Galapagos – Let Loose with the locals

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
At lauros gaff in his spare room

Flag of Ecuador  , Galápagos,
Monday, January 24, 2011

I woke up with a cock near my head, not for the first time on this trip, it was about 6:00 am local time and after half an hour trying to get back to sleep I gave up and started to do the blog. By 7:00 the Lady got up and I was offering to go and either murder one of the hens or steel its eggs and knock up an omelette, she turned my generous offer down and we drank water instead. At 7:50 Lauro was knocking at the door with about 5 would be translators around him, of whom the best spoke as good English as my Spanish (i.e. rubbish) between us though we managed to find out the 8 o'clock pick up was no longer at 8 but 08:30 we were introduced to the boat skipper as well who quickly disappeared, this had all the great signs of our favourite the typical budget backpackers trip. At 08:20 a 4x4 turned up with a man we have never seen before and we jumped in, at the dock he wanted two dollars despite us waving about the $30 for the cost of the trip. We paid him and a guy came running up the dock to tell us in Spanish "una momento" i.e. we aren’t ready, another guy helped out and said go for a walk for 20 minutes this way and then come back. Well we thought this was time wasting but this was an introduction to just why Isobela is rated as one of the best places in the Galapagos Islands.

As we wandered down the board walk we found we couldn’t progress at stages due to large Iguanas lay right across the centre as you would start to climb around them all of a sudden you would notice a seal or sea-lion in the shallows of the mangroves only maybe a meter away, it was truly bizarre and with a lot of camera clicking progress was very slow. We saw so many baby seals and iguanas, just as we reached the end of the walkway which ends at a lagoon, the boat skipper had caught up with us, 'Vamoos’. When we got back to the boat we were greeted by a school party and we got on a boat with all the girls while the boys disappeared off into the distance waving.... how petty, come on driver put your foot down we can get them..... childish! Within minutes of setting off I saw a turtle, then another turtle which when I pointed the girls would all go “ooohhhhhhh”, next we saw something we didn’t even know existed until two days ago, the Galapagos penguin, the most northerly penguin species in the world, it was amazing, after all the time penguin spotting in New Zealand, this little guy just popped up next to the boat and sat staring at us like he was more interested in us than we were in him, we can already say, “how Galapagos”, if we hadn’t seen penguins in New Zealand and Argentina I couldn’t imagine how excited we would have been but even though this is now our 5th Species of Penguin we never get bored of these amazing creatures.

We then saw lots of seals, South American sea-lions, even more penguins then I spotted my first pair of boobies... (pardon the pun.... expect more!), well the boobies were on the rocks in fronts of us and after a little manoeuvring we got to see the bright blue feet of these amazing birds, it would be fair to say I love boobies, and more importantly so does Lady E. Today was already turning into one of those days that quickly become unforgettable. We next saw some Stingrays, and a couple of Manta rays and please remember this is all from a boat above water, simply stunning. We pulled into a little cove with turtles heads popping out everywhere (cough cough :^) that reminds me there is a bar in Quito called.... The Turtles Head). We landed and as soon as we could, left the school groups behind, well if we were amazed at Marine Iguanas yesterday it still hadn’t prepared us for today. Quite simply it was amazing to see them performing their territorial noises and head shakes they were just everywhere. In the background were tens and tens of turtles coming up to breathe and in between of all these seals, sea-lions and baby seals, back on the rocks the bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs running around, just incredible. As we walked back around the rocky outcrop you couldn’t help but feel so insignificant. We also saw the marine turtles swimming from rock to rock.

We hopped back in the boat and dropped off the school kids back at the jetty the guy then took us snorkelling on our own. As we plopped into the water it was possibly about 2 minutes until we saw a giant green sea turtle, then another and another it was absolutely magical, within 10 minutes we must have swam in amongst and up close to maybe 15 of these wonderful creatures. The underwater cameras were click, click, clicking and only time will tell how those turn out but we will add them to the blog when we find somewhere to get them developed. We are excited to get them done. There were also lots of tropical fish. We hopped out then went to another spot, within maybe 3 minutes we were approached by a couple of baby seals that were swimming all around us and bending into wonderful shapes as they blew bubbles at us underwater, again we hope our cheap underwater cameras are able to give us at least a few decent pictures of what was a magical experience. By the time we got back on the boat we had probably seen 4 or 5 seals and a sea lion. We headed back to shore thrilled at the huge amount of stuff we had seen and for such a reasonable price as well, this probably ticks off over half of the species people come to see in the Galapagos.

We headed back to the Lauro’s gaff and quickly started to feel the heat of the sun on our backs, we generally always snorkel with T-shirts on but haven’t got any t-shirts that are truly rubbish enough at the moment, or cheap enough that we don’t want. We had a quick shower then headed off for a walk where I was trying to drag Erica to the Wall of Tears, we followed one of the two roads out of town and found another boardwalk. This took us past more flamingo’s and some other types of wading birds and through completely different landscapes than we had seen on the Galapagos to date, although it reminded you strongly of other volcanic landscapes like the Salar de Uyuni. This path ended at another Giant Tortoise breeding sanctuary this time to preserve the species of Isabela, they had hundreds of giant tortoises many which were about to be released back into the wild. We tagged behind a boat of American tourists listening to what their guide had to say (this always annoys us on the few occasions we have had a tour guide) and it got us to see the more of the tortoise eggs, weirdly out of about 15 people about half the people kept asking about at what size these animals would be put back in the sea and asking questions about a snorkelling trip where they had seen lots of them. For a boat of such wealthy and therefore presumably educated folk the difference between Tortoise and Turtle was a major difficulty that required explaining about 8 times.

Watching these amazing creatures was no less rewarding the second time round after the Charles Darwin centre and it was brilliant. I then got us directions back on track to see the Wall of Tears and I guess 30 minutes later after walking along the beach we found a sign saying it was still 5km away. It was already maybe 17:45 and lazy Erica didn’t want to walk anymore (Erica edit: No I didn’t in the blistering heat). I therefore opted to whip of my clothes and battle the waves, while Lady E stood taking photographs. We also saw some quite upsetting sights I guess the cruise boats don’t see. We saw two Pelicans dead in a bush with some beer bottles on top of them and a turtle dead on the beach covered in flies, not sure what happened there but it wasn’t a pretty sight (unlike me in the nude!).

We headed back into town and got back as it went dark, we went back to Lauro’s and blasted some tunes, drank all our pack of beers and a bottle of the local spirit with coke (all by candlelight no less) before heading to the best value restaurant and our set 3 course meal for 6 dollars. This time I had beef and Erica had shrimp again with a carrot and pumpkin soup and jelly for pudding (after no reaction from the last Jelly Belly incident I am on the Jelly as well these days. I overdid the local chilli sauce though and was almost crippled by burn. Regardless it was one of those great days of travelling, so very special, not expensive but pretty much priceless.

Erica edit: Andrew fails to mention that tonight just before tea we were the victim of a knock and run campaign.  I think that you can really tell that you are getting on a bit when you become the victim of this type of thing, it’s all downhill from here, next thing we know we will be sending all our bank details to a kindly man in Nigeria who sent an email to tell us that we have won thousands....really this kind of thing never happens to us, we never win anything, oh what are we going to spend our winnings on?
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