A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: KJ1978

Galapagos

The early start to the airport was relatively painless. The time change probably helped as our body clocks had not yet adjusted. We made use of the wifi at the airport before boarding our flight to San Cristobal.

The flight was fairly smooth and we arrived in San Cristobal around 1.20pm and transferred to the boat.

We had our first sightings of Galápagos sea lions and marine iguanas. The sea lions looked content, some laying in the streets, some on the rocks near the water, and some on the steps down to the Pacific Ocean like a welcoming committee!! We passed the sea lions on the steps down to our taxi boat which took us to the Xavier III - our boat for the week.

My first impressions of the guide were pretty poor. She seemed unorganised and not very bothered.

After lunch we visited Lobos Island. It was a dry landing. We saw many sea lions. It was a little sad as many baby sea lions were calling out to their mothers for milk - some will not be receiving it as theirs mothers dis-own them.

As we came in to land we saw our first two blue footed boobies, and 'magnificent birds' including the male which expands the red sack at the base of his throat when he is keen to mate.

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After returning to the boat we changed into our swimwear & wetsuits, and grabbed our snorkelling gear and headed out for a 45 minute snorkel. The water was much warmer than we had imagined it to be which was a nice surprise. I saw 2 sting rays and lots of fish in the water and many sea lions onshore. When I returned to the boat I was told I had been swimming with the sea lions - shame I had not noticed, but how cool! Not bad for the first day in the Galápagos, and I could look forward to the days to come.

We were starting to adjust to the rocking of the boat. Overnight we worked out which doors and drawers banged and wedged towels etc appropriately to minimise the noises in the cabin! A daily ritual for the next 7 days...

I spent my 37th birthday on the Galápagos. I woke in the early hours to texts from the UK.

The tannoy message came through 'Good morning, good morning. It is 6.45 in the Galápagos. This is your wake up call...'

Conor passed me my birthday cards he had brought out with him (from himself, mum and dad, Vicki and Gary, nan and a handmade one from my nephew Howard - so cute!). Conor had also taken a short video when picking up a few bits to bring out for me. Was so nice to have the family birthday messages played to me. This was my birthday card from Howard:

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Today we arrived in North Seymour. Today we saw land iguanas, frigate birds, magnificent birds and blue footed boobies. Mari (our guide) suggested we took a photo of the cactus for our calendars!

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We then had a swim stop for deep sea snorkelling. This time we saw 5 small sharks, loads of fish and a sea lion (I saw this one swimming with us!).

In the afternoon we had an 'excursion' (5 minute dingy transfer) to Mosquera island to stroll on the beach with more sea lions. This was our first wet landing, we disembarked the dingy into shallow water.

After returning to the boat we chilled out on deck. I was entertained by Michael McIntyre as I read my kindle on the sun deck whilst Conor watched Galápagos DVDs in the lounge.

We had our evening briefing and dinner. Conor had told Mari earlier in the day that it was my birthday, and she organised for the chef to make a birthday cake for dessert. Everyone sang happy birthday and I blew out the candle. Conor and I also shared a bottle of Malbec to celebrate.

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The next day I sent birthday wishes home - happy 95th birthday nan!

In the morning we headed out on a penguin search

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We then headed to Isla Santiago for a walk around the lava formations. The sun was shining and it was getting hotter.

After the walk we went deep sea snorkelling. It was a dream come true for me today as I literally swam with a penguin - it was right near me - so cool! We swam to shore and then caught the dingy back to the boat. Conor had skipped this snorkelling session as he had severely burnt his back the previous day when snorkelling.

In the afternoon we hiked to the summit of Bartholeme Island. We saw panoramic views - apparently one of the best among the islands (hard for me to feel too excited having just been to Patagonia!).

We returned to the boat for a chill out before dinner. We were very pleased to again have birthday cake for dinner (Jennas birthday).

Ten fellow passengers were to leave the boat the following day, early in the morning, so we said our goodbyes.

Tonight is the night I started the sleeping tablets. Too much noise overnight for me - I'm too much of a light sleeper for snoring!

The following day we visited Santa Cruz Island. We disembarked at Puerto Ayora and took a taxi to the Darwin research station. The reproduction programme hear has increased to number of giant tortoises from c 2,000 to c 50,000. They grow to approximately 300kg. We looked around the baby tortoises in the incubation area. They have numbers painted on their shells in different colours according to the island their parents were from and are micro chipped so they can be monitored.

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We heard of Lonesome George, the last survivor of land tortoises from Pinta Island.

In the below pen there were 12 giant tortoises, all males!!

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We headed back to the boat to meet our 10 new fellow travellers and have lunch before heading to visit the highlands to see more giant tortoises. These were still not in the wild, but had much more freedom to explore than in the Darwin centre.

Here was the welcoming committee!!

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I have some very funny films I can show you.

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And we saw two tortoises fighting - apparently the winner is the one who gets their head the highest!!

The day after, we arrived early for an excursion to Rabida Island. We took a short walk around a red sand beach and took a trail that led to a salt water lagoon, which used to be home to flamingos.

We then set out for our morning deep sea snorkelling session. I swam with the Danish couple, Sandra and Jacob, and we were very lucky to see 2 sea lions (1 which swam around us for a while), a white tip shark (which seemed to be asleep) and a sea turtle!! So cool!

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Ignore the date on the photo. Jacob had borrowed a camera and hadn't managed to change the date.

We then had an afternoon siesta on the boat before heading to Bachas Beach to look for flamingos. You could not script this trip. We headed to the first of the 2 lagoons which looked completely uninhabited. Just as we were giving up and started heading to the 2nd, in flew a flamengo. Perfect timing. There were then several of them at the 2nd lagoon.

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In the evening after dinner there was an impromptu display at the back of the boat. 4 sharks, 3 sea lions and 5 pelicans. Many flying fish (several eaten by the pelicans), and many pike fish (eaten by the sea lions). This must have lasted about an hour...

The following morning we headed to Punta Cormorant on the Northern part of Floreana. Again we saw flamingos in the lagoon. We walked along the white sand beach known as Flour Beach where turtles nest. We saw a number of turtles swimming in the sea from the beach.

In the afternoon we snorkelled near Champion Island and saw at least 12 sea turtles, a manga (like rays) and sea lions. Two were getting very friendly!

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At lunchtime I wrote a couple of letters to send from Post Office Bay in the afternoon. As we were not given a heads up I hadn't postcards to hand, but was fortunate to have envelopes I could use from my birthday cards! Hopefully these letters will arrive... I also hoped today that my mums Mothers Day gift would arrive (a boxed bottle of Malbec - apt considering where I was travelling). Sunday delivery was unavailable but I would rather it arrive early...

In the afternoon we briefly visited Post Office Island. I selected 2 postcards to forward on to addresses in England and posted my 2 letters. I wonder whether they will arrive, and if so, how long it will take!

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We chilled out before the briefing and dinner then sailed overnight.

We had an earlier start (6am wake up call) the next morning to avoid unnecessary heat on our hike. We headed to Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. We hiked to the top of the cliff (very short and easy hike). We saw a small snake, many Nacca boobies including many babies, sea lions, lizards and iguanas. We then headed back to the boat for a rest before lunch. One of the girls, Pia, was badly hydrated and got sick today. So disappointing when you cannot fully enjoy the trip, bless her.

In the afternoon we went snorkelling. We saw some new pretty blue fish.

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And to prove I was there! I am the one on the left in the first two photos

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We then had a rest as we sailed to San Cristobal. After dinner we took the dingies to the shore. Conor and I shared a pizza as we were still hungry. Several of us then partied on the boat. A few of us took the dingy with one of the crew to pick up Jenna and another crew member who had gone to the local discotheque. We had a ride on the boat, ducking under Catamarans. Very fun. We returned to the boat to party til the wee hours...

And for the last time 'Good morning, good morning. It is 6.45 in the Galápagos. This is your wake up call...'...

We left the boat at 8am to head to the interpretation centre before our flight to Quito via Guayaquil.

We passed over our tips to the crew and the guide. My impressions of the guide (Mari) improved throughout the week. She was very knowledgeable, a little mental, but very entertaining...

We arrived back to our hotel (Mercure Hotel - recommended) in Quito (the highest capital in the world at 2,820 metres) at 6pm, and caught up properly as we had wifi. Jenna, Conor and I headed out for dinner - a little disappointed as the meal was very bland. It was nice to spend the night in comfy beds, even if still feeling like we were on the boat!

Pia was still poorly so headed to the hospital. She had a drip in her arm to rehydrate herself. If any of you travel to the Galápagos, make sure you keep hydrated! It really was not fun to see how poorly Pia has been. I hope she is now well and able to enjoy the rest of her travels.

The following morning, I again sent birthday wishes to the UK - happy birthday Chris!

Today we arranged for a guide to drive us to the hot springs - Balneario - Termas de Papallacta. We had a nice relaxing day.

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On return we headed to the market.

In the evening we headed to the Old town for dinner. We had asked at the hotel reception for a recommendation. By this stage we had accepted the fact that meals in Quito were far from the quality of my earlier travels. We were pleasantly surprised to have a delicious meal. Both Conor and I had perfectly cooked steaks with nice trimmings and treated ourselves to a nice bottle of wine and dessert. I can recommend the restaurant - called Theatrum.

It was then off to the airport the next day to start our travels home. I felt ready to return. The 7 weeks have been great fun but I was missing my home comforts.

Endless bus journeys, boat journeys and 19 flights... It has been an amazing trip. Many friends made, and hopefully opportunities to visit some of these in their home countries in the future!

The passport now looks a little fuller too!

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I thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and hope you have enjoyed it. I am sure I will look back through it in the future with many fond memories.

Take care for now

Katie xx

Posted by KJ1978 12:51 Comments (1)

Quito - Ecuador

Today has been a fairly tiring travel day. An early start had us transferring to the airport by taxi to catch our flight to Lima with a connection to Quito. At the check in desk we were advised our luggage would be held as they were waiting to hear whether the first flight was to be delayed, which would have meant we would miss our connecting flight (meaning approximately 11 hours wait for a night flight to Quito!). After a few conversations we were fortunately told the flight would depart on time, saving us from the logistical nightmare of arriving at the hotel around 3am and departing at 6am meaning 3 hours to re pack and sleep (?!).

From here on in it was smooth. A comfortable flight to Lima, successful connection (us and the baggage), a very cheery passport control officer on departure and a happy dude too at passport control on arrival to Quito. We arrived at the hotel (Mercure hotel) around 4pm, and chilled out prior to meeting the G Adventures rep and 2 people (Danish couple) from the new tour for a briefing in reception. We headed out with the couple for dinner locally and called it a day early in order to conserve some energy for our early start tomorrow. First impressions of Quito left us underwhelmed. It certainly has a reputation for its safety at night and you are advised to take a taxi back to the hotel each evening, which we did. You can feel the altitude a little too especially when taking the stairs up!

Unaware now of the wifi signal we are likely to find - watch this space in due course for an update on the Galapagos which is where we head onto next :o)

Posted by KJ1978 18:48 Comments (1)

Buenos Aires - last night of tour 2 & between tours 2 and 3

Returned once again to Buenos Aires, this time ending the 2nd tour. The group decided to head to El Querandi for a meal and Tango Show for the last night. This place was far better than the previous one I had been to, both for quality of dinner and quality of the performance. I was glad they had been in this order, as the night exceeded my expectations! Time to say farewell for now to my new found friends.

Conor arrived the following morning, a little later than expected, and without his luggage which had not made the flight... He was very calm - not sure I would have been so relaxed about it. We headed to Cafe Tortoni, second time here for me but I wanted to show it to Conor (and to taste their toasted cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches that I had spotted on my first visit. They did not disappoint!). We had a walk round the area, a quick chill out then took a taxi to Palermo Soho to spend the evening. First stop La Cabrera for a nice Joe Blake and Vino Tinto!! The service was slow but the food very nice. Dessert was lush - I had pistachio cheesecake and Conor chose Creme Brûlée. After dinner we headed to Thelonious - a Jazz club recommended to us.

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Today we took a taxi to La Boca, where we had a nice relaxed lunch whilst tango dancers performed outside the bars in the street. Slightly frustrated when the waiter decided he wanted to add a 20% tip for himself on top of the 12.8% tip already added to the bill and the tips for the dancers!! Needless to say he did not receive this... I picked up a small present for my nan for her 95th birthday - hope she likes it! On return from La Boca I had a quick power nap and we headed out for another walk around the area then back to the hotel. On our return Conors baggage had still not arrived. The company narrowly avoided an irate phone call as his suitcase arrived when he went to reception to make the call. Potential stress resolved 12 hours prior to leaving the hotel...

Final delicious meal at Happiness, Puerto Madero. Another steak and Malbec (particularly nice one), mojito and then sleep time ready for the early flight tomorrow...

Posted by KJ1978 15:25 Comments (3)

Ushuaia

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A short flight landed us in Ushuaia. The weather when we landed was fine, but soon the skies clouded over and we became drenched during a short trip into town. We had our passports stamped having reached the most Southern point in the world, also known here as 'the end of the world'. That was pretty cool. Hester (my roomie) and I booked our trip to the the Penguins and then headed with Rodrigo (our tour guide) for a hot chocolate and slice of orange cake whilst the rain cleared. I then took the chance to relax for an hour or two. We had a fun evening in Ushuaia. Most of the group headed to the restaurant for the final meal with Donna (who left the group early to continue her travels in Antarctica). My meal was delicious - salmon with pumpkin purée the crepe with chocolate, banana and ice cream. We then headed back to the hotel bar and discovered most choices on the drinks menu were unavailable so settled for a beer!

The second day in Ushuaia was a relaxed breakfast and stroll into town. In the afternoon Hester, Corina, Phillip and myself headed to see the Penguins. The trip we selected allowed us to sit a couple of metres from them, which was really cool. There are 3 types of penguin on this little island. The main 2 of which there were many were Magellanic and Gentoo. The King penguin has a population of only 4 here, and so we were very lucky to see 2 of them!

Here are some of the friends we met:

Lovers

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Fighters

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Chilling

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Posing

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Cleaning

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Socialising

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And the King penguin

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We now leave windy Patagonia to return to Buenos Aires for our last night as a group.

Posted by KJ1978 04:21 Comments (2)

Patagonia glaciers - El Calafate and El Chalten

Perito Merino, Fitz Roy and Viedma Glacier

So, after the last night in Puerto Natales (where I literally laundered money), we took a bus ride to El Calafate. Here and El Chalten, which we spent the next 4 nights, were the towns close to the glaciers and each day we had a new experience.

Perito Merino - the most famous glacier on the Southern area of the park. This glacier produces a cyclic phenomenon of foreword and backwards movement, with spectacular ice falls from its front walls. We visited this by minibus, had a boat ride to closely view the southern side and then a few hours to walk around the bridges to the viewing platforms to see the other sides.

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Fitz Roy - on the Northern extreme of the park, the granite peaks, lakes, woods and glaciers together. Mt. Fitz Roy stands at 3,405m. We trekked to the highest viewing platform. As Dianna, a fellow traveller who refers to me as 'Kaillie with an accent', describes most of this walk as 'PUDs'. Pointless Ups & Downs. This gave me a little too much time to think and I felt a little homesick. The steep incline at the end and the stunning view thereafter helped change my thoughts however! A pretty good way to end February 2015!

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Viedma Glacier - a large glacier that is part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. It was raining as we left for the glacier trekking, and we had a full rainbow this morning. We took a bus and a boat then put on our crampons and set out in the glaciers. The caves and tunnels were amazing - unfortunately my photos do not do them justice which is a little disappointing...

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We are now ready to leave El Calafate for Ushiaia. I am pleased to be flying this morning as I am sick of mini buses and local buses! Had been sick of flights in the first tour!!

In case you visit these towns, I can recommend the following:

El Calafate -
Don Pichon. I honestly believe this was my best steak ever!
Roble Sur - a really nice hotel

El Chalten -
La Tapera and La Cerveceria - both lovely restaurants. The second is also a microbrewery.

Ciao for now!

Posted by KJ1978 04:25 Comments (1)

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