In search of the Sharks

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

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galápagos,
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The sun was high in the sky by the time we headed out the front door this morning – and the heat was oppressively relentless already. With no firm plans for the day we wandered in to town along the dusty roads and garbage bins swarming with flies, sounds idyllic doesn't it – actually out of the town it is but I’m just keeping it real.  On the way we decided that we would find out how much it would cost to hire two bikes for the day so we could get to the 'Wall of Tears’ (the wall that is famous for being built through forced labour when the island was a penal colony) in a lot less time than it would take us on foot.  We asked around and found that there was a small bike yard just off the main square.  The guys there wanted 25 Dollars for the two of us for the full day which I thought was a bit steep – we could get a taxi there for two Dollars – so we changed our minds and went off to hire some masks and snorkels – something that we really couldn’t do without.  We found some good masks at one of the tour operators on the same street and we hired two for 5 Dollars for the day, we also booked our return ferry to Santa Cruz for the following day – this cost 30 Dollars each – I guess there isn’t as much competition here as there is in Santa Cruz where we paid 25.  We left our ferry tickets behind as insurance against the return of the masks and as we were both feeling hungry we decided to go and have breakfast in one of the restaurants on the main street.

The rather annoying thing here is despite having our own cooking facilities it is far cheaper to eat out than actually cook for ourselves – but the cheapest option (which we have to go for) always involves chips which isn’t exactly what we want to be eating EVERY day – sometime twice (I say that but I could eat chips every day with not much encouragement if I’m honest).  Anyway, we sat down at a table at the only restaurant open for breakfast and had a look at the menu, rather interestingly the options were 1. Breakfast, 2. Lunch or 3.Dinner.  Having no idea what was about to be put before us we ordered the 4 Dollar breakfast and waited, the flies were around but not intolerable.  After about 5 minutes we were served a juice which I have to say, I don’t know what fruit it was but it was vile, next we got a cup of hot water and a jar of instant coffee and sugar.  I made the fatal mistake of asking for milk – if I hadn’t already vommed – it was on its way.  The milk in the cup looked okay at first but when I added it to my cup of coffee it just ‘split’ for want of a better explanation there were floaty bits everywhere.  I prayed that the food was going to be edible otherwise I was going to be leaving everything.  Fortunately it was and we got a hot bread roll with cheese and scrambled egg on the side that was fine and I hungrily tucked in.  Somehow Andrew had managed to drink the juice and keep it down but even he found it hard.

We paid up thanking the lady for a lovely breakfast, how British, and then headed down to the port area to Concha De Perla the lagoon to have a swim and snorkel.  We were just getting the snorkels out of the bag on the pontoon when the money belt with about 200 Dollars in and all the bank cards which happened to be on top fell out in to the water – in what was like a comedy sketch Andrew dived in after it on to shallow rocks but managed to come up unscathed and thrust the belt at me yelling "get the cards, get the cards out" much to the amusement of a German tourist waiting on the pontoon next to us.  Fortunately the cards were dry, and the money just a little bit soggy, thank god we aren’t in Burma with their anal perfect Dollar note obsession.  I was just thrilled that after I dropped the belt in to the sea in Easter Island and got so much stick for it that now the tables were turned and it was my turn to get my own back (Andrew Edit – despite a quick game of the blame game in which I tried to blame Erica for sitting about not helping it was clearly my fault with no escaping, still within 1 minute we were in hysterics joined by the merry German bloke and all were rolling about in loud hysterics, perhaps the German bloke found it more funny).  The water was lovely and warm and we spent about an hour swimming around looking at the tropical fish and playing with a friendly sea-lion and a marine iguana who both showed a puzzling interest in us.  There were quite a few more people arrived at this stage so we got out and sunbathed for a while on the pontoon.  After about 5 minutes we heard a huge splash and a 3 foot long marine iguana was emerging from the water right next to us he gave us a look as if to say “what are you looking at” and then disappeared in to the shade of the mangroves.

Feeling a bit sun beat we gave up on the sunbathing and walked back down to the port to try to find a kindly skipper with time on his hands who wanted to take us out in search of more interesting sea life.  We wandered around and eventually a guy approached us and after agreeing a fee of 15 Dollars we were on our way back out to Las Tintoreras the small volcanic rock islands around Isabela (Andrew Edit – Erica neglects to mention all I said to the skipper is I want to see sharks, making a hand fin on my back, he understood and so off we went).  As soon as we got out in to the open water, which incidentally you can see right to the bottom of it is that clear,  turtles appeared everywhere popping their heads up occasionally for a breath of fresh air and giving us a quick once over.  They were huge, the biggest Green Sea Turtles we have ever seen and we can say that with some authority after this trip.  The Galapagos penguins were doing exactly the same thing too just swimming alongside the boat staring us out and then disappearing below to carry on hunting for fish.  Again we saw Blue Boobies but far more than yesterday, the same goes for the penguins on the rocks who were busy sunning themselves – they lift their heads up to the sun with their wings outstretched – adorable.   The skipper drove us further around the islands and out in to the deeper sea (which is where we were supposed to see the sharks) at which stage I started to get a little panicked as the waves were very, very choppy (I had to grab the snorkels to stop them going overboard at one point) (Andrew edit – there is a difference between chop and waves, this was actually a reef break so was a little scary) and I thought that if I went over the side here there would be about an 80 per cent chance that I would drown.  Andrew later told me that he felt the same but over the years he has learned to adopt a ‘no fear’ look around me and the sea even when he is shitting it too (which he was).

Fortunately we made our way through the rough area and came to a much calmer bay where the guy told us “sharks” and pointed down.  Sometimes the language barrier works to our advantage, sometimes it doesn’t – this was one of those times.  We just looked at one another, looked at the skipper, who looked back at us like we were demented, looked back at each other and without thinking about it any longer jumped in into a huge shoal of Yellow Tailed Surgeon fish (Andrew Edit: Amusingly the skipper then started the engine and buggered off a long way into the distance on the basis we would drift in the strong currents towards him).  They were beautiful and we got to swim in amongst them for at least five minutes – wow even the fish are as hard as nails and don’t  even flinch at human company – it suddenly occurred to me that that didn’t bode well for the white tipped reef sharks that frequent this area.  We swam through deep water and fast current over towards the island where a sea-lion scared us half to death as it appeared out of nowhere – at moments like these I am ashamed to say that my survival technique is to use Andrew as a shield and jump on his back (under the illusion that he is calm and collected) when in actual fact he is as scared as me (Andrew Edit - It was one of those terrifying moments you can’t see anything around you then whilst looking out for sharks something appears out of nowhere at almost lightening speed and almost before you know what it is it has disappeared before returning to have another couple of looks at you).  We got back on the boat slightly glad that we hadn’t seen the sharks that had been promised but were taken to another spot where we got to swim with more turtles that showed a distinct lack of interest in us and didn’t budge as we hovered above them taking pictures with our underwater camera (we aren’t sure how successful these will be but will upload some when we get back to the mainland and can get the film developed).

On the way back to the harbour we got to see three rays swimming past the boat, they were really incredible but as ever the camera doesn’t do them justice at all.  We went for lunch at a different restaurant (all the swimming had worked up our appetites) to the one we had had breakfast in and I had shrimp spears (the Galapagos version of skewers) and Andrew had Coca Cola Chicken a delicious combination of chicken in a coca cola sauce with chips and steamed vegetables.  I think I will be trying to replicate the sauce back home.  We decided to escape the sun (we were both looking quite red some may say purple) and went back to the hostel for a sleep and a shower.  At about 4pm we were sure that the heat of the day had dissipated so we went back in to town to try to get a taxi to the lagoon again for another snorkel (the tide was in so we hoped there would be different things to see).  Now we have no idea how the taxi thing works here, we have been in a couple of taxis / 4x4’s (to the hostel with Lauro and to the boat trip arranged by Lauro) but nobody stops on the street if you try to flag them down (a taxi rank maybe? Um no).  I should mention that none of the cars say taxi per say but we are sure that everyone is in fact an undercover taxi driver.  We have seen cars pull over for locals after responding to a strange type of whistle but as we have yet to master the whistle we have yet to successfully hail a taxi.  That said we ended up walking there again – no worry we need the exercise.  At the pontoon there were loads of kids playing their favourite game of push each other in fully clothed, over and over again – the game never got boring.  I decided to give the snorkelling a miss and let Andrew go it alone as I read my book instead.  Apparently I missed out on seeing a huge ray, but as you, I await photographic proof to back up the claim – but still no sharks.

The evening was beginning to set in so we packed up the stuff and returned the snorkels back to the shop and sat down at our favourite restaurant for their 3 course set menu again.  All good but the dessert was last nights’ jelly but frozen – is that okay - I don’t know I’ll tell you tomorrow.  On the way back it felt a bit like Groundhog Day, the same men sat in the same seats watching the volleyball on the court near to our hostel – the same chickens rotating on the rotisserie.  This is evening entertainment Galapagos style.  We repacked our bags ready for our 5am wake-up call and our 6am ferry back to Santa Cruz - this place has really grown on us in the past couple of days.  Of course the wildlife speaks for itself and is truly amazing but even the town has endeared itself to us in its own simple laid back way.  Tomorrow it’s back to the bright lights and big city of Puerto Ayora (we have to go back to Santa Cruz to get to San Cristobal there is no direct ferry) a veritable metropolis in comparison to here oh and to stock up on underwater cameras in our quest for the Hammerhead sharks – that’s if I don’t have a heart attack and drop the camera first.

Oh and just to add, as if you hadn’t already guessed I LOVE THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS....

‘Andrew Edit – Indeed the villages on the islands are not paradise by any stretch but the water surrounding the islands is absolutely amazing, Andrew exhales deeply and ponders a life where we still had money and were relaxing with our Gin and Tonic’s aboard a luxury yacht. Dream on!’
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Carlene on

Wow what a cool place! Hey you don't need to ponder about the good life when you're already in paradise, pondering is reserved for us poor buggers! xx

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