Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Galapagos part 1

Day 1

I arrived in the Galapagos Islands after about a 2 hour flight from Guayaquil. If you fly into Baltra you have to take a free bus down to the ferry (which then takes about 5 minutes and costs 80c to cross to Santa Cruz, the main island). It's hot and the water is a beautiful turquoise colour, which kinda makes you want to go swimming straight away.

Of course, there's always one dude who decides to backpack with a guitar. Why??? Guitars are good, but not when you're travelling. I bet he regrets carrying that around everywhere now that he's here.

Once you're off the ferry, you can either take the bus (if you know about it – lots of people don’t) or a taxi to Puerto Ayora, the biggest town in the Galapagos. Interestingly the public bus is supposed to cost $1.80, but I met a few people whose bus charged everyone $2, just cos they wanted to charge them more. This seems to be how things work here.

I arrived at the hostel, which is in a residential area and not near the main town area. But this is ok, since taxis to go anywhere in Puerto Ayora for $1. And it was quiet at night. All white utes on the island are taxis. And riding in the back is not illegal. In Guayaquil, I saw a ute load of coppers sitting in the back of one. Someone then told me they saw a ute load of coppers with big guns in the back of one in Mexico.

I presume, if you live here and want to buy a ute you need to get a different colour. I also think it makes sense to have utes, since pretty much everyone here has luggage, or they are hauling around oxygen tanks and diving gear, and half the roads outside of  Puerto Ayora are dirt and muddy. I also like that the Galapagos taxis don’t hassle you. Everywhere else in South America (and Asia for that matter) they seem to think that if they beep at you while you’re walking along, you’ll suddenly change your mind and realise you do want one, even though the 50 taxis ahead of them have done exactly the same thing. Grr, so annoying!

Anyway, I was the last new arrival at the hostel today. The owner is an American guy who's been living here for about 3 years. Interestingly he does not appear to speak much Spanish, even though he lives in a place where most locals don't speak English (I'll get to that). I even heard him talking to his wife (a Galapagos local) in English. I'd be really annoyed if I wasn't fluent in the local language after living somewhere for that amount of time. Anyway, he was just about to do his tour of the town with the other 3 new guests, 2 guys from Chile and a girl from Germany so I go to go too. So, off we all went back into town in a taxi that cost $1. 

This sea lion lives under this counter where you can buy freshly caught fish.

Sometimes he has to fight with pelicans to get the fish scraps.

First look at marine iguanas. Their camouflage is excellent. 

After seeing where things are located in the town, we looked into day tours and diving trips for the next couple of days. It pays to shop around since different places will quote you different prices for the same tours.

Day 2

This morning the Chilean boys (Alfred and Fabien) and I went to the Charles Darwin Research Centre to see the giant tortoises being feed at 8am.  

Unfortunately, the boys operate on South American time, and we got there about 8.30 and missed it. I was hoping they would eat at the speed they move, but that would not appear to be the case. 

But look, tortoises!!!!

Then we saw the baby tortoises. There are different sections for different ages. Kind of like school

Once they reach about 5 years of age (I think) and their shells are about 20-25cm, they get moved to a wild area, where there are other tortoise populations. Then it’s do or die time basically. However, they are all tagged with microchips so the scientists can work out which ones survive and where they are. Kind of like lowjacking.

Within the centre grounds, there is a beach. 

This is where we saw marine iguanas swimming for the first time!

It is cool, they don’t use their legs at all, just their tails. 

And there were these beautiful red rock crabs as well as black crabs with turquoise tones all over the rocks. The black ones don't show up well at all in photos so I haven't put any up here.

After the research centre, we met up with Ella from Germany and headed to Tortuga (Turtle) Bay. This about a 2.5km walk from the entrance to the national park. All over the island you can see cactus trees growing everywhere. 

Turns out these are native to the Galapagos. After they reach a certain age (I’m guessing) the trunks lose their spikes and become more like tree trunks. I also like that the tiny finches here have adapted and can nest in their branches despite the spikes, and they also eat the nectar in the cactus’ flowers. Nature is pretty awesome.

Finally we reached the beach. Hooray. It is super hot here and we couldn’t wait to get in the water.  There were marine iguanas everywhere. 

Like the cactus trees marine iguanas are also only found in the Galapagos. This one was minding our bags while we went for a swim. 

Then his mate showed up.

Walking back, we stopped in at this rock pool which was pretty good for snorkelling and swimming with pelicans.

Ecuador is having an election this weekend so every night the entire local population (it would seem) decides to rally for a particular party. Tonight was the blue party (I only know colours). 

Also, I heard that for the two days leading up to the election, no one is allowed to buy or drink alcohol. Not sure how true this was, but the booze did appear to be roped off on Sunday. Although this may have been a Sunday thing. I don't know. What I do know is this policy would be a death sentence for any party in every other free country around the world. I wonder how they got it in here?

Anyway, that's it for part 1. Next up is my first ever dive.