Nearly ending up on a cruise.... by accident

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

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Where I stayed
Tres Amigos Hostal

Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Saturday, January 29, 2011

It was another early start for us this morning as the boat back to Santa Cruz from San Cristobal was scheduled for 7am, we had booked the tickets with the lady in the hostel and with our basic Spanish skills we hoped that we had managed to book the right one. It was another beautiful day as we made our way down to the harbour but even at this early hour (6.20 am) all of the cafes were already open – clearly everybody gets up early here – maybe that's why it is so deserted at siesta time.  Fortunately after giving our names to the woman with a clipboard we found out that indeed we were on the list and we took our bags over to get them checked – you have to go through the same procedure whenever you arrive at and leave one of the islands, I think they are looking for fruit or food or plants that may lead to cross contamination.  The official who was doing the bag searches this time was particularly thorough (which let’s face it they should be we’re talking about one of the most important wildlife reserves on the planet) and found Andrew’s and then my dirty boots in plastic bags still with some dry mud from the Amazon jungle (I know this is a bit disgusting but they were in the bowels of our bags and even we have stopped going that far down as we are afraid of what could be down there).  We hadn’t worn them on the islands (and hadn’t intended to) but the man insisted that we wash them in the public toilets down the road. 

After a good ten minutes and blocking up the sink at least twice I took them back and was given my checked baggage tags, Andrew on the other hand hadn’t done a good enough job and was sent back to clean some more.  This time he got a nod and we sat waiting on one of the benches on the pier watching the sea lions frolicking in the crystal clear water and the Frigate birds circling overhead.  God I will miss this place.  I think out of the three islands that we have visited this has been my favourite overall.  Granted each has lots going for it, Santa Cruz the beautiful Tortega Bay one of the nicest beaches I have ever been to (and we have been to our fair share over the past 11 months) and the excellent Charles Darwin Centre, Isabela which in comparison to the other two main islands is practically uninhabited (I think Marine Iguanas must outnumber people one hundred to one) with Las Tinteraras, the otherworldly landscape of the wetlands and the Giant Tortoise breeding centre, but here (and I’m not sure why it is left off many of the tour ships itineraries) it seems to have the right balance of not being as commercialised as Santa Cruz and retaining a quiet charm whilst having a buzzing energy (at least not at siesta time) and of course the highlight for us the fantastic Kicker Rock nearby for excellent snorkelling.

Anyway, we finally boarded our boat and were shocked to discover that not only did it have very comfortable aeroplane seats (complete with in-sail literature) but there was a flat screen tv ready to show the in-sail movie, wow luxury!  I settled back and perused the National Geographic magazine for almost an hour (whilst Andrew wrote the blog) digesting all the information about the cruises, sorry expeditions, that they take all over the world ranging in price from 5,000 Dollars to 40,000 Dollars.  I decided that when I eventually win the lottery jackpot – I have only won 10 pounds since we have been away (I have a direct debit set up at home) – Andrew and I will do all of them whilst we try to decide how to invest the rest of the winnings, oh to dream.  Seriously they looked amazing and if I was ever to do that type of thing (or even ever in my wildest dreams have that kind of money) I would do it with them – for god’s sake on a couple of the expeditions you get to meet Buzz Aldrin and Mikhail Gorbachev, how random is that! 

Just before we arrived at Santa Cruz one of the boat guys offered round orange juice and bread rolls, this beat the previous sick bags and hands down.  It was 10am by the time we eventually got our bags and as we had seen the solar boat out in the harbour we were eager to get out and see it finally.  The queue was only a few people long and we had seen a couple of zodiacs going out already so we hot footed it to Los Amigos, the hostel we had stayed in on our last visit, and dumped our bags in the foyer as our room wouldn’t be ready until later then made our way to the pier to get in line with the rest.  To our amazement there wasn’t a queue so we stood around near to a huge pile of lifejackets waiting for the free boat to come back and take us across.  A few people joined the line in the meantime and put the lifejackets on ready so we did the same and rummaged around in the pile for our size looking forward to seeing this groundbreaking boat.  A couple of minutes later an official looking guy approached us and physically removed the lifejackets from us telling us in no uncertain terms that the jackets were for guests of the 'celebrity’ only.  We looked around and realised that everyone else that had got in line was at least 70 years old (we didn’t quite fit in) and appeared to have a bob or two and that we had almost ended up hijacking a cruise liner – will we sink to any depths to get on one of these boats? Um yes we would.

We were politely shown in the direction of the water taxi jetty.  It was a bit odd as everyone in San Cristobal had been getting free zodiacs across but we went with it and followed the man’s instructions.  The taxi took us out to the boat but there was a bit of confusion as to how to get on it – nobody seemed to be about even when we started calling out "Hola, hello, can you hear us?"  We circled the boat only to find what we guess was the skipper snorkelling around checking out the hull.  After a little discussion between him and our driver we were told “manana” and zipped back to the pier.  No wonder there was no queue, and to add insult to injury we had to pay the taxi guy 4 Dollars for the privilege!  Shambles (the taxi driver quoted us $1 each to get to the boat then when we got there he did give us the option to leave us there or take us back, as we would have been in the sea we decided to go back with him).  We walked back to the hostel and our room was ready so we moved our bags and then used the decent WIFI for a while before heading out to get some lunch – the free bread roll just hadn’t been enough.  We ended up in The Rock again and somehow, what did I end up with in front of me, a big Rock burger and potato wedges.  I don’t know how it happened it just did and I felt horribly guilty afterwards – obviously they do have other things on the menu, ceviche, lobster, chicken but they are all at least double the price and Andrew has told me budget over bulge.  So I will almost definitely end up bulging at the seams by the time I get on that Aerogal flight I don’t know about ‘Fatter or Thinner’ I will need a belt extension at this rate.

After lunch we couldn’t decide whether or not to visit El Chato Tortoise Reserve (where tortoises roam in the wild) up in the highlands of the island but after a bit of research we found that we needed a guide and that it would cost a bit to get there in a taxi so against my better judgement we decided against it and to save the money.  Instead we took a walk (free of course) around the town and sat for a while overlooking the bay near the fish market reading.  The book that I am reading that I swapped with the couple from Ormskirk on Easter Island couldn’t be more appropriate for where we are.  It’s all about evolution and genetics and how in the past 10,000 years evolution has increased dramatically as opposed to have stopping with the advent of civilisation.  Am I selling this to you?  Well I have found it interesting anyway but I can only read it in small chunks as there is so much to think about and understand.  Andrew is yawning in the background but he’s going to read it next, he he.  We had a few things to chase up on the internet so we went back to the hostel and I ended up falling asleep for a while – which didn’t go down too well with Andrew who was busy searching for a couch surfer who we can stay with at one of our next stops.  We still haven’t managed to do any couch surfing despite it being a great way to meet people and travel (very) cheaply – we did try to search for someone in Easter Island but surprise surprise  there was no one there.  I think I’m going to check out the Maldives next, I’m only looking for some kind of shack – you know on stilts over the ocean with one of those glass floors – hmmm I wonder what my chances are?  Probably worse than winning more than a tenner on the lottery.  We left a few messages for some (non-crazy looking) people and hope that they get back to us soon.

A good few hours later we went out for our final meal in the Galapagos and decided to sod the budget, I don’t think my stomach could take another beef patty, and after reading some great reviews on tripadvisor sat ourselves down at a table in Isla Grill.  We shared a mixed grill for 18 Dollars and we got a huge hot plate full of beef, chicken, sausage, chorizo and pork with a salad, chips and stuffed potato skins.  It was delicious and a real treat to celebrate our amazing week here we finished it off with a chocolate and fruit fondue (6 Dollars) yum!  We waddled back to the hostel and paid our board for the night as we had to be up at 6am to leave and doubted there would be anyone about at that time to pay.  Andrew fell straight to sleep even though we have two industrial fans blowing a force 5 around the room to keep it cool and I am here happily blogging away.  So would I come back to the Galapagos Islands.  In a heartbeat.  Has it been one of the highlights of our trip so far.  Without a doubt.  Would I do it differently next time?  Absolutely, I’d have the cabin next to Buzz Aldrin and Mikhail Gorbachev.
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