A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Ninirock

Galapagos

sunny 28 °C

We flew to the Galapagos from Guayaquil to a small island called Baltra. We then took a small ferry, a bus and a taxi to get to our hostel in the biggest town in the Galapagos called Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. Our hostel host was very helpful and gave a quick tour around the town and a few tips on what to do. We sorted out an itinerary for the week so we could get the most out of the islands in the short time we had there. Our budget didn't quite cover the £1000s needed to do a cruise to see a lot more of the islands but we found we had more than enough to and see just by island hopping. I'm planning on coming back anyway so I'll save the cruise for then!

I've written about the Galapagos in sections of what I saw on each island instead of chronological order. This is because I want to save the best day until last and that was actually my first day in the islands.

Isla Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos. In the South of the island is Puerto Ayora which was our base from where we arranged and went on trips to the other islands. Its quite a lively town compared to the others and it's well catered for tourists. There's lots of restaurants, souvenir shops and getting a can anywhere in town only costs you $1 - it was a law brought in to stop them ripping off the tourists. Just walking to the pier you can see sea lions lounging around and red crabs that are endemic to the islands. At night they light up the water at the end of the pier and you can see baby rays and sharks trying to catch schools of little fish. Its amazing how much wildlife just from this port!

From Puerto Ayora we got a 'panga' (motortaxi) across the bay to walk to Las Grietas. Las Grietas means the cracks in English. Its a big crack between the volcanic rock with a pool of water that's made up of a mixture of salt water and rainwater. The water is so clear. We went snorkeling there and saw a few big parrotfish. There was a guy that jumped from the top of the rock but Emma and I weren't that brave. We were lucky enough to have Las Grietas to ourselves for most of the time. It was so peaceful. On the trail there you pass the cactus trees that can only be found in the Galapagos - they're really weird looking! There's also a beach on the way back that we snorkeled at. We saw a few little fish and some finches that came looking for some of our food. The water on the shore was shallow so it felt like a warm bath!

There is another beach called Tortuga Bay which was quite a walk away from Puerto Ayora. The beach was beautiful and surrounded by mangroves.

Las Grietas

Las Grietas

We walked around the 'Estación de Charles Darwin' which is the scientific research station in the Galapagos. There are some very lucky people who get to work there! In the station there's a few tortoises and land iguanas. We also saw the empty enclosure that was Lonesome George's home who died last year. It was so sad, I bet he didn't have a clue how famous he was!

We also went inland to a giant tortoise reserve called El Chato. The tortoises are free to come and go as they please. The farmers nearby build their fences high enough for the tortoises to walk under. Afterwards we went to walk through a lava tunnel nearby. Part way through the tunnel the ceiling was really low so we had to climb through golum style!

Giant Tortoise

Giant Tortoise

Isabela Island

We got a boat to the largest island called Isabela. We went to see a tortoise nursery. There were tortoises of all ages and we saw them eating. They only get fed 3 times a week! The guy working there showed us some tortoise embryos to demonstrate the development of a tortoise. They're so small when they hatch but grow into giants!

We went to an islet formed of lava just off Isabela island called Las Tintoreras. There were thousands of marine iguanas climbing on top of each other to try and stay warm. Every now and again they sneeze to expel the salty water they take in when they go swimming - it travels quite far! There's also a small chasm with really clear water where we saw young white tip sharks resting during the day. They go and hurt during the night. There were loads if them! Afterwards we went snorkeling nearby and saw an abundance of fish and Emma spotted a sea cucumber - I would've never seen it! We then got in the boat and passed a small colony of Galapagos penguins standing on some rocks. They looked like they were being bullied by the blue footed boobies who pecked them until they moved over!

Galapagos Penguins

Galapagos Penguins

Isabela island has 4 main active volcanoes. We walked to Sierra Negra, which is the 2nd largest crater in the world. It was 10 km in diameter. The last eruption was in 2010 but there are plants that have colonised already.

Sierra Negra Volcano

Sierra Negra Volcano

North Seymour

I had my first diving experience ever around North Seymour Island. I did a discovery dive which basically meant I had a guy to do everything for me. I just had to be pulled along! I had to learn how to empty my goggles under water and pop my ears but that was it. I was hoping nothing would go wrong as I wouldn't have had a clue what to do!

Me diving

Me diving

On the first dive we saw rays, a hammerhead shark in the distance and lots of huge starfish. There were also loads of garden eels that pop back into their holes when you swim over them! I wasn't meant to do a second dive but I really wanted to so they let me. On this dive we saw so many colourful damselfish, parrot fish and loads of barracudas. We also saw over 15 white-tipped reef sharks which were resting on the sea floor or swimming calmly in the current.

IMG_1164.jpgIMG_1146.jpg

White-tipped Reef Sharks

San Cristóbal island

Our first full day was probably the best day we had in the Galapagos. We did a snorkeling tour to San Cristobal island. On the 2 hour boat ride to the islands we were accompanied by dolphins jumping out of the water alongside the boat. I think that was a good omen for the day to come! We first went to "La Loberia" which was a sheltered shallow bay which was full of fish and huge green sea turtles who were eating algae of the rocks. They were about a metre wide and weren't bothered by us swimming around them!

The next stop was Kiki Rock. We swam through a gap in the rock and could see about 15 Galapagos sharks (about 2m long) and we saw 2 hammerhead sharks a few metres below us! It was amazing. We were so lucky because people we spoke to had gone diving there and not seen any hammerheads. As we swam to the other side of the gap we saw nine Spotted Eagle Rays swimming gracefully in formation, they were so pretty!

The final snorkel site we went to was in a shallower area of water. We jumped out the boat and then sea lions came to play with us. They'd come right up to your face and then turn around just before they touched you. They were trying to scare us I think! One of the baby sea lions was playing catch with a sea anemone. It was such a great end to the day as I hadn't expected the sea lions to be that playful!

Posted by Ninirock 15:08 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Short Stop in Guayaquil

sunny 32 °C

We left Mancora for Ecuador on a night bus that ended up in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. This was were the boys flew home from. We managed to have a look around before the left. There's a nice development called Malecón 2000 that runs next to the river and was built in 2000. It has shops, cafes and parks and leads all the way to Las Peñas. Las Peñas is the colourful old town of Guayaquil built on a hill. We walked up to the top to look out over the city and to go up the lighthouse. We also visited the Iguana Park which is a park in the middle of the city which is covered in iguanas. Some of the iguanas were really big!

Land Iguana

Land Iguana

We only had a short stay in Guayaquil. Emma and I had planned to start volunteering on 26th May but there was a last minute change because one of the team was ill so we would start a week later. Emma and I took the opportunity to do a quick visit to the Galapagos. We had decided a while ago anyway that we would push back our flights to see the islands so it worked out well for us.

Posted by Ninirock 13:41 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Mancora Maaaan!

semi-overcast 28 °C

Mancora is a touristy surfer town on the coast of northern Peru. Its a very chilled out place and has some good restaurants so we ate very well here. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great but Joe still managed to get sunburnt so lived up to the British stereotype ha! The sea was warm and had massive waves to play in. I almost drowned a hundred times and swollowed most of the Pacific ocean but it was good fun. Most of the time we spent on the beach but we also did yoga on a roof top overlooking the sun set over the sea. It was very picturesque apart from that I had seawater dripping out my nose for the entire time that made it slightly less attractive!

We stayed in a really nice place with wooden bungalows which each had their own hammock and there was a little pool next to a terrace. It was lovely and quiet. If we didn't want to walk somewhere we just had to flag a tuk tuk that would take us anywhere in town for £1. There weren't any normal taxis.

We took a Peruvian cooking class where the lady, Luz, took us tp the market to buy the ingredients and then gaves us instructions how to cook the dish called Aji de gallina, which literally mean chili of hen but it tastes more like corination chicken. It was very tasty and we had it with fresh passion fruit juice made from the fruit off her tree.

We also went to the local hot springs, which turned out to be a big warm muddy puddle (we don't have much luck with these Peruvian hot springs) but we got in anyway. I'm glad there were a few people there already otherwise we would've wondered where the taxi driver had taken us! We covered ourselves in mud because its meant to be good for the skin.

Emma and I somewhere managed to persuade the boys to do a salsa class with us. We learnt a few of the steps but I think we need a lot more practise before we get up and dance in a salsa bar!

Posted by Ninirock 13:14 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Moon worshippers of Trujillo

Huanchaco

semi-overcast 26 °C

We arrived in Huanchaco in the early hours of the morning. Luckily the hostel let us check in straight away so we could have a little sleep before starting the day. We went to 3 pre-inca ruins. The first was called Huacs Arco Iris. We had a guide that showed us around but he didn't speak any English so I had to translate for Joe and Ned (or try anyway - they wouldn't have known if I was making it up)! Here they had original carvings in the wall of things sacred to them. There were 200-300 people living in this palace and when the king died all his people had to die to so they could serve him in the afterlife. So the palace turned into a tomb. The next place we went to was a similar palace called Huaca La Esmeralda. The final place we went to was Chan Chan where we had a private guided tour who told us the history of the place. It was huge! They loved sacrificing in those days, there were 3 squares dedicated just to sacrificing ceremonies. This was the captital of the area and where the most powerful royalty lived. The servants had separate corridors and live in basic huts whereas the royalty lived in intricately carved buildings. To the people that lived there the moon and sea were sacred along with condors, jaguars and snakes. In Chan Chan when the king died his wife and the best person of every profession was sacrificed so that he'd have the best people to serve him in the afterlife. It was very interesting!

Chan Chan

Chan Chan

Huaca de la Luna

Huaca de la Luna

That night we went to a lively bar to eat and have a few drinks. It was really fun and there was a live band. We also bumped into a couple who we'd met in the hostel in Lima.

The next day we went to see some more ruins. Trujillo is an archeologist's paradise as there's so many ruins that haven't been excavated yet! These ruins were called Huaca de la Luna. This was the principle temple for politics and ceremonies for the Moche culture that were around 200-850 A.D. It was a temple made up of 4 layers. These people worshipped the moon which was reflected by the murals that covered the outside walls. The university there is still carrying out excavations and plan to excavate the nearby Huaca del Sol that they know nothing about.

After our very cultural stop in Trujillo we moved on to the less cultural town of Mancora.

Posted by Ninirock 13:07 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

High Up Again in Huaraz

sunny 18 °C

Huaraz is a town in the Peruvian Andes near the Cordillera Blanca and Negra mountain ranges. We did a bike ride that started off between the two ranges. It was very pretty cycling downhill passed farms and people that obviously never see white people because they'd say gringos when we went passed and when we stopped we got surrounded by staring kids. It was pretty funny! We stopped off at (yet another) ruin called Willkaiwan which were built by the Wari between 700 and 1100 A.D.

-The Ruins

The Ruins

Unfortunately the bikes were bad quality so our hands were aching and frozen in a claw position by the time we got to the bottom because we had to brake so hard. Emma and I had to get off and walk a few times. We then cycled along the roadside to get to some thermal baths. The thermal baths turned out to be a luke warm brown swimming pool which wasn't very inviting but we got in anyway! We got a colectivo on the way back which is a minibus that picks people up and drops them off anywhere on the route. It was quite an experience especially because a drunk old couple got on the bus - he was talking on his phone upside down and then she threw up in her scarf and then got out without paying - lovely! That night Ned ordered cuy (guinea pig) and we all tried a bit. I don't think any of us will be ordering it again!

The next day we went on a hike to see Laguna 69. We had to drive for 2 1/2 hour bumpy ride to start the hike and passed Lake Llanganuca on the way which is a beautiful turquoise colour. The hike was a lot harder than I thought it would be. We started at 4,000m and took 3 hours to climb up to the lagoon which was 4,600m high. It rained the whole time which although didn't make great pictures it definitely kept us cool. When we got to the lake it started hailing which wasn't surprising considering there was a glacier a few metres higher. The Laguna was beautiful and made a great picnic spot, once we'd found a big rock to shelter behind! The walk down was easier on the lungs but harder on the legs the landscape was so pretty. We made it back to the minibus before it left without us and we endured the extremely bumpy ride back to Huaraz.

Laguna 69

Laguna 69

The next day we explored around the town and watched some street performers dancing in the middle of the road in between the traffic. We got a cab to a viewpoint 20 mins out of town on the top of a hill to look down on the city. The taxi driver almost ruined his car getting us there because the road was so bad! That night we ate in a restaurant that had a powercut. The food was really good when it eventually got to us but we had to rush to get the night bus to Trujillo.

Posted by Ninirock 12:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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