Week 29: The Galapagos Islands, Quilotoa Laguna. Ecuador

Week two on the Galapagos started off with my German friend Nils leaving for Quito. I was so lucky the guy he was couch surfing with, Robert said I could stay for free once he left. I ended up staying in the mother’s bed room (she was mia at the time). I decided  to spend a few more days on the Santa Cruz Island. I made great friends with the biggest legend on the Island, Vicky, a lovely girl from Venezuela. I used to camp out in the agency where she worked eating  sea food empanadas and ice creams doing the odd bit of English translation.

Nils, Vicky and me on Santa Cruz

Robert, kindly gave me his bike one day so I decided to cycle to a nearby beach called Garietera (only 15km!!! away). Broke the bike en route so had to get a local to fix it and eventually reached the beach (drenched in sweat). It was pretty secluded so most people don’t bother coming here (unless by taxi). I immediately went swimming. This beach is more famous for its beauty rather than its snorkeling. However as always, I ended up swimming  far out and bumped into huge stingrays and a few sharks. I know most of the sharks in the Galapagos aren’t dangerous but when you bump into them alone without a group I kind of freaked out. Anyway after the initial shock I was delighted with my discovery. Back on the beach I went for a bit of shut-eye before the dreaded cycle home.

Empty Garietera Beach
One of the many birds on Garietera beach
Pelican just having a moment

One of the other days I went to the Charles Darwin Centre which is one of the few free things to do on the Island. It’s really interesting and talks about the conservation of a lot of the endemic animals on the island especially the tortoises. Near here there are stunning beaches with amazing snorkeling.  I got chatting to a few locals who brought me quite far out to see sea turtles and lots of sea lions. The people on the Island are absolute gems and really friendly. Dinner that night was with the Americans in our usual spot consisting of an array of freshly grilled fish and a few lobsters for good measure. No expenses spared!

Galapagos Tortoise
Happy Sweaty Faces !

I wanted to explore another Island so I went to Isabella which is the largest on the Galapagos. You take a two-hour ferry (this time I had no issues with the police and brought only apples with me; guava and blackberries are the only illegal fruits). Isabella is stunning and has amazing sandy beaches. It is home to lots of flamingos and penguins. The penguins are unique to the Galapagos and found no where else in the world. I spent 3 days here where one of the days I cycled to the wall of tears which is the remains of an ancient prison on the island where they used to send slaves. During the cycle  there are stunning hidden beaches that you can stop off at. Idiot here forgot to bring her bikini  (to a beach!!!) but lucky me it was so quiet I almost got away with swimming in the nip. I wore this see through dress while snorkeling but didn’t realise my arse was completely on show. It was only when I got out  that I was greeted by an Italian photography club. They were there taking photos of pelicans at sunset and evidently my arse too. Mortified!! Anyway I picked up a few photography tips from the hard-core photographers and a free pack of stale oreos off their guide. Happy out I made my way home in my see through dress in time for a glorious sunset.

Pelicans on Isabella
Fishing for dinner
Flamingos on Isabella Island
Some of the views en route to the wall of tears
Sunset on Isabella

The next day I went on  Los Túneles tour where I bumped into the legendary Rosemary once again (the 70-year-old backpacker with hairy legs). This was my favourite snorkeling of my entire trip. You snorkel through under water tunnels made out of lava and amazing coral. We  saw absolutely everything loads of sharks, sea turtles, gigantic sting rays, penguins and sea horses. This particular area is home to lots of the blue footed boobies ( amazing birds) definitely one of my favourite animals and I was dying to see  them up close.The blue footed boobie isn’t born with blue feet they only develop as they become older. They use their feet as a way of attracting the females. The bluer the feet the sexier the bird.

Blue footed boobie
Checking out who has bluer feet
No better day to wear blue

The captain of the boat couldn’t get over how pale I was and thought I was from a different planet. This resulted in an invitation to sit with him on the roof of the boat for the entire journey. This was incredible. He even gave me his 300 dollar sun glasses so I could spot all of the amazing sea life underwater. If only he knew my track record with sunglasses but obviously I said nada (still a little petrified of breaking/losing the expensive glasses). En route home the boat abruptly stopped where the captain immediately told us all to jump in for a chance to see 2 metre wide sting rays this was the highlight of the day amazing!!!!! Hard to believe these animals even exist.

Boat ride to los Tunelos
Bird watching on Isabella
Lava Tunnels
Spotting these loved up marine Iguanas on lovers  beach in Isabella
Sea lion

Before catching the ferry home I squeezed in one final snorkel in a beautiful coral area in Concha de Perla  where I had a final dance with the playful sea lions. Very sad to be saying goodbye to these legends.

I feel ya mate!
This perfectly sums up life on Isabella

Back in Santa Cruz I went back to Robert’s Mothers house to see if I could stay another night before my flight home. But Robert had left the Island and instead I found a really hairy hippy in my bed so I decided to look else where. I  went back to the travel agency to catch up with Vicky. After some 1 dollar ice creams and cameron empanadas (2$), the most stunning food on the Island. The owner asked me if I fancied a job in her agency that she was looking for someone who liked talking to randomers and who had some basic Spanish. She even offered me free accommodation in her house, Seriously tempted I told her I’d be on to her in the future. Instead she said I could sleep in the agency that night on the couch after hearing about the hairy man in the bed!!Happy Days!

So the Galapagos was never on my agenda but what an amazing experience. I met some of the best people and experienced the most unique wildlife. It’s almost impossible to be sad on the Galapagos because in ever corner are exotic animals. Having no plan is the best plan of all ( Germany might not agree with me on this one) but I love the freedom of it and not knowing what is around the corner.  I will certainly be back and who knows maybe as an employee  I could think of worse places to work.

Last night on the Galapagos

Arriving back to Quito was depressing to say the least and I was greeted to the most horrific storm. I had to make my way back to Hennessy’s house (the Venezuelan girl minding my backpack). I eventually negotiated the public transport to her neighborhood, an extremely dangerous part of Quito.  A group of women told me I shouldn’t  go there that robberies were rampant. A kind stranger eventually made contact with Hennessy and brought me directly to the house. I didn’t want to sleep there again because it was quite obviously a dangerous part of town but Hennessy  insisted on me staying. I bought a cake as a thank you but it almost resulted in a physical fight because there wasn’t enough cake to go around for the expanding crowd living in the house aka room (It was 16 that night including me).   Apparently, earlier that day there had been a shooting on the street . So the night was quite terrifying with people banging on their ‘windows’ which were made out of card board and constant sirens. I didn’t sleep a wink terrified of what might appear in the room. As per usual I was serenaded by the 8 Venezuelans snoring. On this occasion I had to share a bed with the one-legged man. A fairly rough night and quite the contrast from the Galapagos but a genuine insight into the lives of lots of Venezuelans at the moment. I really hope their situation improves soon and I would love to visit their country some day. The following morning Hennessy was up at the crack of down boiling pots of water for my ‘shower’ and making me chicken soup and sugary coffee. I eventually gathered my bits said goodbye and made my way to the Quilotoa Laguna looking like a wreck.

En route to the Laguna
Quilotoa Laguna
Views on the crater of the Quilota Laguna
Gorgeous vegetation in Quilotoa

The Quilotoa Laguna is one of Ecuador’s highlights. It is a collapsed volcano which is filled with water. You can walk around the entire crater or walk down into the volcano. The colour is incredible because of the high sulfate content. Lots of people do multiple day trekking around here but I decided to just go to the Laguna because the weather was fairly bad at the time. Making my way back to the bus I got chatting to a guy called Rodrigo who offered me a lift back to Quito as he was headed in that direction. We had a great chat and he invited me for a steak. 8$ for a filet mignon. It was sensational and my first steak in 3 months. I got a tour of Quito by night and Rodrigo kindly offered me a place to stay, an absolute gent. The next days plans was to go bird watching in Mindo.


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