Sunday, February 24, 2013

Galapagos part 2

Day 3

Today I did my first ever dive. Neither Alfred or myself have a diving licence so we had to do a discovery dive with an instructor. This included watching an instructional video the night before, so we knew what to do in case of emergency. Ha. That'll work! I think this is something specific to South America (and probably Asia), since I'm pretty sure you can't dive at home without certification. Our instructor spoke good English though, so at least he went over everything on the boat and we knew the most important hand signals, which are the same in every language. 

So now that we know what to do, out we go on the boat, where we got kitted up in our dive. 

The first time I descended I freaked out massively being under the water after a few metres and had to come back up. After calming myself down I tried again, except this time I couldn’t equalise and my head was full of pressure. So, up we came again. 

The third time was good. No freaking out, and no exploding head! 

This is not the symbol for ok, but to go up. Fail. I like what the ocean is doing to my hair. It looks like one of those troll dolls.

Since I freaked out at the beginning my instructor held my hand. Aw, this is the closest I came to a Valentine's date.

It was pretty amazing being down there. We saw stingrays and some manta rays. 

Loads of fish.

Huge starfish (like 20cm or so). I have never seen any that size before, only small ones. 

The dive lasted around 30 mins then up we came. The water was really quite choppy now, and I’d forgotten to take my anti sea sickness pills this morning so I started feeling sick straight away. This meant I missed out on the next dive, where of course they saw sharks and turtles. 

I am annoyed I missed this.

After the dive, we headed back to the hostel to shower. Then we hired a taxi to take us up into the highlands. The trick here is to get people to come with you, as the taxi price stays them same ($30). Obviously you don’t pay the driver til the end so you don’t get stranded somewhere. Our first stop was los gemelos (the twins), which are sink holes caused by volcanoes once the magma chamber is empty. There's lots of plants and small birds up here now. Naturally that means lots of older German tourists walking around with huge zoom lens cameras.

Next stop was Rancho El Manzanillo to see tortoises roaming around. These ones were just walking along the road up to the ranch. 

It is so cool seeing them walk. They are pretty slow as you'd expect and when you get near them they go back into their shells and hiss at you. 

Since it had been raining we had to wear gumboots. Hmm, if I knew we'd be wearing these, I'd've brought socks!

Some of these tortoises are 150 years old. Ella and I wondered if they would need Viagra at that age, but the Chilean boys told us they would be fine since have Latin blood. Lol. 

This lake looks really polluted but it's not. The trees around it drop leaves into the water, which then grow like vines (or something). They turn red when when exposed to sunlight, hence the name "the red lake".

Here is an owl hidden in the men’s toilets. The owner took us in to show us. I had to stand between two urinals to take this photo. Nice.

Next we went to the lava tunnels, which were highly overrated in my opinion. Plus water kept dripping on us because of the rain, and it was really muddy and dark. 

This kid was our guide and told us the history of tunnels (I think. I couldn't really understand).

Hmm, child slave labour? I asked the Chilean boys to find out the deal. Apparently he is on school holidays and helping his parents out with the ranch. But today is 14th February, so I’d like to know when they go back to school here. Seems like a long summer to me. I'm from the Southern Hemisphere and Aussie kids go back to school in late January.

Also, he needs more training on how to appropriately guide people with a torch in pitch black.

Day 4

I was up early again today to get the boat over to Isabella, the largest island in the Galapagos. It has a beautiful long sandy beach.

The boat takes 2 hours but I remembered my anti sea sickness pills this time, so all good. An older Canadian guy (like in his 60s) got off the boat came with me to hostel I had booked. I hope I'm still travelling around in my 60s. Anyway, we hung out for the afternoon since he’s a Asthtanga yoga instructor and a vegan. He does this thing where he gets photos of himself doing headstands where ever he goes, including cliff edges. That seems kinda dangerous to me, but I like the idea of doing random headstands around the place.

I was less enthusiastic about the sand in my hair afterwards.

Then we went to the tortoise park for more tortoises. First we had to get past these guys.

Unlike yesterday these tortoises seemed ok for people to be up close to them and were a bit more animated, although they were in enclosures and you aren't allowed to touch them.

This was definitely the best place I saw tortoises and I learnt something new. Like most of the tortoises being bred in the Galapagos, these animals need to be protected for the first few years of their lives, but will be released into the wild when they are old enough. Basically no babies can survive on their own in the wild thanks to introduced species. Once again, humans have done a fantastic job at fucking things up by bringing over the usual pests with the first settlers. 

I also saw an interesting sign here, which said that no one alive today will still be around when these tortoises reach maturity. I thought that was an interesting yet slightly depressing thought about our mortality.

I think tortoises look so wise, like Gandalf. 

And also prehistoric, alien and a bit scary.

Up the road from the tortoises is a lake with flamingos in it. I think this is the first time I’ve seen them in the wild. Such beautiful birds. I blogged about them here.

After heading back into town, we searched for some dinner. You can get fruit and veg on the islands, but most of it does not look that fresh, probably cos of the heat and I assume a lot of it is imported. Anyway, we found enough ingredients for a salad, and everywhere sells cans of chickpeas, beans etc. I bought a can opener in Guayaquil since ring pull cans have not made it to South America yet, so we were set for a tasty, cheap vegan dinner. See you can make friends with salad - other vegans.

Next up: turtles and boobies.