28 December 2014

Galapagos Islands: You Won't Believe It Until You Go!

                Wayne and I debated a lot about what to do on our trip – boat trip, which would be very expensive, require lots of research, or staying on an island in one of the towns. My friend Sherry had taken a tour that kept them in hotels at night, and we thought staying in hotels sounded good. Plus, not running for that long would be brutal (though my podiatrist would probably recommend it!) and I didn’t relish the idea of being on a boat that long. I found it easy to find a nice place (Hotel Galapagos Inn FKA Casa de Judy, on Isla Santa Cruz, right close to Puerto Ayoro), which was really beautiful, had a nice pool, and gorgeous views. The hotel was a bit outside of the edge of town, situated over the National Park, so it was gorgeous – oh, and in front of that was an amazing oceanfront view. Yes, please!
                After a long journey, Judy talked our ear off – or mine, since she primarily spoke Spanish. Good practice for me. We headed to town and got lunch at one of the many eateries, and I had my first Lorca de Papas, an amazing potato-cheese-avocado soup. I need to look up recipes when I go home to make this! And of course, lots of jugo de maracuya. I was in heaven.
                We headed over to the Charles Darwin Research station, where we saw giant iguanas, baby turtles, giant turtles, crabs, chilled at a little beach. This became my daily run spot, yay.
                After, we went back to town, exploring a bit more, stopped in some shops to find something adorable for my niece and nephew, we enjoyed a little bug vehicle that reminded us of Burning Man art cars. We went back to our hotel and planned the tours for the rest of our trips.
                We were happy to feel more energy post-Quito, but the next few days would exhaust us.

                The next day, we got up early and I ran. Then we hired a taxi driver (who ripped us off, but that’s another story) and we went to The Lava Tunnels. Basically, what happens is they drop you off at this random woman’s house, you pay $3, and you get a flashlight to borrow and she turns on the power to lights in the tunnel (Many of which don’t work, making the experience even eerier), and you head into a tunnel. It’s a series of underground caves, almost a mile (1.22 k actually) and it would have been very scary to go through alone. We were both a bit frightened, but awed by the magic. Really cool. It was carved out by lava many years ago, and was the second-longest in South America. This was one of the highlights of our trip, as weird as it sounds.
                Then we headed over to a tortoise reserve. They were huge, beautiful creatures, and not that friendly but not that angry. Amazing. At one point, there were tons chilling in a small muddy pond.
                We went to el gemelos, these craters, which weren’t as impressive as they sounded, but still pretty. Huge sinkholes filled with plants, basically.
                We went back to town and tried to find a trip to Seymour. We eventually did, peeling off almost every bill in our pockets to do so. (It was Christmastime, so trips were even more – we paid $140 to go to Las Plasas, and $155 to go to Seymour.) Then we walked to Tortugua Beach – on the edge of town, you have a 2.5 km walk on a stoned-lined path. Wayne’s feet and back were killing him, but it was wonderful once we were there. A gorgeous beach, even with a nice surf break, and then you walked down the end to the bathing part. There were iguanas swimming, birds, gorgeous. Then on the other side was a bay of some sorts, super calm water, kayaks to rent, mangroves to sit in the shade under. Really lovely.
                The next day, we were picked up for a trip to Seymour.  Amazing. We arrived on an island with tons of sea lions, blue-footed boobies, red-breasted frigates, pelicans…really amazing, especially as how the animals would just come up to you without any fear, say hello. I took loads of photos, and then my camera broke and I was in tears. Wayne fixed it, of course, but I missed a few photos of blue footed boobies and iguanas. We headed back into the boat and we boated someplace for snorkeling, but our awful guide kept saying, “Don’t come if you are not a good swimmer.” (The guides are not always the best here, sigh.)  After snorkeling was another blah blah Ecuadorian lunch, and then we went to an island just covered, just covered with sea lions. I was blown away. I sat down next to them, and they seemed pretty chill and barely took notice, except when a baby sea lion came up to us, confused as to whether or not we were there mother, and they’d bark at us. We took tons of photos. There was also a skeleton of a whale too, but this was mainly a sea lion island. Wonderful.
                That night, I was annoyed at Wayne for taking forever to get ready – we had drinks plans with a brother-in-law of a friend. As soon as we left to eat, I started feeling awful, really queasy. We went on to dinner anyway and I made my best attempt. I said to Wayne, “I feel awful – like I’m going to throw up.” He told me he’d pay and I waited outside
                The walk back to our hotel was hell. I had to stop every few meters to sit and I hoped I could make it home. I gave Wayne instructions on logging onto my computer and Facebook to message Jose, and tell him we couldn’t make it. Around the block from our hotel, I threw myself into gravel by a children’s playground and vomited. I got up, walked a few feet (You know, closer to the children.) and threw myself down again to vomit. When I got back I noticed gravel marks in my knees and shins.
                In the hotel, I cleaned myself up and brushed my teeth and passed out in bed. Wayne wrote Jose, who ironically was sick the next day. I did feel okay the next morning.
                When I woke up, I went for a super slow run, and Wayne’s stomach was a mess (again….). We ate, and then got on a boat headed to Las Plasas. The bus was full of 12 people from one large family – nice, super-rich, but still, a family with their own dynamics. There was also an older couple. We mainly stayed to ourselves.
                We headed first to see sea lions, lots of amazing birds, iguanas, and learned a lot about why certain animals were behaving the way they were.
                After dinner, we went to bed and slept a lovely amount. In the morning, we had our last day, aka Christmas.
                I celebrated the holiday with a long run, and then woke Wayne up. We had breakfast, and then headed out to Garrapatos, a far beach. We ended up getting sunburnt (even sun blisters, in my case, sigh….). We showered, got dinner, and met up with Jose. We talked about the Galapagos Islands, Burning Man, Barcelona, Ecuador, that sort of thing….really fun.
                And then…we were done. A night of sleep, get up early, and GO for a long day of trip from Galapagos to Guayquil then 

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