he took us to a lagoon to see the flamingos, which there were only two because it was so late in the afternoon and then we walked on the beach and saw the sun go down.

He was very helpful and nice to us this afternoon and even told us we could join him on the volcano tour the next day since he was not on a private tour and it would be without charge! And so we will!

Floreana Island

Saturday, Oct.22nd 2011

We booked a tour to visit another one of the islands. The distances on the map do not seem very big, but really, fromSanta Cruzto Floreana, Isabela orSan Cristobalis a 2hour ferry ride. And man, they charge you 25$ one way!! It is ridiculous. Oh and by the way, when they say ferry, they do not mean the really big ones like we have at home, they mean a little speed boat that fits about 20 people in it and in which you definitely feel the waves ahaha.

So off we went on our little tour. Our guide never really introduced himself so that was quite disappointing, but he still did manage to give us some information. We got to see many big tortoises. Their age can be told by the number of lines on their carapace, so less lines means older! We also saw some iguanas, turtles and sea lions.

Parenthesis: During the year 1835 is when Charles Darwin arrived to the island. In 1929, the first people to settles on Floreana were Germans: the Rittmer and Wittmer families. In consequence of visitors and settlements, the tortoise and the mockingbird became extinct.

Afterwards, were had lunch and went snorkelling. Many did not go, but I wanted to even if the water was meant to be cold. Oh damn it was! You definitely need a wet suit, I think I lasted 7 minutes and I was out warming up in the sun. After the two hour boat ride, lucky as I am, I was sick with a sore throat and a cold. Just my luck! So now the main goal is to get better to go diving! Which is now definitely not happening Sunday, but later on this week when we get back from the other island.