Back in Guayaquil and back at home

Our 10-hour daytime layover in Guayaquil was a matter of necessity to get back home to Zizou in a timely manner.  This was especially brutal as there ain’t a whole lot to do for 10-hours in this lil’ town.

Walking the Malecon is good for a bit of entertainment without any fear of getting mugged or the like.  We called it the "Green Zone" as it’s fenced in and just a totally sterile world compared to life on the other side.  Had some lunch at a rather expensive Basque restaurant whose name I can’t recall—but it was outside of the Green Zone.  Spent 90 minutes on the internet only to find out that absolutely nothing had changed in the Democratic primaries.  And finally hopped a cab to the restaurant Lo Nuestro…

Lo Nuestro was the only restaurant I could find particularly called out as being one of Guayaquil’s finest.  And we got there to find nothing but Americanos.  Buzz kill.

Our flight to IAH ended up with a 2-hour delay, but I was excited to find free wifi at GYE to help kill some of that time.  Our delay prevented us from catching a shower in IAH, but no problems catching out connecting flight back to the northwest.  The highlight was the TSA officer in Houston meeting our Guayaquil flight telling me "gracias" for taking my shoes off.

Smooth sailing on our flights and we even caught our planned two Seattle busses home.  Zizou was excited to get his mouth on his new stuffed blue footed booby.

Moral of the story: go to the Galapagos.  Worth every penny.

Galapagos Islands – Day 8 – Black Turtle Cove

Day 8 schedule:

  • 05:50 Dinghy ride inside mangrove
  • 07:00 Back on board → Breakfast
  • 08:15 Bus ride to the Airport

The end is near.  This morning is just an easy going paddle around the mangroves before heading to the airport.  It was mid-tide so the viewing wasn’t totally ideal.  But we saw loads of sea turtles and a few posses of golden rays.  It’s kinda silly, but at day eight I found myself yelling "no mas!" to sea turtle sightings.

I forgot to put the memory card back in the point and shoot for this outing, so again we leave this segment in the dark.

During breakfast, the crew hustled our luggage to the airport where we would reunite with it.  Wished farewell to the crew and we were back on a TAME bus to the airport (but not before also saying goodbye to those sea lions snoozing on the bench that first greeted us).

The bus arrived at the Galapagos airport more than two hours before departure–not our usual style.  But there are lots of shops outside you can pick up last minute key chains and such from, so that will kill up to ten minutes.

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Galapagos Islands – Day 7 – Bartolome

Day 7 afternoon schedule:

  • 13:30 Snorkel
  • 15:00 Back on the Samba
  • 15:30 Dry landing
  • 368 steps to the top of the Island
  • 17:00 Back to the boat
  • Sail to Santa Cruz
  • 19:15 Dinner

An American oystercatcher getting its oystercatching on…

Few photos exist of us from this trip….but here we are with an oh so sleepy sea lion…

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Apparently this is the most photographed shot in the Galapagos…it’s a really cool vista where you have a 360 degree view of all the islands in the archipelago.  That’s pinnacle rock on the right…the US Air Force takes some credit for that rock formation.  USA!  USA!

Galapagos Islands – Day 7 – Santiago – Puerto Egas

Day 7 morning schedule:

  • 06:00 Wake up call
  • 06:30 Breakfast
  • 07:15 Wet landing
  • 3 Km walk by the coast line
  • 09:00 Snorkel
  • 10:00 Back on board
  • Sail to Bartolomé → landscape
  • 12:00 Lunch

Little guy in a tuxedo was the first to greet us here…

Marine iguanas galore…

The nocturnal Galapagos fur seal…

Snorkeling post will come separately courtesy of Lillie–but this spot was good times as we saw the penguin underwater chasing/catching fish.

Day 6 – Fernandina – Punta Espinosa

Day 6 afternoon schedule:

  • 13:00 Dry landing
  • 1 mile walk
  • 15:00 Back on the Samba
  • Sail to Ecuador Volcano
  • 18:30 Equator Cocktails!
  • 19:00 Dinner

The mission on this stop is to see the marine iguanas at their peak of activity–and it’s blazing hot at this hour of day.  So plan on spending a bit of time here just sitting on the lava rocks and watching hordes of iguanas swimming back to land to warm up after some diving for food.

Babies on back…

A relatively rare sight of a Hawaiian sea turtle basking in the sun…

And an extremely rare sight of an adult marine iguana cannibalizing a baby…

Back on the boat, this is one of the few afternoons were you find yourself with a few hours to spend on deck as opposed to just eating dinner and going to bed.  There are some great views of all the volcanoes on this stretch, as well as the ceremonial equator crossing.  We all gathered on el Capitan’s bridge to watch the GPS turn to 0.00–the comedy came when the GPS skipped from 0.01 South straight to 0.01 North.

Juan and el Capitan were quick to correct this as they turned the boat around to accommodate this cheap thrill.  Within a few minutes span, we crossed the Equator three times–that’s some serious bang for the buck we got there.

Not that I’m keeping track or anything, but in the last year we’ve crossed the Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, and Arctic Circle.  Nice.

Day 6 – Isabela – Urbina Bay

Day 6 morning schedule:

  • 06:00 Wake up call
  • 06:30 Breakfast
  • 07:15 Wet landing
  • 1 mile walk
  • 09:00 Beach Snorkel
  • 10:00 Back on board
  • Sail to Fernandina

There’s a gap in the photographic record here as for some reason we didn’t bring our little point and shoot camera out with us this morning.  Had we brought the camera, you would see some photos of enormous land iguanas here.  There are also finches galore–but in all honesty, those finches are so impossible for the uneducated to tell apart it’s hard to get too excited about ’em.

Galapagos Islands – Day 5 – Isabela – Elizabeth Bay

Day 5 afternoon schedule:

  • 15:30 Dinghy ride inside mangrove
  • 18:00 Back on board
  • 19:00 Dinner

No shoes necessary this afternoon.  It’s a smooth paddle around the mangroves.

And this outing provided first sighting of the little dudes that I’d been especially spastic about wanting to see…the Galapagos Penguin–the world’s only tropical penguin.  How can these guys not make you smile?  That guy below on the left performed the most ungraceful “dive” into the water you could possibly imagine.  It was like a face-forward trust fall/belly-flop.  Absolutely hysterical.

This sea turtle is a migrant from Indonesia…

It was at this time, that the battery on my camera started to die.  And due to an extremely unfortunate event involving a wet bathing suit and the charger, the camera was soon to enter retirement for the rest of this trip.

Of course this sputtered right when our dinghy pulled up at one of the most incredible sights of the trip–a small islet that was quite the advertisement for the Galapagos.  Side by side there were: blue footed boobies, nazca boobies, Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, and the most attention starved sea lions you could imagine.

Our guide Juan was equally delighted as he reminded us this was something that very few tourists to the islands ever get to see. 

Galapagos Islands -Day 5 – Isabela – Punta Moreno

Day 5 morning schedule:

  • 05:30 Wake up call
  • 06:00 Breakfast
  • 06:45 Dry landing
  • 2 ½ miles lava walk
  • 09:30 Back on the Samba
  • 10:00 Snorkel
  • 11:30 Back on board
  • 12:00 Lunch

Isabela Island is one that most boats don’t make it out to–so we had it entirely to ourselves.  All 14 of us.  Can’t beat that.

Despite traversing scorching lava rock, our guide Juan kept it real and continued to roll barefoot.  Wildlife takes a bit of a backseat this morning, while Juan drops his knowledge on vulcanology.

This is quite the change in scenery—lava rock with a volcano (Cera Azul?) in the background…

Here’s a pioneer plant, the lava cactus.  Grows 1cm/year–so you can bet on this little guy being multiple hundreds of years old…

Just the two of us…

Galapagos Islands – Day 4 – Floreana – Post Office Bay

Day 4 afternoon schedule:

  • 15:00 Wet landing
  • Post card exchange
  • Relax on the beach/Kayak/swim
  • 17:00 Back to the Samba
  • Sail to Isabela (10 hours)
  • 19:00 Dinner

In the 1700’s, whalers setup a barrel here as a mail drop for folks passing through.  Leave something for someone to pick up later…or pick up something addressed to somewhere you’re heading and personally deliver it.  So the tradition continues with the touristas passing through.

We went through the stacks of postcards and found one addressed to someone in West Seattle.  Perfect–Lillie delivered it last week.  And it’s totally cheating to bring home a postcard, put a stamp on it, and mail it—this happened to a card we addressed to South Haven, Michigan. 

There’s a little soccer field setup here that the boat crews get together on for a bit while we roam the beach.  Great to see these guys have a bit of fun considering how hard they work for all of us.  Though there was this one dude playing who had like four intentional hand balls–I was absolutely infuriated watching from the sidelines. 

Ten hours of sailing this evening–sailing which you can expect to encounter some rough seas on…

Underwater Fun

Snorkeling is a big part of a Galapagos trip, so we were definitely surprised when only about half of our group decided to go for it.  After checking out pictures in advance and reading lots of trip reports, we were pretty excited and even stocked up on some gear – including a buoyancy vest for Vinod!  He hadn’t spent much time in the water previously, but the vest gave him the confidence he needed to accomplish his dream of swimming with penguins.

We had six opportunities to snorkel on our trip (three from the dinghy and three beach snorkels), and we went out for the first five.  Let me preface the snorkeling descriptions by saying how tricky it is to take shots under water!  You’re moving, the fish are moving, the display is too dark to see, and the mask eliminates the ability to look through the viewfinder.  We ended up with a lot of shots of beautiful fish tails and some fantastic memories!

Our first snorkel was at Gardner Bay, and we were excited to find a couple of sea lions who wanted to play!  We were just getting used to using the camera underwater, so no real amazing wildlife shots from this snorkel, but we did get my trip favorite of the two of us.

 

Next up was Devil’s Crown – revered as the best snorkeling in the Galapagos, and it didn’t let down.  There was a minute of panic in the beginning when another snorkeler got scared right after entering the water, and the guide went rushing off to help her.  We got through it and were once again well-rewarded.

A beautiful blue Starfish

 

Sea Lions (yep, they were that close to my leg!)

Our guide Juan swimming with a Sea Lion.

Octopus

 

White-tipped Reef Shark (we saw the full shark, but could only seem to catch half of it in our photos)

 

Our next snorkel was at Urbina Bay and was full of Sea Turtles!  This one is swimming with a pair of sergeantmajor fish.

 

This parrotfish deserves a mention as well, since it was my most photogenic underwater subject.

 

At this point we miss another snorkel full of sea turtles because we, once again, forgot to replace the memory card in the camera before heading out at Punta Morena.  It was a bit choppy there and consequently murky under the water, so it was the best day to leave it behind. 

Our last snorkel was at Puerto Egas. 

 

Scorpion Fish

 

That black missile toward the top is a penguin!!

Here he is up close and blurry.

 

Vinod’s one and only underwater photo was of a migrant sea turtle.