The full story: GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

We spent the day today (Tuesday) touring Quito (about 2.2 million people) today checking out churches, museums and best of all the Equatorial line. It was phenominally cool!!! They had a demonstration of the Coriolis Effect exactly on the line, and then 3 m each side and the water actually drained through a sink straight down, clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Even I (who had taught Alex & Luke about the Coriolis Effect at about ages 7 & 4) had no idea that the results would be so amazingly visible barely 10 feet from the line. I assumed (somehow???) that we would have to travel a couple hundred meters either side to get a distinct difference. Verry, verry cool school lesson… Can’t wait to take the video back and show it in the kids science classes next year…

Tonight I added to the Machu Picchu and the Jungle (first note from Quito) Blog entries the rest of my journal text. I haven’t updated the prices spreadsheet yet, but thought eveyone would love to know that gas on the Galapagos islands and in mainland Quito is abot the same: 35 cents/liter for regular unleaded!!!!! Don’t feel too bad, a guy we met on the boat from the UK says that it is just over CAN$2/litre there….

We fly out of Quito tomorrow to San Jose, then on to LA for a 25 hour stopover…

The full Galapagos logbook entry:

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Blue footed birds and Swiming Iguanas? Only in one special place.

On Thursday (Sept. 6) we flew to Quito in Equador to prepar for the flying to the Galapagos the next day. It is interesting to note the differences in some of these Latin American cities. While Costa Rica seemed to have fairly modern vehicles, their roads and bridges were in terrible shape. In Peru the roads and bridges seemed to be much better maintained by the governments and were more modern. The vehicles in the two main cities we visited were generally older and more rundown (read “beaters”). In Quito, the transportation network also seemed to be fairly well maintained, with an average mix of older & newer vehicles. The buildings in Quito also seemed somewhat more modern and maybe less rundown to Claudette and I.

We stayed at a high rise hotel this time (still with GAP) and we decided to reserve a room at the same place for our extra two days in Quito after the Galapagos tour. There were all sorts of fine looking restaurants in abundance around the neighborhood. We joined Carl, another GAP tourist on our trip, and went for a bite. It’s terrible being with someone better versed in Spanish than us because we seem to subconsciously revert to letting them speak for us instead of practicing our Espanole and getting better.

On Thursday morning we flew out to the islands on a B727-200. No headsets and certainly no movies! I think it was my first time on a 727 in over 20 years, (at least). The island we landed on was very sparse and a former US military base from about 1942-1951 or so. It was initially meant as forward protection from the Japanese for the Panama Canal. There were the typical vendor tents set up outside, but even they seemed more relaxed compared to the barrage of street vedor attacks in Cusco. We had a bus-boat-bus transfer of about 85 minutes to get us to the correct harbor and out to our boat, the GAP II. Our ship seems fairly small andf has eight cabins with beds for 3 in each. There are only a total of 11 passengers on our portion of the trip.

We first went out to the ship to drop off luggage, get settled a bit and have lunch. After lunch we split into two tour groups and ours went to the Darwin research center. Here they have different country sponsored labs & programs set up, as well as a whole bunch of turtles. There were different sized giant tortoise from several islands, and even “Lonesome George”, the last of his species. Before going to the research center our guide took us for a quick walk to the ocean front where he pointed out marine (swimming) Iguana’s and a variety of birds. After the research center tour we had some time to walk through town before meeting up to head to the ship for supper.

We began traveling to another island at 23:00 in reasonably calm seas. Luke didn’t eat much for supper and a little while after he emptied his stomach. He seemed to feel better after though. We were all pretty beat, and hit the bed shortly after to briefing on what we were going to do the next day.

On Friday we did a couple walking tours and then snorkeling twice in different spots. We walked to a spectacular lookout adjacent to where portions of the movie “Master Commander” was filmed. We snorkeled around the pinnacle rock, and saw all kinds of beautiful reef, many types of beautiful fish, a smaller ray in waist deep water, and a shark! We all swam within about 4-5m of a 2m (ish) long White Tip Shark. It was a remarkable experience.

In the afternoon we boated to a small cliff edge and got within 1m of two little penguins. They were phenomenally cute! Only 2m away from them was a blue footed booby. I took quite a few pictures of both.

On Saturday (today) we did a couple more land tours and one snorkeling stop. This time snorkeling Alex, Luke, myself and another guest (Carl) were at the back of the pack adjacent to a small cliff face we were going along. Then an adolescent sea lion came and started swimming with us. He was whirling & twirling all around, darting in between us and doing all sorts of spectaular underwater acrobatics. He put on a real fun show, and all within a couple of meters of us. I can’t wait now to buy an underwater camera!

This evening after a spaghetti supper we wathed a slide show (on the TV) of Hanns’, (our guide) pictures taken around the Galapagos. They were all spectacular and he gave us all a copy of the CD with a promise to exchange some of our pics that we wanted to share with him. Tomorrow is our last full day and then we fly back to Quito on Monday morning.

Sunday, August 9, 2007

Last Day in Darwin’s Playground.

For our last full day, we spent the morn8ing walking and snorkeling with sea lions. At first we toured an island with all kinds of sea lions just lounging around. There were several obvious newborns, and quite a few placentas, (of varying ages) lying all around. Most mothers weren’t too protective and would let us get to within 1m or so for some spectacular pictures. These newborns were all about one or two days old, but there was one who was only an hour or two old. His mother was very protective, but we still got some phenomenal shots (and footage) from 3m away with the help of Mr. Zoom lens.

We continued our leisurely walk around this small island with all kinds of photo ops. We all took turns posing with a couple of blue footed boobies. Their feet color is incredibly vibrant, but the male has a slightly paler pastel blue than the female. We also saw a couple marine iguanas again for some excellent close-up pictures, but I have yet to catch one swimming. I have seen them cling to wet rocks and get pounded by waves and completely immersed in water, still standing there when the wave washed out though. It would be nice however to get some video or still pictures of one swimming.

After walking around the island of we went back to the ship, changed and then went snorkeling. There were a few fish, and Luke and I saw one Ray, but we had a bunch 9of sea lions swimming around with us. They are delightfully playful charging us and then deaking one way or another with a graceful twist with barely a foot of distance to spare. The bulls showed the most aggressive behavior towards us (and other competing bulls) on land, so we gave them a wide berth. Still they would occasionally swim close to us, and everyone would just stay still and give him room to glide by. One even swam right between Luke and I while we were only (arms outstretched) hand holding distance apart. That was almost too close for such a powerful beast I think. The younger ones though delighted in coming very close and in between us to show off their incredible swimming skills and underwater acrobatics. The experience was simply onerous and indescribable! (As much as I may have tried here…) All I can say is eat your heart out Sea World, (where they want to charge a few hundred dollars to swim for 15 minutes with some of the animals). This was in their natural surroundings and in nature, with all the realism anyone could possibly want.

After this snorkel we all boarded the ship directly from the water to the platform on the back instead of getting back into the dingy first. I (stupidly!) took off my flippers first and then climbed the barnacle encrusted bars shredding my feet all to hell. I’d even previously warned the kids to watch out for the barnacles but I guess I was having a senior moment. I got a pretty good gash across the bottom of my left foot, along with slicing open three toes on my right foot. To add to my extreme embarrassment, I had earlier scraped my knee on some coral a bit, (also after several times warning Alex & Luke to be careful of it). I didn’t really notice until I got out of the water though and there was blood slowly streaming down my leg. Good thing there were no sharks today! Previously we had swum alongside some white tip sharks that were about 2m in length.

After lunch on Sunday we went to another small town in the islands called Puerto ????? Here we went into the highlands to checkout a tree house. It is built on top of a 150+ year old cotton tree. It also had a cave inside the base of the tree with a small space for a ladder down, and a larger hollowed out room at the bottom which only Alex & Luke went into. After paying a 50 cent each admission we took the bus back to town to go through the Galapagos Interpretive Center. This had timeline boards and notes plus an awesome 3D model of the islands, including relative sculpted ocean depths.

After the interpretive center we walked a few blocks back to town where Alex and I checked into the internet and Claudette and Luke relaxed on an ocean-front park bench. Tomorrow we will have a dingy tour of a mangrove area before heading to the airport.

Monday, Sept 10, 2007

Last chance to film a Swimming Iguana

This morning we took a dingy tour out to some shallows by a bunch of mangroves. When we went through some narrows we saw some more White Tip sharks and Galapagos sharks in the shallow (three to five) water along with several sea tortoises. In the area we also got to watch the blue footed boobies fishing. There were many in the air doing search patterns over the water before tucking and dive bombing into the water. They can apparently hit depths of 20 feet when they start off diving at an altitude of 100 feet. This was very cool to watch and I got video footage of several getting some fish and popping back up to the surface.

After getting our luggage from the boat we headed to the port on Balto Island. There were a dozen sea lions lazing about there, including three almost completely filling up the park benches in the shade at the top of the ramp. If we came close to try and sit down, they would turn their heads and give us (mostly Luke) a good snarl to warn him to not get too close (and to stop moving so quickly and/or waving his arms too much). We had a long wait for a bus (there are only four on the entire island) and barely got to the airport check-in counter on time. So much for shopping for a few extra souvenirs. Oddly enough though most of the vendor huts were closed today.

I never did get to see or film a marine iguana swimming, but right after we were dropped off Luke watched one swim to shore and walk out onto the rocks.

Claudette and I had thought that we were coming back to Quito on the 9th, and so made a reservation for two extra days after the GAP reservation until our plane leave mid day on the 12th. We have since discovered that it was a day later and we’ll have to just pay for one extra night in Quito. This afternoon we plan on getting some laundry done, and backing up the 3 DVD’s shot in the Galapagos, as well as uploading entries to the blog. Yesterday I realized that I had left DVD #6 (of Machu Picchu) at a computer in some internet cafe in Cusco. A great couple we met on the boat (Harvey and Karen) are headed there and will look for it at the two places adjacent to the hotel. My fingers are crossed but luckily I have backups on the drives.

FOOTNOTE: I just received an e-mail from Harvey and Karen that they found the disk and they will take it back to Canada to mail it to us! THEY ARE AWESOME!!!!

4 Responses to “The full story: GALAPAGOS ISLANDS”

  1. AJ says:

    I get to take surfing lesson in Australia!!!

  2. Tim says:

    Watch out for the sharks, Alex!

    By the way, as soon as I hung up from talking with you, Rick, the Dentist called. I now have Alex’s retainer in my possession. For the right fee, I might even send it on…MWAH! HA! HA! HA!

    Sorry…had an “evil” moment there. Send me your address in Brisbane and I will Fed Ex it pronto.

    G’day, mates!

  3. juliannefuller says:

    wow GREAT STORIES! . Baby sea lions, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and the price a gas, what a wonderful place! Watch out for those pesky sharks! They are not all friendly! It’s exciting to re-live the Galapagos experience I had through your adventures!
    Happy Travels (and safe, no shark bite stories please)

  4. Rick says:

    Great to hear Julianne. I won’t ask about your weather there since I presume there’d be about 2m of snow by now… Our only lament on going to the Galapagos was not heading to the far North island (can’t remember the name) that I had Red Footed Boobies. I so wanted to see them too! Next time I guess…