Quito and Galapagos
Quite a while ago we arranged to meet up with my brother Andy  and his wife Anne for a holiday in the Galapagos Islands which are off the coast of Ecuador. At the time of booking we thought that we would easily have made it to the capital Quito to start the trip. However, being slow, as the date approached we found ourselves still in Lima Peru, only about 2000 km short. 

After a quick re think we left the truck near Lima and flew to Quito.

Quito is a very nice colonial city with lots of very Spanish looking architecture and buildings. The old town wouldn't look out of place in Madrid or Barcelona.

I have mentioned on several occasions the we have been blown away by the kindness and hospitality offered to us on this journey and yet again it happened in Quito. 

Whilst struggling to buy a local phone card a nice young guy, who was behind me in the queue, offered to help me with a bit of interpreting. Well after a bit of a chat he very kindly offered to take Pat and I round the city the next day. At first you become suspicious but Pablo , who is a Doctor by profession, was such a lovely guy , we gladly accepted his kind offer.

The next morning Pablo and his wonderful Mum Janett picked us up and we headed down town.

Quito Basiica

Quito Basiica

Quito Basiica

Virgin of El Panecillo

It was a brilliant day and we will remember Pablo and and Janett forever.

There are several ways to visit Galapagos. You can either book it all in advance to ensure you get the experience you want or you can wing it but still have a great time. As always Pat spent weeks reading, planning and booking etc and it really paid off . I did nothing other than enjoy her efforts.

Galapagos is a collection of Islands in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1400 km west of Quito.

Formed millions of years ago through Volcanic activity each island has become its own unique Eco system and is home to approximately 35,000 people and thousands of species of animals, birds, insects, reptiles and marine life . It is now a tourist hotspot.

With every minute of our trip booked we started on the island of San Cristobal.

After a couple of days of acclimatising we boarded our short 4 day island hoping cruise.  

The boat called the "Cormorant" was amazing. I cannot think of one fault with this ship. It was luxury that we haven't experienced  before. The food, service and accommodation was excellent.

Now I should warn you now that if you continue to read this blog entry , which I hope you will, it is going to be come a photo overload. During our time in the islands I managed to take over 2400 pictures. Don't worry you wont get them all .

The first stop for a bit of snorkeling was a remote island called Kicker Rock. Here we got our first taste of the marine life including Hammerhead and Galapagos sharks, Frigate birds and Boobies. 

Snorkeling here was pretty tough as we hit the currents between the rocks. 

The relatively uninhabited island of Espanola introduced us to Iguanas, Galapagos Gulls, Sally Lightfoot Crabs and Nasca Boobies. Unfortunately we were just out of Albatross season and didn't see any.

Christmas Iguana

Nasca Boobie

Sally Lightfoot Crab

Floreana was home to Stilts, Herons, Flamingo's Rays and Sharks

It soon became apparent that most of the wildlife had no fear of humans, this allowed us to get relatively close without alarming them.

The island of Floreana is also home to a very old and primitive postal service. This involves you placing a letter or a postcard in a barrel in the hope that a future visitors will feel that they are in a position to deliver it . We wrote cards to our kids fully believing that they might get them after many months or even years . We placed them in the barrel and unbelievably within about 2 weeks both of our daughters had recieved their cards.

A famous book called "Satan comes to Eden" is based on the sinister exploits of some of the islands early European Immigrants.

Between island visits we spent many hours snorkeling in turquoise seas with Giant Turtles, over friendly Sea Lions and brilliantly coloured fish. Sadly our cameras weren't capable of being used in the water.

On one occasion we found ourselves swiming near the boat. A couple of hours later as the sun went down the area we had been in took on a sinister flavour.

Back on Terra Firma on the island of Santa Cruz we were lucky enough to visit a farm in the highlands near its capital Puerto Ayora. The farm is situated right in the path of wandering Giant Tortoises that spend their entire life either heading up the hill or down to the coast. These totally wild tortoises  pass through the farmland unhindered and its a great place to get close to them

Although exact ages aren't known it is believed that some are in excess of 150 years old

The naturalist Charles Dawin is very familiar name on these islands .

In 1831 Charles Darwin left England on the HMS Beagle on a 5 year voyage with the aim of discovering, studying and cataloguing new species.

Aged 26 he arrived in Galapagos in September 1835 and stayed for only 5 weeks. During this time it is claimed that Darwin developed several theories regarding The Origins of Species,  Evolution and Natural Selection.

His legacy lives on today in the form of several Tortoise Breeding Centres , Study Programs and Protected Habitat.

One such centre is located in Puerto Ayora , on Santa Cruz.  

This centre is also the final home of a famous "Saddle Back" giant Tortoise from the island of Pinta called "Lonesome George" who sadly died in 2012 and was the last known member of his species. The tortoises on each island are slightly different and are individual species

In santa Cruz we stayed in the beatiful and recomended "Galapagos Cottages"

A day trip to to the island of Bartolome introduced us to another landscape. Its relatively recent volcanic activity has left many parts of it very barren devoid of vegetation.

Our guide for the day claimed that its Volcano had last erupted 9009 years ago. When questioned on the accuracy of this date he stated that when he was at college 9 years he was told that it had erupted 9000 years before. Well you can't argue with that.

Blue Footed Boobie

Galapagos Hawk

It was areally hot day with a steep uphil to the summit. Luckily some ponsy actors and actresses from the film "Master and Commander " had insited that many kilometers of wooden walkways were installed on the island as they didnt like getting their feet dirty.

The largest Island in this Archepelago is  Isabela.  We loved our week there. Experiencing swimming with Giant Turtles, Iguanas, Rays and Penguins will be a memory we will treasure . 

A day trip to the bizarre landscape of the "Tunnels"was well worth doing.

The small collection of Islands known as Islote Las Tintoreras just a of the islands capital Puerto  Villamil was a great place to Kayak and snorkel.

Whilst on Santa Cruz we briefly met a fantastic couple called Dan and Kerstine. By chance we re met them on Isabela and they became our regular dinner partners and my Hiking buddies on the islands Volcano "Sierra Negra ".  This Volcano's crater is 45km in circumference and it was active 6 months ago.

Sadly the Galapagos trip came to an end but if anyone of you are considering going, we would recommend it without hesitation. We had a fantastic time that we will remember for ever.

Back in Quito we spent a few days in and around the city. 

Being right on the equator we had to visit the Equatorial line that has been marked by a very impressive monument and ornamental gardens called "Mitad del Mundo"

This very impressive structure was built in 1982 to mark the exact line of the Equator. It was claimed to span the line being half in the northern hemisphere and half in the south.

However, some time after its construction GPS came into being and it was soon established that this very expensive monument was in fact completely in the wrong place . Its about about 250 meters too far north.   Shit happens I guess.

The real line is marked by a less impressive Quecha settlement. It would appear that the indigenous folks knew where it was all the time .

At the actual line we did all the usual experiments with plug holes and balancing. Don't know if any of its actually true but it was a good bit of fun.

Hasta Luego

Only joking. Here are a few more pictures