Sunday, March 3, 2013

Galapagos part 4

Day 7

I was up nice early again to head of to San Cristobal, the second most populous island in the Galapagos. I was talking to a French girl at the dock, and she was supposed to be on the same boat yesterday, but it left early without half the passengers. Since you pay in advance and the ticket agent takes down your name for the Captain’s list to check you off, that is pretty average. Also ticket prices seem to vary by about $5 for absolutely no reason at all. I think it just depends on what they feel like charging you. The Chilean guys were on this boat too, so it was good to see them again. And there were a bunch of hot Aussie surfers with their boards, so they were nice to look at for the 2 hour trip.

The first thing you notice when you dock in Puerto Baquerizo, is the sea lions. They are literally everywhere! 

Fighting you for bench space.

Taking over the footpaths.

This one is very cute.

But then his mate blocked me. I contemplated doing a run and jump over him, but he woke up and I had to walk all the way back around. You cannot get close to them or they will have a go at you and try and bite you.

Taking over the beach. 

A baby sea lion.

Lazing around at the pier. I really noticed they like to be touching each other a lot of the time. Almost like holding hands.

They also like climbing onto unattended boats.

Good boats.

Shit boats.

Speed boat and unattended pier. If it's unattended, they will claim it.

They are a pain in the arse to get off as well. I watched  guy trying to get one to leave for about 5 minutes, before it reluctantly moved.

All these sea lions everywhere was highly entertaining, but think of dogs running around and the amount of random dog shit you have to avoid. Well this is the same, but with sea lion shit. Thankfully they clean the streets each morning.

After we arrived the French girl wanted to get some breakfast before she joined her cruise, so I went to a café with her. She told me she was really surprised at how little English people generally speak here. And she's French. They (generally) hate speaking English! For a place that relies on international tourism to remain economically viable, she has a point though.

The town.

After checking into the hostel I went in search of a tour for tomorrow. I booked a snorkelling tour, and the spots are meant to be awesome. Again, it pays to walk around as I was offered the same tour ranging from $50-$70.

Next I walked up to the Galapagos Interpretation Centre. 

I saw Sea Jesus on the way.

The Centre was awesome and free and turned out to be one of my favourite things in Galapagas. It gives you a complete history of the Galapagos up until the present. I did not realise Ecuador used to send its convicts here. It's a bit like the Poms sending their convicts to Oz. And like the Poms, they did a fantastic job at fucking up the native ecosystem by introducing non-native species.

I also learnt the British, French and Americans all had a go at one time or another to claim the Galapagos, but the Ecuadorians stood firm on that one. I was also interested to read that the Norwegians sold the idea of living in a tropical paradise to its citizens and thousands of them signed up and came over at one point. However, life turned out to be much harder than they expected and most of them returned to Norway within a year.

Of course it wouldn't be complete without a giant tortoise to see.

At the back of the Centre are some really nice walks. I did these in the afternoon. 

They all provide excellent views back over the town, beaches and Kicker Rock/ León Dormido

View of Puerto Baquerizo

Charles Darwin.

Snorkelling area.

Galapagos finch (that nests in the cactus trees)

Kicker Rock (in the background).

I also watched a sea lion catch a fish. It was pretty cool, but then he spent the next 10 minutes trying to keep the pelicans, other sea birds and a sea lion, away from it.

Then finally, in true South American style I went to buy fruit and vegetables and there was a baby chicken running around the shop!

Day 8

Today was is my last full day in Galapagos and I went snorkelling. Although it was fantastic, nothing seems to be well organised here. My ticket said 8.45am and the boy who sold me (another child labourer in his parent's shop) told me yesterday to come back to their shop at that time. I arrived promptly at 8.45 and he told me to go the pier (like a minute’s walk). There was no one there but some official tourist looking guy so I asked him where the boat was. He called out to some other guys on boats but they didn’t know anything. So, I went back to the shop and the boy said the boat comes at 9am and sent me back to the pier. Then 2 minutes later the boy comes and gets me and we walk up to another shop where everyone is trying on wetsuits, fins etc. So I get my gear sorted and we go back to pier. This time people from the second place start coming down. By now a good 30 minutes has passed. Then we wait some more. And about 30 mins after that we finally get on the boat. Of course no one speaks English, so I only got half of what’s going on and why we were so late.

With all the standing around, I did get to see this turtle, which came right up to the pier. Absolutely amazing.

So, an hour after being on the boat we get to the first snorkel spot, at Isla Lobos (uninhabited). Lots of birds (boobies) and sea lions here. 

Under the water, which was crystal clear, I saw fish, a turtle (which swam straight under me), an eel, a stingray, sea lions, and a marine iguana swimming quite deep. This was interesting cos I thought they could only swim on the surface. I rented a wetsuit but this snorkel session was quite long and we were all really cold by the end.

The boat continued on to Kicker Rock which is one the oldest islands in the archipelago, and also uninhabited. This is a very popular diving and snorkelling spot. However, the currents were very strong and the water looked really deep, so I freaked out a little bit and stuck with the guide and held onto a lifesaver ring, along with a couple of other people. Still, we saw 3 manta rays swimming together, loads of fish, some turtles, and I counted about 6 sharks at one time. Some poor girl got freaked out by all the sharks and had to go back to the boat. Even though these ones aren't known for attacking humans, they were pretty big, so it was a little scary.


Next up, we went to Ochoa Beach. This was very picturesque and nice to relax on for an hour. The only problem was there was no shade and it was the middle of the day. Seriously, the sun here is relentless. It does not seem to matter how much or how frequently you apply sunblock, you still get burnt. That is one of the reasons I kept renting wetsuits every time I go snorkelling (that and the water does feel cold after a while). Unfortunately, my head keeps getting sunburnt where my part is everytime I’m in the water since you can’t snorkel with a hat on!


After the beach we headed back to Kicker Rock, to another side where the currents weren’t as strong. This time I saw more turtles, a hammerhead shark, more Galapagos sharks, manta rays, and a big green starfish (same size as the ones from my diving trip). It was pretty awesome. 

This was the best snorkelling trip I did in the Galapagos. Diving here would have been good, although I'm not sure they let you do discovery dives given the currents.

Anyway, that is the end of my Galapagos adventures. It is truly a magical place, and I encourage everyone to come here if they get the opportunity. Tomorrow, I'm off to the Ecuadorian beach town of Montanita for a few weeks of Spanish school.

Hasta luego!