A Travellerspoint blog

Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands.

4.75 stars. Most excellent.

semi-overcast 28 °C
View South America - out of Sorts on lidster's travel map.

Not sure if you have been or indeed what you have heard but the way you see wildlife will forever change if you are lucky enough to spend a few days on these islands. There was some excitement when we got a boat from the airport to the main island of Santa Cruz when we saw a Sea lion playing in the reeds about 20 metres away. The photos taken by all on the boat were deleted later that day as we turned up to the hotel, took a look off the balcony and saw about 20 sea lions, 200 iguanas and some birds I didn't recognise.

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The Islands themselves were left untouched for so long there are a large number of species found here and nowhere else. Not sure I could recognise the difference but the sheer amount of wildlife is a stark lesson in what happens when you build motorways, supermarkets and multi-screen cinemas.

I was lucky enough to go swimming with sea lions the day after. We took a boat tour and the guide said "jump in, they quite like it", so we did. And they did. Went snorkeling the day after that and saw about 20-30 turtles of all sizes generally hanging out. White tip sharks all over. At least a million Iguanas. Birds aplently. Dolphins jumping about in the sea. It was all a bit crazy really.

The biggest thing you notice here that I have never seen anywhere else is that none of the wildlife is scared of humans. They have a look at you and then get back to doing whatever they were doing. Sat down on a rock while out walking and watched amazed as 2 herons walked past me and started looking for lunch in the pool I was next to. Heard a sneeze and looked round and I was pretty much sitting on an Iguana about 70 cm long. None of them take any notice. Some of them seem genuinely curious, or maybe oblivious.

The place itself is mostly about the wildlife but it is pretty stunning to look at. Here is a volcano type thing. One of many. Last eruption in 2005. Lot of lava generated. No-one seems too bothered. Good for them.

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Here was a gorge 30 minutes from town. Mix of salt and fresh water, fish and stuff in.

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As always trust the English to throw themselves off of something and ruin the peace and quiet. Fun though.

Went on to Isla Isabella after 2 days. no banks, no Internet to speak of. No phone reception. Not too much chance of getting fed outside of some pretty specific (and secret) serving hours. Most of the places told us they had no food and that we should go somewhere else. But the lack of civilisation means you get a lot of this...

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and this...

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It would take you a week to see most of these islands, a month to see them all and a very long time to get bored of them. You see more life here walking to the shop than you would in a week or a month or even a lifetime most other places.

The serious business is of course how long will it last. Apparently they are putting up the entry fee to the islands to 200 US from 100 at the end of the year. There is talk of taking away their World heritage status. The big boats full of rich westerners have had their diving licenses taken away but they still continue to tour and dive. Some of the islands are inaccessible but it would appear you can get to them if you are willing to pay a bit more. It seems that the dangers presented by the human race here are not over fishing, clubbing stuff to death or over building and changing the habitat. Here there appear to be too many people who want to turn up and take photos. Something comes to mind about how things change as a result of the simple act of observation. Think it was about electrons in atoms or some such but the same appears to ring true here.

The question is. Do you close the islands and let the animals get on with it - but then no one can come and have an experience like mine - or do you let them come and end up with a bunch of un-inhabited volcanic rocks that when he rocked up inspired Darwin to pen a rather influential tome about how stuff changes and improves over time. Not a question for me to answer. Sunstainable tourism sounds good but no-one who works these islands thinks it is possible. Which is a shame. Corruption, greed and the voyeur in all of us will probably kill this place eventually. Not sure how you should react to that, watch a wildlife documentary or book a flight. Your call.

Well, I came here and was amazed. I will always be glad to have been lucky enough to have spent the last week here and I think my appreciation of the natural world will be skewed in their favour in future. Time will tell. Most amazing.

Spent a couple of days in Quito and am off to Chile for a really quite frightening amount of miles in about 2 weeks. South America is fairly large as it turns out. Off to see some ICE.... ICE..... you can fill in the rest.....

Congrats to Rog and Sangita on the new addition to the family. Hope you manage to get some sleep - although you could always re-read this if you have any trouble nodding off.

Take care. Hug someone special today - and not via Facebook, that doesn't count.

Posted by lidster 11:46 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Ecuador

guinea pig for lunch anyone?

semi-overcast 15 °C
View South America - out of Sorts on lidster's travel map.

If you ever want a culture shock spend some time in Central America and then pop over to Ecuador. Organised, clean, beautiful, did I say organised? Food disagreed with me for a day or so but since I have been doing next to nothing apart from mosying around then what do I care. Headed South as soon as I landed and this is a truly beautiful place. Valleys, streams, waterfalls, stunning. Only downside is that it is bloody freezing. I think it was about 22 or 23 in quito but when I got to Riobamba is was about 12. I only brought a light jacket. Almost caved in and bought one of those weaved numbers but figured I would rather freeze than live with the shame. I subsequently froze.

In the spirit of handing out some helpful advice to you, my dear reader(s), if you are planning to come to Ecuador (and you really should) then it would appear that the correct attire is entirely purchasable from a millets/patagonia/north face distributor near you. At each and every moment of each and every day you must be sufficiently equipped to scale the north face of the Eiger at the drop of a triple lined fleece hat. Nevermind that all you actually plan to do is to drink coffee and be driven (in your heated van) to the next waterfall you must be better equipped than special forces dropping into Northern Afghanistan. I saw one bloke who had enough of those coloured mountain climbing clip things to securely fasten a busload of ballet dancers to... well... to whatever, thats not the point. He didn't have any ropes and was having a leisurely cafe con leche (probably skimmed) and a slice of cake at the time. Tosser. Bit harsh but you wanted the truth, now you have to handle it. There are a large number of people who actually do hike. You can spot them though - they have mud on them and look knackered they are not looking replete with some cake crumbs on their fleece and wool reversible pullover. Remember - just beacuse you dress like Tina Turner it doesnt make you Tina Turner - and that advice is for everyone not just for members of my immediate family. Moving on.

So what else is news. Well I went to Banos and hung out for 24 hours. Hired a bike and took a recommended route through the moutains to see some waterfalls. I got there and almost had a heart attack. When I got back and asked the dude how high we were he said about 2000m. Ecuador is very elevated it turns out. Apart from the Western edges so they tell me. Waterfall for you - since I did risk serious injury to see it.

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That was fun but the next day I took one of only 2 working trains left in Ecuador. It "works" Wed, Fri and Sun. Working in this respect means that it followed the contours of the earth for 2 hours when they had to stop the train for an hour while some blokes with large heavy instruments and what appeared to be limited railway engineering experience whacked the rails back and forth. Trip continued. Didn't mind though - highly high up, bit chilly but recommended.

At this point I will start using a star system. 1-5 with 1/4 point increments should do it. nariz del diablo - 3.5 stars. Which is good as I am normally a bit of a miserable bastard (for those of you new to this blog) especially at 7 am when this happens.

I cannot sufficiently explain my contempt for this particular genre of enetertainment. Fair does this guy is a local and it is a traditional instrument and I certainly do nto balame him but it has been forever ruined by the multitude of crap pan pipes cd's avaialbale. I am not quite sure what hell will be like when I do get there (hope it has a bar) but one thing I can virtually guarantee is that Elvis will be on heavy radio rotation and every elevator and public space will be playing famous 70's and 80's hits remodelled as pan-pipes shite. Apologies to those of you who like it but you have no taste. Download Beggars Banquet by the Stones and tell me I am wrong. In any case, I digress.

Apart from the above rather enjoyable rant all is going swimmingly well. I had a migraine the other day and went to a pharmacy where I was able to buy prescription migraine medication at cut price rates. I did ask and xanex, prozac and any other number of "not available over the counter" pills are indeed available over the counter. Cool. Its nice to be a place where the goverment appears to trust the people not to go crazy and only ask the pharmacist for what they actually need in the way of medication. This is of course rather than taking anything and everything in order to numb the pain resulting from the last batch of meds waring off. Anyway, enough for now, the bloke in the internet cafe has just sprouted 2 more legs and a fish's head. Better get on my surf board made of cheese and escape. scurgle, burgle blumph flh.

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Posted by lidster 15:52 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

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