A Travellerspoint blog


Cheering for our team

Our flights to Rio meant another night in the sky. It hadn't been easy getting flights here that were affordable with the Olympics on so the night flights were the only option. In the end we spent 14 hours in 4 countries to get there but by now the kids are pros at this and we all had a bit of sleep and got to Rio in pretty good nick. The only dramas were the boarding passes we got for all 3 flights. The first was fine with all of us sitting together but the following two we had been seated individually all over the plane. Night flights in South America with a 7,9 and 11 year seated by themselves! It meant I had to queue at the gate prior to each flight and try get us new boarding passes so we could all sit together. One of the flights I managed to get me and the kids together but Rach and Toby after 3 seat changes were a few rows back. Bonus for Rach though who got to sit beside the parents of Devon Manchester the NZ hockey goalie.

The taxi ride to the apartment was like a movie scene. After 10 mins in we could see Christ the Redeemer on the hill, Sugar Loaf mountain and then in front of us was Cococabana beach. The sun was shining and the beach was buzzing. Our apartment was right on the beach at the Leme end of Cococabana. We were 500m from the Beach Volleyball arena and to the other side of us was the set for the NBC USA Olympic morning show.
The apartment itself is pretty average but we booked it 9 months ago and got it for a fraction of what the NZ Olympic Travel team had suggested we pay for accommodation with them.

The purpose of coming to Rio was solely to see some of the Olympics although we still wanted to check out the sights. We only had tickets for 3 events as booking them in NZ you had to use the official ticket seller which left us not being able to buy for sports which NZ didn't have an allocation for. However now we were here we managed to pick up tickets for another 4! So we added tickets to beach volleyball (A must see for Rach!) A NZ men's hockey game and a women's football match.

Our first day we wandered the beach down Leme along Cococabana, across the Fort and into Ipanema beach. It's a stunning stretch of beach and was teaming with people. Even though the Olympics hadn't started it was packed with people from all over the world. We even managed to get a glimpse of the Olympic torch as it was doing its last run down Cococabana beach before the opening ceremony that night. The poor athlete carrying it at the time was shrouded by 20 armed police with riot shields. The kids were funny with their comments about the dress code of lack of it in most cases. Particularly Bella who as we were walking along would say "Mum - that guys's wearing undies in town" or "I can see her bum - that's gross". No amount of explanation made it okay in her eyes. As Peter Williams had written in an article soon after arriving in Rio "There's way too much flesh, although not a lot of it finely toned." At the end of our walk we found the NZ House and collected our tickets - Hockey NZ Men, Rugby 7s Women's finals day and Mens Day 1, Swimming, Beach Volleyball and Women's Football.

A fraction of the security detail escorting the Olympic Torch
Cococabana Beach
Ipanema Beach

For the next 4 days we got our quota of sport, probably going to too many events. Although the transport to and from the events was good it still took a long time to get around. The day we went to the swimming and then football we spent 7 hours on subways, trains and busses! The other days it was a 4 1/2 hour return trip. Only the beach volleyball was something we could just walk from our apartment to. Out of all the events the swimming was great, the women's final days at 7s was awesome despite loosing the final, the atmosphere was terrific. Also the night session of beach volleyball and for Holly and I the Women's football was amazing - 43 000 at a women's football match watching Brazil play - perfect! The entire set up for the Olympics was really good. Loads of volunteers to help you along the journey. Not once did we fear for our safety despite what the papers lead us to believe. The night Holly and I went to the football is was a 10pm kick off. That meant getting home on the train and subway at midnight and then a 20 mins walk getting us home just before 2am. I was really nervous about getting my wee girl home safe that night but needn't have worried as it was such a great atmosphere and loads of volunteers and police to make the journey safe. The only negative at the games was the lack of food at the venues. If you were lucky you could get a hot dog. You weren't allowed to bring in any food and you weren't allowed out of the venues once you'd gone in. The first day we had nothing to eat for 8 hours while getting to and from events and then watching them. That combined with the heat and long walk to the venue meant it was a challenging day all round. Not as we'd planned it but once again the kids showed their amazing ability to cope when things didn't go to plan. In the end we took some snacks to the games and ate on the train before getting there.

Football fan at the Olympic stadium with a crowd of 43000!
Never short on security - on our way to the 7's
Go NZ!
Watching the boys in black
Holly accosts the kiwi mascot for a selfie - some of the local Brazilian supporters were calling him Zika
Swim fans
Holly scores and interview with TV1's Jack Tame
Two of the lovely locals we met

Quality food has been a challenge for us in Rio. We were pretty quickly over pasta and pizza. I'll leave Rach now to tell the story of our Dinner at "Mabs" one night. Remembering we walked past the place as it looked a bit scody but she wanted to eat there! Rach - Well if truth be told it was 5pm we had missed lunch and I wanted to eat anywhere. This place had an outdoor courtyard and looked no worse than many we had seen. For me it was sit down and eat before I fall down or the kids kill each other. It wasn't till we'd ordered and had been sitting there for 10 mins or so that we noticed there seemed to be a disproportionate number of tables with only men and also tables of only very dressed up women who were seemingly making pretty regular approaches to the mens tables. It became a bit of an "eat the not so great food really quickly and get out of here". As soon as we got back to the apartment I checked our what Trip Advisor had to say - probably a bit too late but it says it all “Hookers Galore -2 of 5 stars - Reviewed 26 January 2016 - Packed with tourists and hookers, not excluding some transvestite just out the door. Given the scene, this is not a family place at dinner. Food is average."

Impromptu game of footy with some local kids - Holly and Toby sent Bella to go and ask them if they wanted to play
Post game hot and sandy

Outside of the games we visited Sugar Loaf mountain on the cable car and a up to Christ the Redeemer. Both amazing landmarks in the city which gave you spectacular views and were the real "wow we're in Rio moments". With having such a busy games schedule we didn't have much free time to get around the city and explore. Even our trip to Christ the Redeemer we had to do on a cloudy day where the ticket office stamped your entry as "No Visibility'. Fortunately for us Rach insisted we give a try an by the time we got to the top the cloud had lifted and we got to see the big guy as well as the stunning views of the city below.

Sugarloaf Mountain
The view from the top

Christ the Redeemer
The American Basketball team visited on the same day
View of the city - you can see the rowing course below

Some of the funny moments we've had here have been on the public transport. Its' not been easy spending so much time mostly standing up on the packed trains but each day something amusing would take place. The amount of people selling stuff on the transport is amusing. Mostly snacks and water but even IPhone cases and toothbrushes! Each guy with a box and a loud voice walking up and down the carriages.
We've meet some nice people along the way - locals mainly stopping for a chat. Each one wanting to know if we're having a good time. Having the kids with us opens up new world - people wondering what the hell we are doing in this part of the world with three young kids. Also coming back late at night from events we've managed to have a few chin up competitions on the trains with some Aussies and Brazilians. The kids have also put on a show where Holly was behind Toby using her arms as his - quite impromptu and came about because there was no room so Tobs was sitting on Holly's knee. They got a round of applause and had a local woman in tears of laughter. They've had many locals offer them food and some even buy them a packet of cookies on the train. They also struck up a friendship with some Japanese supporters and shared snacks and selfies with them. We've been collecting the olympic souvenir cups - the downside Matt and I have to drink the beer for the kids to get them. The kids have been determined to try and get as many as they could so have been swapping any double ups with others. I've admired their confidence in approaching people who don't share their same language - it's funny to sit back and watch.

The week we have had was amazing. Our first Olympics and its been great to feel part of it. There have been some long days and the getting around has been tiring. The kids have done well though. Amazing how a packet of Doritos at 10pm can lift the spirits!

May we have a holiday snap with you?

As we sit and reflect on our long journey home we chatted about what we were most exited about. The list came out as follows: Flushing the toilet paper instead of putting it in a bin by the toilet. Our own beds and for the kids their bedrooms. Real milk and real cheese and for me Coffee. Hard to believe that with coffee being one of their biggest exports they don't drink it and therefore don't make good coffee.

As another chapter closes in the adventures of the Watson 5 we can honestly say we have had an amazing time and a big thanks to Matt for putting in the time and research to book us this amazing experience. We've clocked up 39445kms over 20 flights and all returned happy and healthy. We'll post another blog of funny pics in the next few days but until then Adios or Tchau as it is in Brazil. Thank you for reading our blog it serves as our travel diary but we love all of your feedback and comments. See you on the next adventure!


Posted by Watson5 18:08 Comments (5)

Quito and Surrounds

Bright lights big city

Our departure from Santa Cruz was another early one. We were picked up at 7am for a 10am flight. Hard to fathom when we were on a seemingly small island and weren't flying internationally. Alas though ahead of us was a 45 min car ride over the highlands and to the other side of the island where we boarded a ferry across to the island of Baltra (seemed close enough to have warranted a bridge) into a bus and then another drive to the airport. So three modes of transport before we even get on the plane! A nice airport too - and apparently had been used as a US air force base in WW II hence being the reason it was on the other Island.

We have 5 nights in Quito and are staying back at the "It's a home apartment" Our one night here wasn't the best with only sun filter blinds instead of curtains on the windows and us being on the road front of the 6 lane highway.
After speaking to the booking agent he said he would make sure our next stay we would be in a better location away from the noise. Mmmm well that didn't quiet work out. We were put on the 11th floor instead of the 4th to reduce the traffic noise but still no curtains. During our 5 nights here the first 2 were on Friday and Saturday. We can safely say it's the worst sleep we have ever had. Max of 4hrs a night. Rach - I can add that it's so noisy I have dreamt most nights I've been run over by a bus! At least with the number of sirens the ambulance doesn't ever seem to be too far away. There are so many police in this city and my theory is that they turn their sirens on every time they don't want to wait in traffic or to go through red lights. It's a bit like the car horn - it is not used here in anger - it's just a "hi I'm coming through" or instead of indicators to turn. The roads are insanely busy but they are all pretty courteous to each other. Not unlike Nelson! Many of the shops have security guards too - it does make us a little nervous though that they all seem to have a gun and a large baton. After two experiences one at the "Home like Home" and then the "It's a home" we've come to realise that anything with "Home" in the name is going to be far from it! All good though we've luckily had a good mix of accommodation from very comfortable to grotty. One thing we do appreciate is being able to do our laundry. A bit of help from Mr Google and taa daa - clean clothes - one of the best things you can have when you're travelling. So nice not having to take all your dirty washing to a laundry too - that's always a bit of a gamble. Will I ever see it again / will I ever fit it again or as we found out in Vietnam - whose laundry will we end up with.

The view from our lounge window
The view from our window with the curtains pulled!

We are also having to deal with the altitude. We are back at 2800m in Quito and It's hit Matt the hardest again. headaches and being short of breath all day and night makes for a tough time. Its not much fun panting like a dog for breath at night. Altitude does funny things too - the kids had a bag of chips for on the plane when we got here they looked like a helium balloon. It was also hilarious when Matt took the top off his roll - on deodorant and the ball exploded off it across the room!

However its not all doom and gloom because the city has loads to offer and we have had some really cool experiences.
On the day we arrived we decided to check out the Telefonica which is the gondola ride taking you up to 3900m. It was a stunning view going up to the top but for Bella and I was a bit more of hold on to the seat and smile. I appreciated the teasing from the others.

Burpees at almost 4000 metres above seal level!

The next day we had a day trip to the Equator line and then a tour of the old town. To be honest the Equator tour was a bit naff but hey when in Rome! The demonstration at the Inti Nan museum of the Coriolis affect was fun to watch though. How the water moves in different directions from the northern and southern hemisphere.

Right on the equator - apparently!
Quito City

We also enjoyed the tour of the old town. Some beautiful buildings and cobbled stone streets.
We had a great couple of hours wandering around where I (Matt) managed to buy a Rolex watch for $7! Bargain of the year until the strap broke the following day. I will be writing a letter to them when I'm home! During that day our guide Freddie mentioned a football game on the next day in Quito. Sounding like a great opportunity I asked what the chances of moving our next day trip with the same company to Tuesday and us going along. A few hours later with a big smile he said "My friend it's all organised. Tuesday you go on a tour, tomorrow you watch football"

A little of what's on offer at the local food market

Football Ecuadorian style!
Holly, Toby and I headed to the football on our "Free Day" while Rach and Bella were content doing some shopping and have "girls" lunch. We got picked up early by Freddie our guide from the day before who also moonlights as a taxi driver! As we didn't have tickets we needed to buy them at the stadium. Freddie kindly helped me with this which was not an easy process. Eventually though we had our seats and were ready to experience what South American football is like.

I prepped the kids for what it would be like but I can't of done a very good job because they spent the entire game with either mouths wide open or in hysterics at what they were witnessing. The noise from the supporters with drums and the singing. The antics from the players on the field and then the conflict with supporters and the passion they demonstrate. Then the police and security presence. From stadium security, police, military police and riot police - all with different levels of batons, guns, riot shields. It was often chaos as something would set off some supporters and the security would rush to the area and often inflame the situation. The riot police were needed at the end of the game though as the referee was pelted with objects as he tried to leave the field. The shields the riot police have were used as a roof to escort him from the field safely. The game finished Barcelona 2 Aucas 1 with the winner in the 93rd minute. It was 2 hours of fantastic entertainment which the kids were in awe of - South American football at its best!

Football fans!
Just a little security at the game

Cotopaxi Volcano - (Rach) despite my reservations about travelling up to higher altitude and cold and then adding in biking Matt was determined this was a must do activity. So off we went picked up in a big old 4WD jeep we set off for the 1 1/2 hour journey up the volcano. Travelling sideways in a fumey truck wasn't so great - by the time we got there we were all looking a little rough and keen to get some fresh air. A quick stroll to warm up round the lagoon and then it was on the bikes. The bikes were not flash Tob's one had to be replaced in the first 10 mins as the pedals weren't making the wheels go round. It was pretty tough riding in the sand with a head wind but luckily there was the option to bail and jump in the truck which was one Bellie took after completing the first section of the ride. The rest of us hung in there and had fun in the sand and very rutty road. The scenery was amazing with beautiful vistas of the glacier covered volcano. A fairly large part of the the park is closed currently after an eruption last year. However we were a week too early as they had just learnt that it was all going to be open again next week. After lunch the next section of the ride was a long ride down the mountain on a sealed road which while pretty tame was a real buzz for the kids. Hooning down the highway with sweeping bends and a lovely cycle lane in no time we had covered our 15km.

A warning sign about volcanic eruptions at the starting gate.
Yip that high!

Our last day full day out in Quito was out to Mindo to the Cloud Forest. This is in area not as high in altitude as the rainforest and is often the area between the rainforests and the coast. On the way we stopped off for an hour walk through some bush to get to a waterfall. It was a lovely walk with lots of different butterflies and humming birds buzzing around. The hummingbirds make quite a noise as they fly past. Even though they are tiny in size the noise their wings make by moving so fast is quite impressive. Next stop was in Mindo at a Butterfly farm. The kids had a ball here. The enclosure had many different species with the most impressive the Owl Butterfly. It was the largest and had beautiful markings. The kids ended up with butterflies all over them.

A Hummingbird up close
Butterflies, butterflies, butterflies

The last activity was Zip Lining. I was slightly apprehensive about this as the safety regulations are not quite NZ standards. Hoping we would be able to do the shorter 2-3 lines we were all round shut down with the kids insisting the 10 line was the way to go. This gave us 10 different zip lines travelling over 3km in a circuit over the forest. It ended up being a great choice as we all had an absolute ball. Their lack of fear is something I envy! We zoomed over the canopy of the forest with butterflies, squirrels and even the odd Toucan as company. It was an amazing hour and a half. The kids even got to do tricks on the lines with the guides. Doing the "Superman" and also hooked in upside down which was called the "butterfly". The rest of the time you are harnessed in one at a time. It was long day out by the time we got back to Quito but an adventure packed one we all enjoyed.

Look hard and you'll see Rach flying along the zipline
Bella does the "Butterfly"
Kids all hooked up together to tackle the fast line. They got to do this with the guide as you had to used your gloved hand to steady yourself on the line eeek!

Rach - Big city life is certainly an eye opener for the kids. Walking home one day we saw a couple of kids climbing in a rubbish skip to collect the plastic bottles to sell. It's a great reminder to them as to how good there lives are. There is apparently no welfare here so pretty much everyone has a job and that may be window cleaning or juggling at the traffic lights or selling or oranges or bags of sweets. Poor old Bellie got quite upset seeing a man who we've seen a few times with huge deformities to his legs meaning he walks on his buckled up knees. She had insisted we gave him some money which she took up to him, then walked away and burst into tears - " he just shouldn't be on his own Mum" A really hard life lesson.......

They've also been fascinated with the culture and religion - asking many questions which are at times hard to answer. I laughed the other day when they were taking a look at a small virgin Mary shrine set up in a glass case outside a dairy which is not an uncommon sight. She had a metal halo behind her head. Our ever so tactful third child suddenly exclaimed I think she's a bit dizzy - obviously has seen too many cartoons.

We left Quito with mixed feelings. The city and surrounds has so much to offer and our experiences were amazing. We got to see a South American football game, mountain bike on the side of an active volcano at 3900m, zip line through a cloud forest with Tucans watching us. It was well worth the time we spent here. The down side is the altitude. Its so tough to handle. Mentally and physically draining and there's no respite. Ultimately 5 days was enough and I don't think I would look to travel to such high cities in the future.
Its confirmation that the beach life is for us, and guess what as luck would have it next stop RIO!

Posted by Watson5 17:59 Comments (0)

Santa Cruz

Last stop in the Galapagos :0(

So with a "smidgen" of anxiety for 4 out of 5 of us (Matt's tough) we jumped on board the "Speedboat" for our transfer to Santa Cruz. It held 24 passengers and was powered by 3 x 200HP outboard motors. We knew the 2 hour trip was going to be fast! We placed ourselves at the back of the boat with the best chance of getting a healthy dose of fresh air. We'd popped into the pharmacy earlier that day and purchased some sea sick meds (at the huge expensive of 15c US each) which we'd all taken an hour prior to leaving so with a couple of airsick bags in my pocket "just in case" we were ready to roll - so to speak!

The engines were started one by one and we were off. Hang on a minute one of them was missing quite a bit. All good though the captains assistant came down got out a big knife and a can of WD40 and we were good as gold. Had it have been the only engine I would have been somewhat more concerned.

Off we set. It was rough and rolly but apart from a couple of rogue waves was tolerable. The effects of the meds soon set in and Toby and Bella were out to it. They got the best trip of all. I have several times admired their ability to drop of to sleep where and whenever they have needed - especially their "I'm scared - oops now I'm asleep".

Our accommodation was at the Galapagos Cottages. Four cottages surrounding a swimming pool. The kids were very excited about our first lot of accommodation with a pool. Owned by Charles Wittmer a descendant of one of the original German families to settle in Santa Cruz if anyone has watched "The Galapagos Affair" on Rialto.

Santa Cruz is the most developed of the Islands we have visited with many shops and restaurants. It again was very different from our other two stops but had a real buzz about it which we enjoyed. Our first day we had our one and only tour on the island. A highland tour visiting sinkholes, lava tunnels and a tortoise ranch. As part of booking all the day trips with Sharksky we were guaranteed tours would go ahead regardless of numbers. On this occasion it was just us which was great. The sinkholes visit were a real bonus. They were spectacular and Jimmy our guide was a great at explaining how they form, even drawing pics in the dry dirt with a stick how the volcano erupts and magma chambers are formed and then collapse. Great for the kids to understand and appreciate.

One of the sinkholes

The Lava tunnels were fascinating also. Massive chambers of lava that flows on the surface only the top layer that is in contact with the air cools and hardens. The rest of the lava continues to flow towards the sea, eventually emptying when there is no more lava flow. Resulting in these massive empty chambers you can walk in.

Exploring a lava tunnel

Our last visit was 2hrs at a tortoise ranch. We got to wander around with these massive creatures. The kids had fun taking Tortise selfies - as they can only move 250m in an hour its hard for them to escape the camera. The entire area of the highlands is protect regardless if it's national park or private land. The fences between private and government land left enough room at the bottom for the giant creatures to roam freely.
It is estimated there are 5000 tortoises in the highlands of Isabela now. This number has been built up with breading programmes over the last few years. There were over 250 000 before pirates, buccaneers and Charles Darwin decided they were delicious to eat. They had worked out they could be stored on ships alive stacked upside down without being fed for a year before been eaten as fresh meat!


Our free days on the island were spent visiting the Charles Darwin Centre which wasn't a patch on the centre on San Cristobal. Shopped like crazy kids getting our last Galapagos souvenirs and ate every night at the open air food market - a street of vendors who every night put tables and chairs out on the road and sell fast, fresh cheap food. This we loved - Lobster and whole fresh scorpion fish. At $25 for a whole fish it fed the entire family.

The boys and their "new dos"

We enjoyed visiting the fish market and watching the cheeky pelicans and seal lions compete to get a fresh feed from the fishing boats as they came in with their catch. The Sea Lions were like cats nuzzling up to the fishermen in the hope of being thrown some scraps from the filleting.


There is also a nice beach at Tortugas Bay though the day we took the 40min walk there we managed to arrive 10 minutes before the beach was closed for the day - a quick dip and then a 40 min walk home.

The highlight was our two trips to Los Grietas. A short water taxi ride (for which we paid 70 cents each) and a 15min walk from the town of Puerto Ayora is an amazing crevasse you can swim and snorkel in. It's a narrow canyon with 10 metre high walls an was probably around 20 metres deep - quite spectacular. We enjoyed our time there so much the first day that we went back again with our snorkelling gear the next day. One of the days we stopped for lunch at a cafe across the bay deciding this was a nice clean spot we ordered the ceviche 3 ways which was tuna, shrimp and octopus marinated in lime juice. It was delicious, the kids were encouraged to have a wee try too which they all did but poor old Bellie got a bit anxious that the octopus sucker might stick itself half way down her throat - she took quite some convincing!

Rach's spectacular entry into the water
Tob's dives deep

Our time in the Galapagos has been everything we had hoped for and more. The ability to be close to all the wildlife is thrilling and will be etched in our memories forever. You constantly wonder when will they run/swim away? Not being a threat is a really nice feeling. It's been a true once in a lifetime experience.

Posted by Watson5 19:28 Comments (1)

Isabella Island

Galapagos - Ecuador

We arrived on Isabela Island after a short flight from San Cristobal. The plane was a 9 seater and was built like a box. We had to wear earmuffs as it was so noisy - and it truly was! Another first for the family!

Our first impression of the island was based on the weather. It was raining and cold. As we drove through the town it was a whole lot more basic than we had expected after San Cristobel with sandy roads a few restaurants and not a lot else. As we all put our jerseys on we all wanted to return to SC! It felt like a semi deserted Caribbean Island.


We got to our accommodation which was one of two apartments right on the beach. I was very excited to see this place as I hadn't been 100% convinced it existed. The owner had demanded full payment before we arrived and it didn't have any reviews that I could find. Phew it was there and yes we were expected. It was a lovely place with loads of room which is nice for a change and with the beach on our doorstep the kids enjoyed some space and freedom they had been lacking for the last couple of weeks. Toby especially benefitted from that.

Fortunately the rain disappeared and sun came out and we were back in paradise. We spent the afternoon swimming and body boarding. We also went for a wander and came upon the lagoon where the Flamingos hung and the Tortoise breeding centre. Later that afternoon we caught up with the Bolitho clan who were having there last night on the island before heading back to NZ. We had a few beersies on the beach and reminisced about the past 3 weeks while the kids played and swam. I also got to borrow Ben's Go Pro as i have lost mine. It did cost me a dinner out though!

The Flamingos were neat to see
Plenty to catch up on
Tob surfing a wave

The following day we had a tour of the Tintoreras where we had some great snorkelling with more Turtles and some marine Iguana's. The marine Iguana's were freaky kind of cruising through the water like prehistoric dinosaurs - not taking much notice of anyone else. The turtles were cute as the boat pulled up you'd see these little heads pop up above the water - some of them were massive - quite a sight to behold. We also got to see the Galapagos Penguins and some Reef tipped sharks. The kids did awesome. It was another trip where the Watson 5 where first in and last out! Funny how they have become so quickly accustomed to close encounters with animals they have never seen before. I watched Bella run out onto the beach the other day have a bit of a chat with an Iguana which was making it's way down the beach, then turn and skip away.

Magnificent turtles
A Sea Iguana from under the water

Our second trip was another snorkelling trip to the Los Tunnelles. This area was formed by the lava cooling on the outside as it flowed toward the sea creating tunnel like areas to snorkel in. The water here was a lot cooler (18degrees) but really clear, we all managed a good hour in the water. We got to see more Giant Turtles and some rather large reef sharks from a distance of about 2 metres - apparently they were sleeping!. There were also an octopus and sea horses. Rach - we got to see the nesting Blue Footed Boobies and learnt how they usually hatch 3 chicks and within a few weeks there is a selection of the strongest one. The strongest of the chicks pushes the other two away from the nest for them to die from starvation or be eaten by predators. The process occurs because the parents are unable to feed all three this is natural selection at its best. We ran it by the kids and pointed out that they were lucky we hadn't run a similar scheme! The landscape was amazing we were intrigued with the lava bridges that seemed as strong as. With the weather poor the and a full moon tide being very low the boat trip back to town was a bumpy one! We had huge waves to contend with as we entered and left the sheltered bay of Los Tunnels. It was like a roller coaster ride as the captain of our small boat holding 12 passengers competently surfed 4 metre waves. Toby and Bella weren't happy and to say I was relieved when it was all done was an understatement. We managed to clip two good rocks but were told this was normal. On quizzing the guide later he said it was pretty much the usual trip and they problems start if the boat outboard engines come out of the water as you go over a wave. Then the engines stall and the next wave tips the boat! Another great snorkelling experience had. We are really glad we bought our own snorkelling gear. We watch kids on other boats try to snorkel using adult masks with difficulty. Although its been a pain to cart the gear around for the last 3 weeks it's been great to have it and has enabled us a lot of freedom when we do get to towns where snorkelling is within walking distance.

Bella lost her balance and put her hand out to grab a cactus! (we all heard about it)
The amazing landscape of Los Tunnelles
Up close with some White Tipped Galapagos Sharks

One of our free days was also my birthday I had a lovely day presented with handmade cards a necklace a delicious breakfast out, later a wander down the beach to watch the Iguanas crossing the road coming out of the bush to the beach to feed on the seaweed covering the rocks and finished off the day with a lovely meal at a restaurant recommended by Anna and Ben. Probably the coolest part of the day though was when the kids disappeared out to play on the beach. Only to return 20 mins later and tell me to go upstairs and look out the window. Bless them they'd etched a big "Happy Birthday Mum" in the sand and were standing there with many passers-by admiring their work.


Matt - Our last tour on Isabela Island was a land based walk up Sierra Negra Volcano. I had prepped the kids on the need for endurance on this walk as it was 16km. We started in the drizzle as it does in the highlands and walked up a fairly boring track until we got to the crater rim. As the cloud burnt off and the sun came out we got a fantastic view of the caldera. We wandered around the rim for 4-5 km and then dropped down the side which had the most recent activity. The last eruption had been in 2005. The next 2km walking on the lava was amazing, the landscape was moon like. To walk on it sounded like breaking glass under your feet. Even though it was 2 long hours of hiking under the heat of the sun reflected against the black lava surface it was an amazing experience. Toby said it was "heaven" for a boy his age as he wandered around looking at the sparkling rocks and bottomless holes some still pumping out sulphur gas! The walk back was long and tough but the kids did awesome. Especially Bella, she toughed it out and put on her I AM DETERMINED face. Holly was Holly - no fuss get it done and smile! It was a big day for the Watson5 but its not everyday you get to walk around the side of a volcano.

The Sierra Negra caldera
The unusual and piping hot landscape

Our last adventure on Isabela was getting a haircut for Toby. It's become a holiday tradition for him with previous haircuts in Turkey and Vietnam. With our lack of Spanish it made for an interesting experience. We found a "lady" hairdresser who Toby used sign language for what he wanted. The funniest part being when she bought out a blade to cut the line in the side of his hair. His face was priceless! Anyway it was a good $5 spent. The cost to me was a lot higher though. I promised I to would get a haircut and Tobes decided I should get the same. I'm hopeful in 3 weeks when I'm back home it has grown over. I still don't think its a bad as when my Dad grew a pony tail to mock me many years ago though!


It was great having 6 days on this sleepy island. There are no paved roads only sand and no ATMs so you have to bring enough US$ to the island to get by. It was funny observing the whole business mentality thing. For example there are many little corner stores, as in one every few hundred metres. Mostly they have not a whole lot in them meaning if you want something you need to go to several stores. You kind of look at it and think if they combined a couple of them you'd get a much better store and they'd have to work less - but no that's not how it goes. Siesta is important so all stores seem to close between 1pm - 3pm regardless of tourist demand. A couple of times we asked at restaurants if we could dine outside and were told no we weren't able to add another chair to a table so we'd move on and there didn't seem to be any worry about loosing our custom. The ferry crossings are another source of amusement. There are many 6 - 8 ferries leaving port each day headed for the same islands. They hold 24 passengers each and are powered by 3 x 200 horsepower outboard motors. The cost of the fuel must be horrendous and you can't help but think there'd be some sense if 4 or 5 of them went in on a bigger craft that handled the seas better and was more fuel efficient.

Anyway on to our next stop Santa Cruz Island!

Posted by Watson5 19:25 Comments (2)

San Cristobel

Galapagos Islands

We have 2 weeks in the Galapagos Islands in where we will stay on the 3 main islands. San Cristobal, Isabela and Santa Cruz. We opted for land based accommodation with day trips from each island. The other option was island hopping on boats. This was considerable more expensive and also I didn't like the thought of the 5 of us cooped up on a boat for the entire time, plus this stretch of water is notoriously rough. By booking independent accommodation and day trips we turned our budgeted trip here from 6 days into 14.

San Cristobal
We are staying right on the Malecon (promenade) on the island. Its another stay where we are in 2 rooms as we have been for the majority of the trip thus far. It's always difficult to fit 5 in a room so invariably we book two rooms and split the kids with one adult.

The views from our rooms are breath-taking. Its like having a room in a zoo. Sea Lions, Pelican's, Iguanas and Turtles all play and live right in front of us. We could happily sit in our rooms peering out the windows for hours watching them all. Although we know that the wildlife here feels no threat by humans it still takes you by surprise as the sea lions and iguanas happily come up to you. It feels like they are more inquisitive of us than we are of them sometimes.

The view out our window
Blue Footed Boobies

We have had only one trip organised on this island. A day trip out to Kicker Rock. This was deep sea snorkelling at it's best a massive rock in the middle of the ocean with a shear face right down to the ocean floor. The main purpose of this trip is to snorkel with the Hammerhead sharks. However as it is sometimes with nature we didn't get to have that experience. They were about but just not in sight for us. Our guide Jorge (pronounced Horhay) caught a glimpse but they were to deep for us to see. He later told us they see them about 20% of the time. We did however see huge Turtles swimming around. They were magnificent to watch as they moved so gracefully through the water.


I'll (Rach) admit my nervousness that this was our first snorkelling experience straight off the boat into the coolish very deep water. I was worried the kids might panic - especially Bellie. Proven wrong though when she jumped in and sped off. At the brief Jorge mentioned we will have to keep pace with the kids(our lot) but after 10 mins in the water he said "man the kids are good!" Some of the other adults on the boat had to snorkel holding a life preserver!

The following two days we had no excursions booked. It was the first time since we left NZ that we had free time.
I went my first run since the Inca marathon and sussed out the best snorkelling spot early in the morning.
Early that afternoon we went to Cerro de las Tijeretas a 2km walk from the town. It is the spot where Charles Darwin first set foot on the Galapagos Islands. We proably looked pretty hard case trundling along with our big wheelie duffle bag full of our snorkelling gear. A lot to lug around but we hadn't wanted to risk especially the kids getting ill fitting gear. Much to our delight there were 3 or 4 sea lion pubs playing with us which was amazing. They happily interacted with you doing barrel rolls and coming up really close. They would nibble at your flippers and kiss your mask! Although the water wasn't that warm it was easy to spend an hour in the water with them. We had a lot of fun diving down and having them follow us zipping past us and showing off. Funny though at the end of the day when we decide to hop out. A family of around six sea lions were lying all over the steps and landing barricading our way out! Patience prevailed and about 15 minutes later we made it out. Sea Lions are only territorial out of the water which is funny and they protect their patch rather like a dog. The big ones have fierce teeth too which none of us were keen to mess with. On our snorkel trip the day before we had learnt the difference between seals and sea lions - sea lions have external ears seals just have holes. So there you go!

Our snorkelling spot - Cerro de las Tijeretas
Bellie chillaxing with the Iguanas
Smile for the camera
Being held captive - might as well enjoy it

We also hired some paddle boards to have a play in the harbour. The plan was to snorkel from them with the seal pubs and turtles. However after 20mins of being blown out to sea we made a dash to a small beach at Playa Mann and sort refuge there. Holly, Toby and me (Matt) spent some time snorkelling before we decided to walk to boards back to the shop. We figured walking the 1km back with them was safer than risking the paddle. Another crazy moment with lots of sideways looks as we wandered through town carrying paddleboards paddles and life jackets.

Hello Mr Iguana

That afternoon we headed back to the same spot as the previous day to snorkel and had another awesome experience
We also went through the Interpretation Centre which displays the history of the Galapagos Islands and also highlights the difficulties they have with natural resources.

A stunning pic of aqua boy

Our last night on San Cristobal was spent with Tim and Crystal who own Galakiwi a travel company based on the island. Tim's a Kiwi who started his company 15 years ago here and with lots of hard work from both of them they have buit an awesome business. We had a few drinks and then they took us to a local restaurant for dinner. It was great to spend some time with some other adults and try some of their favourite dishes.

Our time on San Cristobal has been perfect. A lovely quaint town with nature right on your door step. We left SC after 4 days a bit sad we couldn't stay longer. Next stop is Isabela Island which is a 45 min flight away.

Posted by Watson5 09:02 Comments (1)

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