Friday, January 4, 2013

Christmas in the Galapagos

Welcome 2013!  I feel as though it is going to be a great year, with many ups and downs, as I will be finishing my Peace Corps Service and hopefully starting another great adventure!

I left the office on the 20th to go to Quito and receive my parents that night on midnight.  It´s amazing how many times I´ve been at this airport, but once again I was there waiting, watching as their flight once again was delayed....ugh...Luckily it was not as delayed as the other time and arrived about an hour and half later.

We went back to the hotel and had all of Friday to be in Quito.  Friday night was the de-briefing with our tour group.  Were were a group of 16; another family of four from Oregon (daughter 10 and son 14), a family of three (son, 20) from Chicago, a couple from California, a couple from Finland, and a guy from England.  It was a really good group and we had a lot of fun.

I´ll give you a little overview of what we did at each of the islands.
We arrived to Santa Cruz island and walked to the hotel.  Saw sea lions basking in the sun, in the afternoon we rode up to the highlands and then biked down to a loberia, where new sea lion pups had just been born, they are adorable animals and so fun to watch in the water.  We biked back into town and had dinner.

We went for our first snorkeling adventure.  The water is absolutely beautiful and the life under the water is even more. Mom had her first encounter with a snorkel, and lets just say it didn´t go well, she tried though, bless her heart :) The snorkeling was great, we swam with sea lions, saw many different colors of fish and even a turtle!  The second snorkeling was by this rock formation called Kicker Rock.  There we swam with sharks...well not exactly with them, but they were not too far below, and also saw sting rays!

We had lunch on the boat and set for a beach to have some free time.

We took a somewhat rocky TWO HOUR boat ride to Floreana, one of the least inhabited (by people) islands. We had a really nice hike  in the highlands and learned a little bit about the history of the first people that arrived.  The beach that our hotel was on had black sand, very pretty!

We headed yet again to another Island called Isabela.  Our tour guide was from here and had much to be proud of.  This was probably my favorite island.  A small beach community, not as developed as Santa Cruz or San Cristobal, but has more people than Floreana.  We started off with a walk through different mangroves and volcano landscapes.  We ended up at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and saw these huge turtles and then the itty bitty ones that had just been born.  In the afternoon we had free to walk the beautiful beaches.  Fine, white sand and crystal clear turqoise water.

This day we did some snorkeling and saw the galapagos penguin!  Such a cute little animal. Mom did her best at yet another effort of snorkeling but alas decided to stay inland.  After this we went to see the sharks and walk around on some volcananic landscape.  They had told us that we were not going to have bathrooms until the afternoon, and even though we were all concious of this we still had to pee by mid morning.  So they said the only bathroom we would have is the water.  About four of us lowered ourselves into the water from the small dock.  Poor Ruth on her way up cut her knee.  It bled profusely, thank god the guide had a first aid kit. We went to see tortoises mating and sharks trying to rest, while little fish moved them out of their area!

On the way back into town we took about an hour to do some kayaking, which was really fun!

Mom´s Birthday, and the big hike day.  We hiked around Sierra Negra Volcano, that last errupted in 2005.  Sadly it was very foggy and kinda rainy so we could not see the crater.  We then arrived to miles and miles of lava fields and at the top a breathtaking view of the island and ocean!  By the time we got back everyone was drenched and muddy.  We all cleaned up and had a lovely Birthday Dinner for Mom and did some dancing, I think she was content :)

We traveled to the last Island, Santa Cruz.  This is the most populated Island and the most developed. It´s a very nice Island but very touristy and Im glad we only stayed for one day.  Right when we arrived we dropped off our stuff  at the hotel and went straight to the Charles Darwin Station, saw where lonely George lived.  We also saw different land lizards that were very colorful in yellow and orange. In the afternoon we walked to Tortuga Bay.  When you first arrive you find a beach with super white sand, crashing waves and lots of people, then you have to walk practically the whole beach and arrive to this little hidden place where the water is calm, almost like a pool.  It wasn´t that deep, which made it warmer!  So pleasant.  Mom and I went to the Beach and Howard and Ruth stayed back...

Ahh yes to continue the story about Ruth´s leg.  A couple days before Ruth had hit her leg while peeing in the ocean, well turns out that the anti-bacterial liquid that the guide drenched her led with had completely taken off the sunscreen, soooo she happened to get an awful awful burn on her leg, that turned into a swollen leg and foot and various blisters on her leg!!!  So she stayed back to keep her foot up and hope that the swelling would go down.

Once mom and I got back from the walk to Tortuga Bay we took a strole through town and looked in the different shops to see what to buy.  I didn´t get anything but they bought different things for people back home.

That night we had our final dinner together as a group on Galapagos and Saturday headed back to Quito.  The flight had been moved up so we were not able to get to the higlands of Santa Cruz.  The drive was enough, about an hour ride from the port to where we needed to take a ferry to the airport.  We drove through everything, forest, dessert, rain, and sun.  The ferry ride was about 10 minutes and in no time we arrived to the airport.  This little thing in the middle of nowhere.  When we arrived the airport there weren´t really any people, but by the time we were closer to our flight time, it was PACKED.  We got on the plane and said goodbye to the lovely Galapagos!!!

Saturday we arrived back at the hotel and had a couple hours to kill so I showed Mom, Howard, and Ruth a nice little store that has different gifts from fair trade places around Ecuador.  We had a dinner in Quito together, the majority were there, others decided to go into the oldtown.

All in all I would totally recommend for other to visit the Galapagos.  It can be pricy but is sooooo worth the experience.  So many different things to see and do!

Alright I´ll continue the rest of my vacation on another post.

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