Thursday, November 15, 2018

Island Escape

So much has been going on recently I haven't had much time for updates. Everything is great though!

Galapagos Islands!!! Finally made it. 

Tormod and I enjoyed our time in Quito before we flew out to the Galapagos. It's a busy city, but on a much different level than Bogotá. It's much calmer, and less rowdy. It's not uncommon to see kids, or moms with small children walking around at night in the downtown area. That probably would not have gone over so well in Bogotá. We enjoyed the view of the city at night from the rooftop of our hotel. It's amazing being well over 9000 feet up and surrounded by mountains on all sides.

Our rooftop view of the historic center of Quito.

A historic church in Quito. Compañia de Jesús. Over 2,000 pounds of gold was used in its construction.

We visited a meat market. Don't those diseased legs look tasty?

I'll take the rotten legs with a side of cow tongues.

We needed a place to leave our bikes while we embarked on our side quest to the Galapagos islands. Luckily I've got a contact in Quito. I asked Miguel, the man that hosted me for breakfast the other day if he would be willing to hang on to them for a week. He happily agreed and followed up with an invitation to dinner. We rode our bikes to his place and were met with a warm welcome and some delicious steaks cooked on his homemade device. He also shared bread, parmesan cheese, jam and juice all made by himself.

Miguel and his cooking device.

Our carnivores dinner. 

I ordered a taxi from the hotel to the airport and this was who showed up.

Visiting Galapagos has been a childhood dream of mine. I learned about it on Animal planet as a you child. Getting to the Galapagos would prove to involve a few more steps than I imagined. I first flew from Quito to Guayaquil. While there, I had breakfast before setting out for Baltra Island in the Galapagos. At the airport there was a $20 bag inspection fee. Just to be sure I wasn't smuggling any invasive species or plastics onto the island. Once we arrived they needed to check our passports. After sifting through a few pages and stamping in their Galapagos emblem, the security guard requested $100 dollars. I wasn't sure I heard him right. But yes, that was the park entrance fee. After that man there was a mandatory $5 bus ride to the ferry. Tormod was a bit agitated by this point. Rightly so, there was a glitch in their system and although he had his booking confirmation for his flight they couldn't find it. He was forced to buy a new ticket which cost him an extra $100.

Trying to act like one of the locals.

We had been warned by many people that the islands were expensive, but I didn't expect all these hidden fees. We then boarded the tiny ferry to the main island. Once on the ferry a man began walking around charging a dollar for the ferry ride. I know it was only a dollar, but it felt like a scam. He approached me and put out his hand. I looked him in the eye and didn't pay. He paused a second and moved on to the next person. It apparently was a scam after all. When we got to the main island we had another mandatory $5 bus ride to the town. At this point it really felt like we were being herded along like cattle. After a long bumpy ride we arrived in Puerto Ayora. It's a timy town, but its the biggest on any of the islands. I wasn't feeling so great and I dozed off on the ride to town.

Puerto Ayora was a cool little island village. There were little cafes and gift shops all along the main rode. I walked into the hotel and collapsed on the bed, it had been an exhausting morning. I woke up sweating and really not feeling great. I started feeling nauseous and rushed to the bathroom. I made it just in time. Immediately I began assaulting the toilet. It was not pretty. After a minute or two on the toilet the sweating intensified and I got a strong urge to puke. I moved over to the shower and began violently gagging. After shooting a few blanks the real stuff cane out as I vomited a few times into the shower. Within a few minutes of throwing up the terrible feeling faded. I wandered back to my room to sleep it off. I knew this day would come. I knew at least once I would be hit with Montezuma's Revenge. Just glad it happened here in a hotel and not at the top of some remote mountain pass. Not sure what caused it, but it really could have been anything, undercooked eggs, juice made with unclean water, dirty hands. I just hope this isn't a recurring theme.

After a day of rest I was back to nearly 100% and ready to explore the island and search for some of these highly anticipated animals. It turns out I didn't need to search far. The beach was infested with hundreds of giant prehistoric looking marine iguanas. They patrolled the shore of black lava rock like prison guards. This island of Santa Cruz not only had a nice black rocky shore, but also some stunning white coral beaches. While at the beach we met a backpacker from Sweden named Patrik. He and Tormod became fast friends since they were able to speak a bit of Scandinavian with each other.

A large herd of tortoises. These guy look like gentle giants, but we witnessed a few fights.


These thing are as big as trees.

Soaking up the sun.

Lonesome George. The last of his kind died in 2012.

Head to head showdown. Tormod won though.

These guys do this all day everyday. Somehow they are all fat though.

A picaresque beach. 

You shall not pass.

The next day the three of us decided to go for a bike ride and see some more remote parts of the islands. From the coast we rode inland towards the giant volcano that formed the island. We soon started seeing the island's most famous mascots, Galapagos tortoises. These elderly monstrosities just meander along at a snail's pace and munch on berries and cacti. We arrived at some large underground lava tunnels and explored those. Once we got back on the road I got a flat tire. I blamed it on the bike since I was using a bike I was not familiar with. I felt like I was cheating on my real bike. After fixing that we rode to some really deep craters formed from volcanic eruptions. One was so deep we couldn't see the bottom. If you dropped a rock inside the hole it took four or five seconds before it crashed on the bottom.

Patrik and Tormod with this big dude.

Why did the tortoise cross the road.

The cave of wonder. Where's Waldo?

Some spots were so low the zombies had to crawl.

One of the two large craters.

Onto the dirt road.

That is a genuine smile. I either cracked a joke or a fart.

This was the super deep crater.

Basically every day on the islands we enjoyed ocean delicacies for regular dinner prices. I had, shrimp, sea bass, octopus, lobster, brujo (big red fish only found here), and sea cucumber. Surprisingly none of these things upset my temporarily frail stomach. On the boardwalk we were able to watch black tipped sharks hunt schools of fish, and sting rays duck for cover in the sand. The most interesting thing on the wooden pier was the abundance of seals. They were laying in the pathway, chilling on benches, waddling up the stairs, and swimming beside alongside us hunting little fishes. They didn't seem to pay any attention to us as we curiously watched them.

Catching up on some sleep.

Dinner date with part of the Galapagos crew.

We tried to guess this random guy's nationality. I guessed correctly, as Danish. He was 75 and teased Tormod about the difference in their hair growth.

This was the busy seafood strip. The rolled these tables out into the road at night.

Seafood galore!

The next day I was awakened up by the theme of the Olympics echoing throughout the small town. Then it switched to a famous European soccer song that Tormod recognized. We left our room to see where the music was coming from. We traced it back to a small sports stadium. When we arrived the players were just getting warmed up. They said that it was a Sunday tradition for the three churches of the island to get together and compete. They invited us to join in there tournament as competitors. We were like gladiators getting called into battle. They offered two sports. Soccer, which Tormod joined, and Ecuavoley, an Ecuadorian version of volleyball. I was happy to sign up for that. They penned in our names and we waited our turn to join in. Tormod's game was first. He was nearly a head taller than every other player. His team dominated and he scored two goals along with a few assists. He ended up signing his John Hancock on one of the local's hands.

Tormod's South American debut.

Ecuavoley differed from volleyball in a few key ways. First they used a soccer ball instead of a volleyball. It was much heavier and harder than a typical volleyball. Carries were allowed and even encouraged due to the weight of the ball. The net was at least a full foot above Olympic height volleyball nets. With a full jump I could barely touch the top of the net. Spikes were non existant. And lastly only three players per team. By the time the Ecuavoley games started Patrik had shown up. I convinced Patrik and Tormod to join me and make a new team. They announced us as "The Gringos". It took us a few games to adjust, but eventually we got the hang of it and began winning some games. Apparently this is their national sport and It is usually a high stakes sport that gets bet on. It was really a great time playing with the locals and getting to learn about their national sport.

At max jump height thus tall dude wasn't even close to the top.

The next day we hopped a boat for the island of Isabela. We had no idea what we were in for. We shuttled on a small boat out to the slightly larger boat and boarded the ultimate torture chamber. There were smiles all around as we climbed aboard. Soon those smiles were turned upside down. The captain must have been crazy or he had a date on the other island. The boat was immediately sent full throttle out into the big blue. The water was a bit rough and we began jumping up over each wave as if they were trick ramps at a skate park. The once happy passengers were now marked with green fearful faces. Everyone was just hoping to get through the ride without throwing up. People tried meditating, sleeping, listing to music, anything to get them through it. It felt like we were thrown onto a washing machine and put through a rinse cycle. I don't get seasick or even motion sick for that matter and it was still brutal. One of the crew members was getting sick towards the front of the boat, which happens to be the bumpiest spot of all. He moved beside me and began talking me ear off. He said it helps him get his mind off of the ride. Then the British guy beside me asked if I happened to have any seasick pills, they weren't for him of course, but for his wife. Likely story, he was petrified and sweating bullets. I was not enjoying this ride in the least either. I looked to the crew member and asked how long this would last. He stared me straight on and said "Two hours." You could see the fear in his eyes. Minutes later he ran to the bathroom and vomited. The sad part is, he rides this route four times a day and he said he has been doing this for a year. That's a lot of vomit. If you ever are feeling bad about your job, pause for a second and think of this fellow. There was a thick air of relief when we finally pulled into the harbor. Nobody could wait to get off of the vessel. The British guy beside me said that was the worst thing he's ever experienced. That dude has had a pretty easy life. I'll be honest it was horrible, but nowhere near that worst experience of my life.

They're not doing so well.

Once on the island we did a bike ride around alomg the coast and eventually inlamd in an attempt to spot some new wildlife. Yes I'm addicted to my work. I was on a one week vacation from the bike and two of those days I went for a ride. You could tell this was the slow season because this island was a tropical ghost town. Most of the restaurants had one customer if any at all, and many never even opened up. It gave the island an eerie feeling. We ended up seeing tons more iguanas and seals, starfish, crabs, a pack of 6 wild pigs and a lone flamingo. The island itself was also unique. You could see the dried lava landscape all around. It was a cool detour to see a new island, but now it was time to board the cookie-tosser again.

Walk like a lizard.

Patrick's new discovery.

Seal cuddling.

This was the ground on most of Isabela.

Chilling out on the bench.

Lunch time with mommy.

These mangroves lines the beaches of Isabela.

If you close one eye and stand on your hands you may be able to see the one flamingo.

I loved this rocky shore.

Some iguana adolescents.


Flamingo lagoon.

We came up with an elaborate plan to assure we got good seats on the boat this time. We put in a good amount of planning, but the wind was soon taken out of our sails when the crew informed us the good seats were for the children and the elderly. Darn kids. Soon after we took off, we were again getting churned like butter. The Japanese man sitting beside me looked up at me and said "I get sea sick, this is already so horrible for me!" Minutes later Tormod tapped me and said "I'm not doing so well." He said he was losing feeling in his hands, arms, and legs. I'm guessing that was a result of hyperventilation. I suggested that he move to the floor on the back of the boat. He walked over and laid down, using his backpack as a pillow. The passengers on board were very polite and tried their best to accommodate Tormod in his hour of need. He used a plastic bag to help him breath. Before we knew it the two hours had passed and Tormod didn't even throw up. Again we were all grateful to be on solid ground.

Tormod during his battle.

The next morning we back tracked all the way to the airport and flew out of this truly unique corner of the world. Between the fees and illness it was a bit of a rocky start. By the end of the trip, I had seen 100's of wild Galapagos Tortoises, over 1,000 marine iguanas, tons of happy seals, 1 flamingo, and met a few really cool people. It was well worth the time and money and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Thanks for an awesome time Galapagos!

Galapagos bros.

Galapagos gang.

We're now back in Quito as we prepare to set out on our bikes as I continue south.

What a place.

No comments:

Post a Comment