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.
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!