Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Galapagos to Guayaquil, Ecuador. 22nd May 2017

Monday 22nd May 2017

Galapagos to Guayaquil

Up early for lovely breakfast – home-made carrot cake, fresh tree-tomato smoothie, banana/watermelon/orange sections, scrambled egg/cheese. Joseline had sorted a taxi and we paid extra for the driver to take us over the Itacama channel ferry and to the airport with all our baggage. $42. However had to pay $20 excess due to weight of our now 3x bags. Annoyingly our backpacks were light and we could have just moved some gear across and paid less – all going in the same plane! I was then paged in the airport and had to go air-side as they had identified ‘rock’ in my suitcase and couldn’t access the combination lock.  It was the salt crystals from Uyuni and therefore OK, but interesting that they had detected them and we so hot on not removing anything from the islands.  Plane was also delayed by an hour for no apparent reason.  It all happens in 3’s!  We weren’t bothered as had no linked flights.

Once in Guayaquil, took a taxi to Casa del Rio Guayas which was very near the airport. Nice basic room with most amenities, including wifi. Re-packed some items to reduce the weight and rethinking our outfits (shorts and T-shirts to hiking boots and fleeces!).  Took a taxi into town for $4 – very confused driver who couldn’t work out where the tourist area should be. Ended up alongside the river with a very modern waterfront. It had all the amenities – imax cinema, theatres, boardwalk, big wheel, parks.  As it was getting dark we found a nice restaurant where Iain had seafood mixed in rice and an additional full crab alongside! I had seafood linguine.  Very nice, washed down with Marguerita cocktails. We then grabbed another taxi for our return, who became very confused with the hotel card, his own app and Iain’s e-maps. Eventually found the hotel with great relief and still only charged $4. Good taxis here.

Caught up with blog – finally up to date after two weeks, but photos still to do. Will try when we’re waiting at airports!

Relax day. Tortuga Bay. 21st May 2017

Sunday 21st May 2017

Tortuga Bay

First day when we don’t have to get up early and do anything.  Bliss! Leisurely breakfast and spent the morning using their decent wifi updating about 2x weeks of blog. Later found that cost them $480USD per month for internet (Max 512 KBPS/Min 256 KBPS).

Walked through town, revisiting the fish stall (closed) which still had three sealion asleep underneath in hopeful anticipation.  Marine Iguana were littering the pavement for some unknown reason. Quick lunch.

Walked to Tortuga Bay which was about 2.5km away with a loooong path running to the beach. It was worth the effort though – a massive talcum-powder soft sandy beach with turquoise sea and crashing surf. Some brave souls were in the water, against the wishes of the red flag flying, so I just paddled. Iain took loads of pictures. Met up with the Belgian brothers again for a quick chat – they had already walked up a volcano since the live-aboard.

Back to Puerto Ayora for gin/tonic happy hour. Waited for Diane and Terry while Iain returned to pack. Quick catch up then big adios – then there were Two.

Packing for return trip. Groan.

Scuba Diving - Beagle Rock/ Daphne Minor. 20th May 2017

Saturday 20th May 2017

Beagle Rock/ Daphne Minor

Diving with Scuba Iguana

Repeat of yesterday with briefing and transfer to Baltra. Waves slightly less but still choppy.

First dive Beagle Rock – saw white-tipped reef shark, Galapagos shark mid-water – again indicated to hang on to rock, Scorpion fish.  Visibility slightly less – about 6metres.

Second dive Daphne Minor – this time I took Roberto with us in my stab jacket. Quike our dive master pointed out a cave with white-tipped reed shark lying on floor outside. He took my go-pro and went into the cave where there were about another 5x shark sheltering. In doing so, he disturbed them and they came charging out only feet from us, then kept cruising up and down the reef past us. Saw some very small blue nudibranch on the coral. Went through a thermocline and temperature dropped from 25 deg down to 22 deg, so started to feel cold even with the full wetsuit.

Lunch on the way back was ceviche, rice and plantain chips. Odd but nice.

On our return, bought Tshirts, and a better video of yesterday’s dive (note: need a flash or torch to get decent underwater shots, go-pro good for video only, or snorkelling).

Started to rain for the first time in the Galapagos, and back late from scuba, so we just relaxed in our room. Went out for a half pizza each and a beer, quite late. Most of the places were closing (unlike Argentina when it would just be warming up to start eating!).

Scuba Diving Mosquera/Seymoor El Canal, Galapagos. 19th May 2017

Friday 19th May 2017

Mosquera/Seymoor El Canal, Galapagos

Diving with Scuba Iguana

Very good briefing, then efficient transfer via taxis to Baltra channel. Dive boat waiting with 3x dive masters for 10x people (2x doing open water course). Sebastian our dive master.  Took Iain and crew to bounce me into a 7mm full wet suit which took ages. All of us completely dressed and sorted by the crew – only thing we had to do for ourselves was put on a mask and backward roll from boat.  Visibility not great due to changes in current and Humboult affect – down to about 7 metres. 

First dive Mosquera – became surrounded by Galapagos shark bigger than me, circling us. Sebastian motioned for us all to stay together (making us look like one huge inedible fish!) and hold on to the rocks.  Some good go-pro footage taken.  Interesting field of garden eels like long fingers sticking up from the sand. As we approached they slowly pulled back into the sand.  Nice Golden Ray and lots of trumpet fish, as well as large colourful starfish. 

Second dive Seymoor El Canal.  Water temperature a bit warmer – 24degrees.  Saw my first Hammerhead Shark, so very happy. Lots of white-tipped reef shark relaxing on the sandy bottom, two moray eel (one about 30cm width), sting ray and an interesting cleaning station with Angel Fish nibbling the parasites off the big fish queuing for attention.

Very difficult waves at end of dives so I gave my BCD to the crew to assist getting up the ladder. Both dives about one hour long. On way back we were served a tray of chicken, rice and green beans which we had to eat with a fork. Very choppy seas.

Met up in evening with Ed and Jude, Diane and Terry. Returned to the blocked-off road and this time had red scorpion fish – 1x fish between 2x people due to their size. Ours was stuffed with vegetables and herbs and steamed. The others had theirs roasted on the BBQ. This time the service was very slow and ad hoc, so we ended up in a bar and had some Caipirinhas with Ed and Jude to end our tour together the way we had started in Rio!

Bye byes but will see them again in December!

Black Turtle Cove/ Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. End of cruise. 18th May 2017

Thursday 18th May 2017

Black Turtle Cove/ Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island

Up very early to visit the cove, located in a small mangrove lagoon. It is a nursery site for many marine species and we saw sharks, spotted eagle rays and sting rays, and sea turtle. We went off in two zodiacs, quietly puttering around, and sometimes turning the engine off and paddling through mangroves.  Lots of birds – finches and pelicans in particular.   Very peaceful.

Unfortunately had to return to the Penguino Explorer, where we had breakfast and then turfed out our bags. Disembarked at Canal de Itabaca, saying our farewells to Gunna, Pete and Brenda who were flying out. Not a ‘tears and snotters’ do this time – will see them all again soon! 

Took taxi for $25 down to Puerto Ayora and booked in to the Hotel Galapagos Suites. Best room to date – clean, well-built, all facilities, massive king-size bed and Joseline the host.   

Walked the short distance down to Scuba Iguana and were fitted out with 5-7mm full wet suits – lost about 2 lbs just trying it on in the changing rooms!  Sorted out our kit for diving tomorrow, and collected our two suitcases which they had kindly looked after.

Unpacked our gear, then wandered back to the beach for a quick swim. Exceedingly hot, so only stayed about an hour in the shade of a tree.

 Meet Ed and Jude, Diane and Terry for some evening cocktails in happy hour. Then tried out a street which had been blocked off and all the tables and chairs placed in the strip of road. We all had slipper lobster/langoustines – good size and lots of meat, with rice, salad and plantains. Yummy.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Santa Fe Island/ South Plazas. Giant cactus/Bird fest/Sealion. 17th May 2017

Wednesday 17th May 2017

Up early with breakfast 6.30am.

Woke in Santa Fe Island, in a small bay. Transferred onto the sandy bay for a wet landing in the middle of about 20x sealion, all sleeping near the surf. Spent some time there just watching them relax, some suckling their not-so young. Went for a walk through an unusual prickly pear cactus forest and saw plenty of Santa Fe Land Iguanas, which again didn’t seem to take much notice of us. With those and the Frigate birds, it was like walking in Jurassic Park.  A few Mockingbirds also followed us around the tracks. Saw the tree-like giant Cactus Opuntia, which has formed a tree-like trunk full of a sponge-like centre.

Back to the beach to sit with the sealion for a while, then back on board to collect snorkelling gear. Snorkelled around the bay and spotted a white-tipped reef shark that went under some rocks, never to appear again, a large Galapagos Shark that zoomed past, Barranco and shoals of pretty fish (including a disco-light fish!).  Took some close-ups of a couple of sleepy sealion, who were happy to pose but weren’t very active. Sadly our last snorkel with the sealions.

Back to boat for a hot chocolate. Navigated to Plazas Island.


Dry land visit to South Plazas, an uplifted island, like Baltra, highly populated by sea lions.  Over 1000 inhabit the island residing in 10 harems each one attended by a male. Covered with vegetation of Opuntia Cactuses and sesuvium/Tiquila plants. We walked along the cliffs to see petrels, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds and tried not to step on the Land Iguanas.

Navigation back to Itabaca Channel between Santa Cruz and Baltra.

Dinner and pack bags ready for transfer tomorrow.

San Cristobal Island. Snorkelling with sealions. 16th May 2017

Tuesday 16th May 2017

San Cristobal Island

Woke up in the bay of the capital, San Cristobal.  This didn’t seem as large or as busy as Puerto Ayora. Again, sealions lined the bay and lay all over the landing pontoons, as well as any abandoned boats in the bay.  We all got into taxis and drove about 15 mins up the coast to a snorkelling area off a reef-protected beach.  It was only about 8am and I still was clean and cool, so didn’t go snorkelling in what appeared to be a choppy bay.  Instead I watched the seals and chilled out.  Took a video of Pete and Brenda mucking about with a baby seal who was using them for entertainment, and splashing them and performing acrobatics. Fabulous.

Taxis back to town where Judy and I bought a few bits – ‘I love Boobies’ baseball hats and some Galapagos T-shirts and postcards.  Postcards only $1, but stamps $3.50 each! Judy bought some rum for a sundowner. Joined the gang who had already started on the beers and joined them in an ice-cold bottle. Yum. Had a brief internet connection at the cafĂ© – about 10mins to catch up on emails and download facebook – before we had to leave.

Back for lunch – soup, pieces of beef, plantains, rice, tomatoes/basil/mozzarrela and fruit salad.

Afternoon we went for a walk through Lobos Island, famous for its population of sea lions and fur sea lions. Also nesting ground for the great frigate bird and a small number of blue footed boobies. Very rocky terrain, with huge boulders which were part of the so-called path. Luckily we’d brought our hiking poles which helped keep the balance. Definitely not a place accessible by disabled and Brian did a sterling job with his bad leg and crutches!

Snorkelling was the best ever.  The group moved on and Iain and I were left with a few very playful sealion pups who wanted to show off.  We ended up mimicking each others’ moves, swimming on backs, duck diving and changing direction. They were so friendly, swimming right at us, then just avoiding, or looking into the go-pro. Obtained some fabulous footage, which went on for about half hour.  Finally were told to get back on the zodiacs, which we did reluctantly. As we left the sealions jumped out of the water. I like to think it was in farewell.

Back to boat for some well-deserved sundowners.

Very choppy seas while we transferred islands. Iain was downloading photos and videos until midnight, so what with that, the aircon not on, lights shining and sea-swell, I didn’t get to sleep till gone 1230.