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Published: July 25th 2010
These eat a lot of lettuce
Nic and the famed Galapagos Giant Tortoise
Sorry about the delay with the blogs. We had a bit of sandisk trouble and lost the photos for a while, but we've rescued them now, so expect the next few blogs to come along like London buses.
Hostelbookers has rarely let us down, but when you arrive at midnight in a district reputedly one of the most dangerous in South America, you don't really need to be told that they have not got your booking or any rooms for the night. Which is exactly what we were told.
So Paul emptied his pockets of anthing of value and set off to scout the area for a couple of beds. 10 minutes and only 1 fight later (not involving Paul) we had 2 options but as El Taxo were prepared to drop the price a dollar a person for an en-suite double, they got the business. In fairness, La Mariscal is not the sort of place you want to be searching out dark alleys, but on a Saturday, there are so many bars and clubs with people hanging out around them that safety is less of an issue than the guidebooks would have you think ... we arrived
Picture Postcard scene, shame about the people at the front spoiling it!
Sunday, catholic country, usual story. Nothing much open. This includes Avenida Amazonas which is closed to traffic and taken over by joggers, cyclists and in-line skaters. It was a welcome respite from the sore throat inducing pollution which was to follow. We also walked around the old town (great for colonial buildings, though we've seen plenty already) and the park which has an artisan market on a Sunday, so not a complete ghost town. The market has plenty of food vendors selling any number of healthy meals. We skipped the burgers, candy floss and toffee apples staying with the kebabs of chorizo, meat (possibly cow, but no bets taken), sausage & potato dripping with chilli and garlic sauces. Then we went for dinner.
Monday was a search for a Galapagos trips. It soon became apparent that it would be a budget busting affair, but being this close was just too tempting. After holding out for a $120 discount we crumbled, cashed our remaining travellers cheques, maxed our daily limits on cash withdrawals and found ourselves on the 7am flight the following day.
New Flamingo turned out to have everything promised by the agent, except
We had to put up with rubbish like this for 7 days ... pure hell.
for the hot water - perhaps they meant what comes out of the kettle rather than the shower. But given the climate, cold showers weren't a showstopper. The chef was amazing. The meals he concocted in a kitchen the size of a broom cupboard were fabulous. The crew were attentive. Alfonso has been guiding for 19 years, but was as ebullient as if it was his first week on the job and he was seeing the animals he'd learnt about in books for the first time. And of course the rest of the guests helped make it a great trip along with our friends Ron y Cola and Uno.
Despite major issues with the trip coinciding with the start of the World Cup, we found ourselves in range of reception for most matches, carefully timed by Fifa to be played before breakfast, after our morning shore trips and during our post lunch relaxation time. Unfortunately being the only English people on the boat made the result against the States a bit tough to swallow, but at least there were 2 Aussies to deflect the pain on - which Thomas, the German contingent, enjoyed immensely.
Blue Footed Boobies
25 minutes of courtship, 2 seconds of action ... same with all species then.
8 days on the boat, jumping off 4 times a day. Twice to see the unique animals on the islands and twice to view those in the ocean, which is surprisingly cold considering the islands are on the equator. There are too many anmals to mention them all, but lots of Darwin's finches were on display as were boobies, penguins (yes, on the equator), sealions and Lonesome George is stilll going strong. Perhaps the most exciting animals were the manta rays often spotted flipping themselves out of the water ... though the only person to get a picture was our Belgian friend Ben, who is either the best cameraman or the luckiest b'stard on the planet for having his camera pointing the right way at the right time for the all important moment.
By the time we returned to the mainland we only had 2 full days before moving on to Central America, so we stayed in Quito. Mitad del Mundo (not quite middle of the world, it's 240m from the equator) provided a diversion for one afternoon and bars did the rest.
So we didn't exactly see much of Ecuador, but what we did, we enjoyed. Quito,
Relaxing with the locals at sunset
far from being the wild west, is becoming a cosmopolitan city blessed with wonderful history mixed with plenty of bars, restaurants and friendly people. The Galapagos ... well worth blowing the budget for.
As Darwin pointed out, it's the most adaptable that survive, and despite being one of the poorest countries in South America, Ecuador seems to be adapting and surviving. Even thriving.
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