First couple of days in Paradise

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Nov 20, 2011

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, September 10, 2011

Within seconds of landing at Baltra airprt, I knew I'd arrived somewhere special. I’d watched various golden islands and semi-submerged craters sail past from the window but it was only in the arrivals lounge that I first met some of the Galapagos’ inhabitants; Frigate birds. On the way south to Puerto Ayoro we had to take a short ferry over a canal forged between the volcanic rock of the island. It was here that we saw our first sea lions frolicking in the aquamarine waters meanwhile all sorts of strange birds wheeled overhead. A warning now, if you’re the jealous type, step away from the computer. I’m almost making myself ill thinking about how stunning the whole place was and this was only 10 minutes from the airport!

The northern area of the island is real wild, wild West. Cactuses reaching for the sky, tumble weed rolling in the breeze, and any real trees were bleached white by the Ecuadorian sun. However this arid landscape was soon enveloped in cloud as we started rising towards the centre of the island climbing up the extinct volcano. As soon as we hit this cloud the land immediately turned lush and semi-tropical with fruit trees, more birds and loads of colourful vegetation. It felt like driving up a country road in Shropshire in May!

I have to add at this stage that not all was well in Paradise. Yet again I had eaten a little too locally and had another bout of food poisoning – fortunately not Typhoid as I convinced myself for a good few hours. Anyway, my only real desire, and I know it sounds terrible considering I had just got to the Galapagos, was to hole up in a hotel until the worst had passed.

A few antibiotics, several gallons of water and 48 hours later, I was alive again. I ventured off into the daylight and found a little fish market on the waterfront. I knew it was a fish market because there was about 20 pelicans and a few sea lions pestering some men in wellies. The pelicans were playing a cunning game of grandmother’s footsteps trying to get closer to the fish while the fishermen were otherwise engaged chatting up the local ladies! At this point I met a Kiwi guy called Tim and we decided to head off to meet "Lonesome George", a giant 150 year old tortoise on the Charles Darwin Research Centre just out of town. We had a lovely time and Tim hardly stepped on any of the endangered animals that are so fond of strewing themselves across pathways. We rounded a corner and much to my shock there were the largest tortoises I could have imagined! I might have blurted out rather loudly “bloody hell” which seemed to garner their attention. Giant is not the word. They were fascinating. For tortoises. Everything they do is at a tenth normal speed and they make this strange wheezing noise whenever they move which does make them seem a little robotic. We stayed for quite a time until I realized that my skin had lost any ability to protect itself having not seen the sun for a couple of days.

In the afternoon, Tim and I headed to the Tortuga Bay which is a beach a couple of kilometers from town. I was feeling much better at this point despite having lost lunch (just keeping people up to date). The first beach we came to had a cracking swell and I was pretty envious of the few surfers that were making the most of it. However it was the lagoon beyond that we had been told would be more appropriate to our needs. On the way we came face to face with several marine iguanas all spitting at us. I thought these mini dinosaurs were hilarious with their ugly little faces and scaly bodies. Apparently they are their own micro desalination plants as they are unable to digest the vast amounts of salt they ingest with their diet of sea algae. Considering they began life many moons ago as land iguanas and it was only the lack of land based food that forced them to hunt underwater. Now that’s evolution folks. Amazing! The lagoon beyond was pretty cool and I had a paddle and got quite artsy with the old point and shoot.

That evening we rendezvoused at a little bar where I happened to catch up with a couple I’d met in Guayaquil so we all had dinner together. And yes, I kept it down! All in all a very good if belated start to my Galapagos adventure.
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