Sunday, August 23, 2009

Galapagos Islands

I have never been so hung over in my life! The night we got back to Quito was Wednesday, that means Ladies night! I decided to meet up with the girls from school for a farewell celebration so at 9.30 I headed to the club for some free cocktails. Because I was an hour behind the others, I had to play catch-up, so I skulled 3 cocktails and downed 2 shots before the 10pm cut-off. I think all of that, plus the drinks I paid for, hit me by about 11.30 and after that I can only remember flash-backs.
The next morning I woke at 5 to run to the bathroom and vomit. That was the first of 5 spews. There was another in the hostel, one as we were checking in to out flight at the airport (that one was good, I actually spewed into my mouth and emptied it into the gutter outside whilst Ryan finished check-in), another whilst waiting for our flight (didn´t quite make it to the bathroom that time, so there was a line of my vomit about 10 metres long leading to the toilet) and then once more in the sink of the aeroplane toilet. This was not a good start, especially considering I was expecting motion sickness in the boat! Actually by 1pm I was feeling much better, even though I couldn´t hold anything down.

Day 1 - Galapagos
Our flight to the Galapagos was delayed so after customs, baggage claim and the 45 minute bus ride to get to our boat, it was 2.30pm before we actually arrived. That afternoon we landed back on the main island, Isla Santa Cruz and took a bus ride into the rainforest of the highlands to a ranch to see some Giant Tortoises in the wild. This was amazing, they are so huge! I was interested to learn that once dead, you can tell the gender of a tortoise shell by looking at the bottom. The bottom of the shell is domed to fit on top of a female. Makes sense, it would be quite amusing watching the male try to mount the female and slipping off if the shell was flat!
We then visited a Lava Tube which was a big tunnell, I thought it was a man-made mine until our guide Fatima, explained it was a naturally occurring tunnell formed from lava. Don´t remember how exactly but it looked cool.
That evening we had dinner and got to know some of the other passengers on our boat. Ryan stayed up chatting on deck, whilst I passed out early for a much needed sleep.

Day 2
After sailing for much of the night, we woke up at Floreana Island. This is the home of post office bay. We visited the amazing post office which was started in the 1700´s by a whaler. The post box is an old wine barrell and the idea is that any sailers going past the bay have to stop in and look in the barrell. If they are going close to any of the addresses on the mail, they are obliged to personally deliver the letters. This way sailers can sent messages to their families if they are away from home for a long time. The tradition continues now with tourists leaving postcards to be taken and delivered by other travellers. When he returns home, Ryan has to deliver a card to a random in Port Melbourne.
Once we were finished flicking through all the postcards, we went snorkeling off the shore. It was awesome. We swam with sealions, which came right up to us and nibbled our flipppers, and turtles. We saw white tipped sharks and sting rays and hundreds of beautiful fish.

During our lunch break and siesta time, we sailed to a place called the Devil´s Crown and on the way we were followed by about 200 bottle-nosed dolphins. The afternoon activity was deep-water snorkeling and I was petrified. About 10 years ago I freaked myself out snorkeling in deep water and I´ve been too scared to try since. Being the stubborn dare-devil that I am though, I forced myself to give it a go and I loved every second of it. We were lead by the captain of the boat who kept diving down and finding us things we had missed ourselves. It was very hard to snap out of the Australian mind-set that everything can kill us, and just enjoy the experience, but when we returned to the boat everyone was gleaming and I was so proud to have conquered my fear of Deep Water Snorkeling.
That afternoon we went to Punta Cormoran to see flamingoes. There were about 20 or so in a large lagoon and we learnt that they get their colour from the pigment in the shrimp they filter from the botton of these lagoons.
This day was absolutely sensational!

Day 3
Noone slept last night due to the rocky overnight sail, so we were all feeling pretty average this morning. A walk along Gardner Bay at Española Island to see sealions and marine iguanas fixed that. Everywhere you looked was sealions, you couldn´t walk backwards for fear of stepping on one. They were so adorable, playing fighting and sleeping and we were all particularly fond of the pups pining after their mothers. Ryan got run down by a mother whilst he was wading in 30cm of water. It took a bit of searching but we eventually foung the camouflaged Marine Iguanas and once we saw 1, they just kept popping up. It was at his point that we really became amazed at how close you can get to these creatures. We really were visitors to their environment, and they don´t budge no matter how close you get.

In the afternoon we went to the other side of the island to a place called Punta Suarez. The 2 1/2 hour walk was every man´s dream, there were Boobies everywhere! For those of you unfamiliar with Galapagos wildlife, this may seem a bit perverted, well don´t worry, all the puns were made, but Boobies are actually a type of bird. The ones dominant on this island are the Blue Footed Boobies. They are named by the way they plod around which looks very silly, ,silly in Spanish is 'Bobo', the English chaged it to Boobie and the name stuck. We also saw some massive Albatroses, Nazca Boobies and a Hawk. Not to mention the hundreds of young fluffy chicks. We got so close to these birds that, had we been allowed, we could have touched them. We saw a couple of boobies performing a courtship ritual which entailed flapping your wings, plodding around doing a very awkward dance and presenting the female with twigs. We were so close to the action we actually felt like we were intruding on something. I´m convinced that the only reason we didn´t see any action was that she had stage fright!

Day 4
Unfortunately I didn´t do a diary entry for today and can´t remember the names of the islands and walks. We went for a walk in the morning to see Land Iguanas, these are much larger, more colorful and more impressive than the Marine Iguanas. We also saw huge Cactus Trees, which have grown so big to adapt to their environment. This is so that they can survive from being eaten by the iguanas and tortoises.

In the afternoon we went for another walk to see Iguanas and Nazca Boobies. The scenery here was gorgeous, the Cactus Trees and another red ground shrub dominating the view.

That night we had a small celebration and a farewell cocktail to say goodbye to the 5 day passengers

Day 5
An early walk this morning to see some Frigort birds. The males of this species have a big red balloon thing that they puff up to attract a female. I personally found the dopey dance and the twig gifts of the Boobies more attractive, but hey, each to their own!
A bit sad this morning to say goodbye to our last group, most of them were pretty cool people and those who weren´t provided us with much amusement. The new group had big shoes to fill, and they failed dismally. 6 Spanish that we didn´t understand, a remarkably unattractive Danish family and a French couple.

Best thing about today was our first beautiful sunset that we watched from the boat.

The next couple of days was a little disappointing. Everything we saw, besides the landscape, we had seen bigger or better on the other islands.

Day 6
Genovesa Island. Terrible boat trip over night. Went for a walk in the morning and the only new thing we saw were Red Footed Boobies, just like the blue footed ones but with different coloured feet and a prettier face. These guys also nest in Mangroves instead of on the ground.

In the afternoon we went snorkeling again and them went for a walk at Prince Phillip´s Step. This landscape could be a set for a horror film, anyone who doesn´t really like birds would be especially creeped out. We saw, more Red Footed and Nazca Boobies, swallow twiled gulls, an Owl and a Lava cactus plant that looked like a very painful dildo.
We all went to bed pretty early because the captain promised another rough night.

Day 7
This day was wonderful. It started off well when we woke to sunshine! This was unusual so far. Went for a walk on Bartolome Island which is a big extinct volcano and was featured in the movie Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe. The view from the top of the surrounding islands and ocean was amazing. It really hit me, on our second last day, how different all the islands are, it´s incredible. We then went snorkeling again and this was one of the best swims we had. So many different fish, sea stars, sharks, plus we saw a penguin and a lobster.

After lunch we visited Sullivan Bay. This place was once covered in vegetation and many birds and reptiles called it home, but in 1875 a volcanic eruption that lasted for up to 15 days, destroyed it all. What is now left are amazing patterns of lava set into rock. After this we set sail for one last time as the captain wanted to get into port before night.

Day 8
I was really emotional this morning, very sad to leave the Galapagos. Not sure whether it was the place in general or the boat and its crew that I was really attached to but when we stepped off the boat I felt like part of me was missing. Before the flight we visited the Charles Darwin Centre to see some more giant tortoises and iguanas and then we made our way to the airport. I can´t believe how quickly this week has gone. I´m telling myself i´ll be back one day, but who knows...

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