Quito - Galapagos

2014-05-16 Update: Found these entries in an travel notebook and decided to type up for posterity.

###2002-09-09 Spain to Quito

The journey from the Millar apartment was smooth all the way to the airport after the obligatory farewells with the parentals. The Corsa was returned and we boarded the plane on time. There was, however, a short delay, not for hot towels, but for unknown reasons. There was no word from the pilot and the stewards were, and continued to be fairly crap.

This delay was enough, combined with a 15 minute delay for a bus to terminal B, combined to make us ‘just-in-time’ for the A340 to Quito. 11 hours of no sleep and 3 crap films later we arrived to comedy shack-style airport complete with shoe-shine children and 5 dollar taxis.

###2002-09-10 Wandering around Quito

After an early start we were told it was “too dangerous” to walk to the Old Town and that the buses were full of “robbers”. One $2 taxi later we were in Plaza Grande - a square with benches, statues, fountain (?), cathedral and lots of Police Del Touriste. At this time, 08:30, the demonstrations (11:00) hadn’t started and there were mainly old men and locals on the benches. In fact there were only 6 other obvious tourists all day.

A wander from the square gave street markets, shoe shine boots, women selling jam in a bucket, barbie trolley bags, and lots of comedy pants. The streets were narrow, some pedestrian only (ones with street traders) and the rest full of taxis and filthy buses, which if the robbers didn’t get you the fumes certainly would. Men carrying the entire world on their head were quite impressive, the technique being to use a head strap and bend over a lot.

Phones were found in the form of a boot system and the $20 USD bill I had to pay was laughed at (all day as it happens) when the $0.18 bill came. Running theme then arose of not having any change (< $1). We failed to find a museum (twice), well we found them but they were shut down. Lunch was expensive but worth it, dinner was KFC but the local food was not palatable or available. Boiling / heating chunks of meat seen in one shop doorway and the ‘soup’ in a bucket being sold were enough to convince KFC was a safer option.

Other ways of killing time in the smog filled city:

###2002-09-12 Floreana (Galapagos?)

Yesterday seems to have been missed, so a brief summary:

Tortoises were quite large and also quite small but all in cages so not that exciting. Lonesome George looked quite lonesome but most others were just old nd large… good feet.

Promise of amazing day to follow on the blackboard on the boat turned out to be all true… Travel tablets helped for the night, with engine noise starting at 1am for the short motor to Florena Island.

Arrived, or rather awoke, to the sea out of the porthole and soon showered and breakfasting.

First trip to Post Office box with not many letter to the UK. Whale ships of the British being the story behind the box and all letters needing to be delivered by hand.

Very long-winded story of the Duchess (a local prostitute-cum-legend), a dentist and a lover with no teeth, murders, and various other tales.

Caves were next on the agenda where darkness and explorations of lava tubes were found. Back to the boat, then to Devil’s Crown - a half-submerged volcano off the coast. Snorkelling was the order of the moment and once we all jumped in the currents started to show. Catherine was struggling with the waves, crap snorkel, currents, and rocks and so bailed out but I had a splendid time. Shark (one) reef-style was seen within minutes, various fish ranging from small, large spotted (blue & black), bright blue, shoals, tiddlers etc.

Amazing currents and beautifully clear water. Two turtles were seen on the bottom waddling off and in general there were fish everywhere.

Back, lunch, then to the shore again after a longish delay for sea lions on the shore. Large male sea lion conducting the crabs and females rolling playfully in the wash.

Flamingoes were very pink in the inland lagoon. Penguins were off the boat, made good noises and were surprisingly super fast.

Flamingo on one leg, some in the distance, general air of pinkness.

Round on the next beach were Sting Rays (no da da da, however). Very strange feeling having them around your feet, like jelly but with more adrenaline. Once I calmed down it wasn’t too hard to watch them very close and even around your feet. Danger of 4 days of fever and possible paralysis wasn’t enough to deter photographic opportunities.

###2002-09-13 Espanola Island

Routine on the second day is starting to set in. Breakfast at 7am - off to the islands - walk with the creatures at every turn - back to the boat, lunch - snorkelling.

Today, however, was slightly different. The overnight journey was made more exciting by water coming in through the port holes. My bed was we at the bottom and C’s at the top. The bathroom was also 2 inches under water. All this was fixed by the afternoon though and new port holes were installed.

The morning walk started in cloud but as seems to be standard, the weather cleared by late morning. Beach masters were making their calls where we landed and once on land a team of red-backed iguanas bathed in the sun - side on for maximum effect.

After a short wander there were Blue-Footed Boobies, lizards and then round the corner to Albatross - no Monty Python jokes were made (What flavour is it?) amazingly but given the number of non-Brits this was not too surprising. Further wanderings brought forth the blow-hole, where crabs and iguanas allegedly get thrown many metres into the air - none today.

The Albatross Airport was near the end of the walk and one landing (in a bush) was made. The birds also gave us their ‘dances’, which mainly involved playing ‘smack beaks together’. This was very different from the Boobie ‘sky-pointing’ dance that was also seen.

A motor around the island brought us to Gardner Bay, where we wandered over to a turtle shaped rock for snorkelling. Sharks were grabbed by the tail by the guide from their hiding cave and shown to the audience. Many fish of all sizes, some large stingrays (different from the sandy ones of yesterday) and millions of micro-fish, which made the water look cloudy. My mask wasn’t holding water as well as it should but I put this down to dodgy ‘tash and promised shaving later.

The last port of the day was on the golden sands of the main beach. I taught C some snorkelling tips and then almost got eaten alive by a beach master (adult male sea lion) I mistook for a female. Wandering the sands and admiring the many sea lions on the beach took us to about bed time where new port-holes and less smelly cabin awaited. Tonight should be less choppy and so the queasiness may be less.

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