Published: June 13th 2012June 12th 2012
Well it took nearly 48 hours but I made it! Leaving Ishinomaki by bus to Tokyo, then by train to Narita, plane to LA, 9 hour layover, plane to Lima, 3 hour layover, plane to Quito and then a taxi ride to the hostel!
What I got up to:
I lay pretty low in the following days, only venturing forth in broad daylight for food and a bathing suit (since mine is probably still in Ireland somewhere). Most of the reason for that is because I....don't really like this city. To be frank, I feel uncomfortable not speaking the language and being a solo female tourist walking by myself here. In the day, it's ok, I know the chances of someone trying something are lower. But as two of the women on our cruise discovered, it's still not entirely safe. Anyway, I'm already familliar with the lifestyle of an internet hermit so I'm not bothered by staying indoors.
Fast forward a few days and I leave my very noisy hostel room (necessary earplugs are, or sleep you will not) and check into the fancy Hilton hotel. I met some of the people I'd be cruising with and we
There's another one in the pictures below but he's slightly different as you'll soon see.
took a night tour of the city. We had a local guide and we drove to the majority of the locations so I felt safe enough. Stopped by the Basilica del Voto Nacionale and then drove up to El Panecillo, the statue of the madonna. From there, ~3000m above sea level, you could see the lights of the city streach off into the distance.
The next day we flew over to the islands and jumped on the boat! Our first stop was the Charles Darwin Research Station. There we saw (part of) Lonesome George and several other kinds of tortoises along with the brightly coloured land iguanas.
Next day we started on the island of Rabida. Went for a short walk around the island, took some wildlife and scenery shots (and I nearly got an awesome picture of a hawk taking off) before we all jumped into the water to snorkel. To be honest, it wasn't spectacular. There were a few brightly coloured fish and some of them were of reasonable size but there were no coral formations to speak of. I was a little disappointed heading back to shore and then two 2m white tip reef sharks
swam right below me. So that immediately made that snorkel much cooler. Alas, I have no underwater camera and therefore no photos of any fishies.
After that was Bachas beach to look for flamingos! There are only about 300-500 in the Galapagos and we saw two of them standing as far away from us as they could and at opposite ends of the lagoon. They were being decidedly unphotogenic. Walk back to the beach and another jump into the water after that but this time but the tide was coming in and it was too murky to see. So I got out pretty quickly and headed for a walk down the beach. Found another lagon with two flamingos posing together and quite nearby! Naturally, I didn't have my camera.
Next day was on and around the island of Floreana. Again, another short walk before we went into the water. This time we didn't swim right off the beach. There were some rocks sticking out of the water offshore called the Devil's Crown. They didn't look like much above the water but below was totally different. Probably the best snorkelling on the whole trip. The current was fairly strong
The part we could see
but as long as you made sure not to get pushed into the rocks or out into the ocean, you were fine. Lots of fish, a shark, but the best part was the sea turtle. He swam up from the ocean floor for air and didn't care that about two meters away floated 11 gangly humans with their eyes glued to his every movement. It was an attitude that almost all of the animals we saw on the Galapagos had adopted. 'Just ignore them. They go away eventually. Running/swimming away only makes them try to follow you.'
After lunch we made another stop on the other side of the island at the unnoffical post office. Tourists that come leave postcards or letters here with no stamp and then other tourists come along and pick them up and deliver them. There's no telling how long it'll take to deliver since it all depends on who comes to the island. I decided to send a letter to myself, we'll see how long it takes! Right after that we went down an old lava tube. Nearly everyone had a headlamp but I, being the technologically savy person that I am, used a
flashlight function on my phone instead. Score one for technology.
The next day was the final full day on the Galapagos and we spent it on the island of Espanola. It was on this island that we got up close and person with the sea lions. We also saw the masked boobies, waved albatross, hood mockingbirds, lava lizards, marine iguanas, and the blue-footed boobies. Many, many animals, all of which didn't seem to care that we were there. More than once on our walk around the island people came close to stepping on wildlife (mostly the marine iguanas, they just didn't move) because it blended with the environment (the environment in the marine iguana's case being black rocks). After that it was time for a last snorkel. There was a rock formation a little ways from shore and our guide advised us to swim around the far side of that and back. The first time around there wasn't much to see. A few fish but nothing spectacular. The second time around we saw three large (more than 1m diameter) sting rays swiming along the bottom and two sea turtles resting in a bed of seaweed. Really glad I did
that second lap. Came out of the water after that and went for a walk down the beach, skirting around the sunbathing sea lions.
Our final day was short, only the morning spent at a visitor/interpretation centre. It was just basic stuff, the history of the islands and the potential future but nicely laid out. After that we jumped on the plane back to the mainland.
And that brings me to now. I've got about 5 more days before my next tour starts (Quito to Lima) so until then I will play internet hermit again.
Life on the boat:
The food was excellent, we had two chefs on the boat who cooked us wonderful meals. The crew was amazing, very helpful and always smiling. The weather was nice, it didn't rain on us once. The sleeping was not so good. The process with this cruise is that we would visit an island or two in the day and then at night is when the ship would move to the next island. This meant that in the night I would wake up at around 2am and sigh and then toss and turn and be tossed and turned
in turn. Thankfully I was never seasick, though the same cannot be said for everyone else.
There are more photos below