So with last-minute flights booked to the Galapagos I had to make my way back to Quito. I ended up missing the last bus because I was browsing the street food stalls for dinner and obviously got carried away. I was told at the terminal if I wanted to make it to Quito that night I would have to go to the motor way to try to flag a bus down. A pain in the arse with my ever exploding backpack but at least it was an option. I ended up meeting a girl from Venezuela doing the same.
After chatting to the gal from Venezuela named Hennessy she immediately invited me to her house in Quito to stay before my flight. We were chatting for hours and it turns out Hennessy has been living in Quito for the past 6 months while her mother and 3 children are still in Venezuela, where the situation is really volatile and dangerous at the moment with lots of the country fleeing for safety. She is trying to secure a permanent visa so that her children can come to live with her. Sadly her brother, a policeman, was killed last year. He was stabbed during a protest. Hennessy was in Otavalo for the day helping a friend of hers (also from Venezuela ) to find a job. This poor man lost one of his legs last year also in a protest in Venezuela where a car ran over him. I couldn’t have felt more guilty about saying I was off to the Galapagos Islands the next day. We have no idea how lucky we are to be able leave our country yet alone travel. There are so many people here who will never have this opportunity and they want to do everything to help us.
When I arrived at Hennessy’s house there were 8 other Venezuelan men all sharing one tiny floor. The area was quite obviously dodgy and the taxi man was worried about letting us out of the car because there were some dangerous characters around. I was immediately treated to a Venezuelan delicacy of some flat breads and cold tuna pate. It was disgusting but the nicest gesture. The sleeping situation was a bit rough to say the least but I was so grateful to be there because I left all of my tent, sleeping bag etc…..so that I could travel to the Galapagos lightly. In the middle of the night I felt ants and spiders all over my body now I’m not sure if it was bed bugs (never experienced them) or potentially there is something dodgy living in my sleeping bag. I was serenaded by 7 different Venezuelans snoring their heads off for the night but I didn’t care I was far too excited for the Islands. Everyday I appreciate how lucky I am it’s honestly only when you physically meet these humble people who have fled from their countries and families that you realise how blessed we are.
The following morning was a little stressful I wanted to give myself loads of time at the airport and contrary to normal I wanted to be organised. But Hennessy had other ideas she was up at 5am making more of these Venezuelan flat breads and boiling pots of water so that I could wash myself. I know I’ve been living rough but this was incredible. I insisted I could find a taxi alone but Hennessy was having none of it and wouldn’t let me go alone as a result I barely made the flight. This was partly caused by me getting v delayed at a FREE chocolate tasting en route to the terminal
On the flight I got chatting to my neighbor Wilson who is working in the Galapagos for the next 3 months. We got on great and before I knew it he was offering me a couch to stay on with his friend Carlos. Free accommodation in the Galapagos is a rarity so I was v v lucky. Security stopped me en route in as I accindently had a leaf in my backpack which is a big no no and they were not impressed. They are really strict about entry to the Island. Day 1 on the Islands I had no idea what to do/expect so lucky me I found a really organised German who I met on the plane who had itineraries coming out of his ears so needless to sy I tagged along.
The Galapagos is one of the most unique places I have ever seen there is exotic wildlife wherever you turn with lots of the species only found on this Island. It is notoriously expensive and a place I had never planned on going to but worth every penny.
Myself and Germany on our first day did some gorgeous snorkelling in an enclosed cave called Las Grietas. We finished the day by going to Tortuga bay a stunning beach where you see lots of marine Iguanas, an endemic species that can only be found on the Galapagos. Swimming here we could also see lots of baby sharks. The government are extremely strict about conserving the nature in the Galpagos so all beaches close at 6pm.
Santa Cruz Island has the most amazing kiosk street with the freshest exotic fish you can imagine. Naturally they are all gagging for your business. We ended up finding the best restuarant on the island and went there basically everynight. A group of American men recognised my loud voice from the plane and called us over claiming Irish ancestry which deserved a few celebratory beers. The sea food here is all freshly grilled for you and is out of this world and a whole grilled fish for 7$ is a steal (including salad, rice, plantains, coconut, chili and garlic sauce). The Americans were legends and we ended up having dinner with them most nights (mostly on the house, v v generous people). One night we had a random gathering of people including a opera singer who sang me a personalised version of Ave Maria I almost chocked on my fish trying not to laugh.
On our first night together myself and Nils were starving even after finishing dinner. We were ease dropping on the couple next to us who didn’t finish their lobster. Gagging for a taste I asked the waiter could I finish their left overs. A little taken aback he gave them to me. Myself and Nils sucked the leftover lobster dry. Divine. The Gallaghers would be proud especially my uncle Joe who wouldn’t waste a crumb. I have learned never to have any shame when it comes to good food and luckily Nils was on the same page.
The only way to see lots of the exotic animals on the Island is to take daily tours. This is obviously really pricey and tours range from 100-200$ just for a day trip. The next day Nils was doing a tour and I decided to rent a bike with 3 other guys to go explore the Island’s lava tunnels, volcanic craters and visit the tortoise reserve. This was an amazing day just hanging out with giant tortoises, unique to the Island and the largest reptile on earth. They believe that up to 20,000 tortoises have been removed from the Island since the arrival of humans. Today only 10% of the original Galapagos tortoises remains. The tortoises feed off a local fruit tree called Guava which is delicious but the islands are having huge issues with this fruit (and blackberry) as they are spreading rapidly which is effecting the growth of other animals/ species. An interesting fact 1 pile of Galapagos tortoise poo can contain thousands of seeds which is spreading the Guava all over the Island.
One of the days myself and Nils went snorkelling to a place called Pinzon which was absolutely incredible. We got to swim with loads of sea turtles, marine iguans, sharks, playful sea lions and lots of amazing exotic fish and star fish. I didn’t want it to end. Lunch was fresh tuna fish on the boat.
So when we got back to the Island we both decided we wanted to change our flights to stay longer. The first thing that happens when you arrive in the Galapagos is you get overwhelmed and want to do everything. There are lots of free things to do but if you want to reach some more remote places you need to go on a cruise or take the tours. The tours aren’t cheap so you have to be selective and really think about what you want to see and what you can afford. I was chatting to a chap who said you can change your flights for 16 dollars and it was v easy. When I went to the flight agency they told me that normally it is only 16 dollars but somehow I managed to book my flight as an Ecuadorian citizen so it would be 135 dollars. God only knows how I managed that. I didn’t need much convincing and decided it was worth the extra few dollars to extend my stay to 2 weeks on the Island.
Most people who come to the Galapagos split their stay between the 3 islands. So we set off for the ferry to San Cristobal ons of the days. The journey is renowned for pukers! Idiot here didn’t realise that I had Gauva fruit in my bag that I had picked on my cycle the previous day. Anyway carrying this fruit is taken very seriously because it is threatening species. The security on the boats took me aside saying it was illegal to transport this fruit. I asked them could I eat them before boarding not wanting to waste the delicious fruit. Strangely enough they let me eat them but I then had to fill out an incident report, the fruit skins were weighed my passport was taken a big hulabilu. The security people thought my name was Irish Roisin. Loving my new name! Anyway after all the fuss the boat was waiting for me to leave we eventually got going and a pretty turbulent 2 hour trip. Luckily I was able to keep the puking at bay if you will pardon the pun.
We were greeted by crowds of sea lions in San Cristobal they are definitely one of my favourite animals on the Island. They love humans especially when you are snorkelling with them in the water. For the day we hiked to some lovely view points and went to a spot where there was free snorkelling where we saw more sea turtles. It was here that we met legendary Rosemary a 70-year-old Canadian who has been backpacking for the past 10 years since the death of her husband. She too extended her flights. We instantly bonded over having hairy legs and not caring although Rosemary may have taken it to the extreme. Myself and Nils were starving and lucky for us Rosemary produced the goods; cucumber slices with mountains of salt all cut on her hairy thighs. We spend ages chatting about rosemarys fondness for smoking weed and how she has landed herself into more than a few hairy situations (if you will pardon the pun). A legend to say the least.