Two weeks off (a much needed break!)

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, January 29, 2011

“Life is short, wear tropical shirts.”
 Marc Lampe

We didn't know that the flights to Manta had changed but fortunately we reached the airport in plenty of time so where able to get on the flight that had been moved forward by 30mins. The return flight we discovered has been moved back by 5hrs. Such is the way with airlines in South America.

On reaching Manta we had a 2hr drive to Puerto Lopez, a dusty, grubby little coastal town. It’s a fishing village more than anything else but it has its share of run-down hostels and mini-markets. The place we were staying – the Hosteria Mandala – was about a 20min walk down the beach in a little oasis of green. And the aim of the 2wks? To relax and recharge our batteries before a 3wk volunteer programme in the Galapagos. Even to me that sounds a bit rich.

The gardens between the chalets were planted with a wild variety of flowers and if nothing else were very colourful and very lush.  And it was a chance to pull the Macro lens out of the rucksack for one of the first times on this trip. We even had a feisty pair of iguanas with our chalet. They spent most of the days fighting over who could sit on our slippery roof soaking up the sunlight. Every so often there would be a squabble and the loser would slide down the roof into the neighbouring tree. The Swiss/Italian owners or managers weren’t the friendliest of hosts to start off with but the place was clean enough and food was generally okay.

By the end of the first week we’d decided we’d better do more than just relax on the beach or lounge around in the room so we took a tour to the Isla de la Plata, a small island 28km off the coast that is also a nature reserve. It’s also called the 'Poor Man’s Galapagos’. We were, I think, the only English speakers on the boat and also, by a margin of about 20yrs, the youngest.  The rest of the passengers were Spanish speakers – one of whom we’ll call Snr. Importante - and into their 60’s. Snr. Importante clambered onto the boat with his iPhone clamped to his ear yelling out in garbled Spanish, letting everyone know how important he was. The boat crew just looked at each other and shook their heads. He continued with his phone conversation thru’ the safety briefing and the talk about the island (which altho’ in Spanish I got the gist of) until he was out of signal range.

When we reached the island we were given another short talk about the routes we could take and the birds we were likely to see. Snr. Importante was back on the blower having picked up a signal.  Being important he set off at the front of the pack as we walked to our first stop.  Unfortunately for him being old, unfit and greying, by the time we reached the top of the stairs he was at the back of the pack wheezing into his iPhone which was still clinging onto its signal and scaring off any wildlife. At this point the guides split the group into two. One – the wheezing and unfit – would do a short gentle walk whilst the rest of us (believe it or not but I do have some level of fitness) would do a 3hr walk which would take in more wildlife. 

Our walk is basically documented in the pictures, but we walked thru’ the nesting grounds of the Blue-Footed Boobie, the Frigate birds, the rarer Red-Footed Boobie and the Masked-Boobie. The Boobies watched us with indifference unless someone stood a little too close (and by that I mean within a foot) when they would start to flap their wings and make a duck-like sound (female Blue-Foot) or a whistling sound (male Blue-Foot). It was fascinating seeing the birds this close up and makes the trip to the (expensive) Galapagos that more enticing.

Back on the boat we stopped off at natural bay where the waters weren’t choppy and where a couple of other boats were anchored up and did a spot of snorkelling. Didn’t see much as the visibility wasn’t great but managed to spot a bumphead parrot fish and a trigger fish – similar to the fish we were swimming with in the Perhentians back in September. No sharks tho’ and for that I was grateful.

After the dip we all clambered back on board and the boat’s captain asked everyone to shift a bit towards the stern. This would shift the weight to the back of the boat allowing the bow to rise higher in the water and thus go a bit faster on the trip back to Puerto Lopez. Snr. Importante wasn’t too interested in doing this as he was checking his iPhone.  As the boat sped over the waves off I sat on the starboard side looking out over the sea.  Turning back I noticed that Snr. Importante wasn’t there – he was at the back of the boat, throwing up and looking as grey as his hair.  And looking a whole lot less important.  I know I shouldn’t find humour in others misfortunes but the guy deserved it for being rude, self-important and not giving a toss about his environment.

That was about it for the 2wks off.  Batteries suitably recharged we headed back to Quito to join the group going off to volunteer on the Galapagos.

And to think I wasn’t going to write anything...
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Larry Sovitch on

Am I envious? Naah; Not Bloody much!!

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