Tuesday, 24 December 2013

265 On to The Galapagos.

Before we write the rest of this post I decided to put in a piccy of the recent part of the trip. Previously we put in the whole trip so far but it is now just too big to take a good snapshot of !

Saturday 21st December 2013
Miles Today  0 Miles Total  29,727
The previous night I had tried to get money out of the local cash machines to no avail so this morning I phoned my bank to see if there was a problem and was told that the card was fine, they already had a note on the system as to where I was and to try some less local type banks so this morning I did just that and managed to get $100 out. I needed a whole lot more for the up coming trip.
We spent the rest of the day sorting our clothing and other belongings for our trip to the Galapagos. We arranged with our hotel to leave Wallace with them as they had the upper floor of a car park next to the hotel reception. It was a better, drier and cheaper option than the secure parking at the airport. 
Once all the admin was done we wandered along to the river to watch the sun go down.

At 2 degrees South of the Equator, the sun goes down real quick.
Fortunately there was a bar there too so needless to say, we partook of their services. 

It was a very pleasant evening.
 Across the river was a coloured dancing fountain thingy which was nice to watch whilst supping a beer or two.
The dancing coloured water thingy.
 Then it was off to bed for an early start for the airport.

Sunday 22nd December 2013
Miles Today  856 Miles Total  30,583
We were up at 6 and in a taxi to the airport for 7. On arrival at the airport, my first priority was to get some more cash out. Sadly, all 5 machines gave me the big finger. Oh dear, I now had a problem. We had about $400 on us and we knew that the fees for the day were going to use all that up. I assumed it was the local bank problem and decided to wait and withdraw some once in the Galapagos.

Anyway, we queued up to get our baggage checked and pay out the first $20 airport fee. Whilst in the queue we got chatting to a surfer from Sao Paulo in Brazil. He, Raphael Garguilo, spoke good English and eventually told us he was a Civil Engineer. We talked further and it turns out that he is now a projects manager but his speciality was in Soil Mechanics. Well blow me down - so was mine. It turns out he worked in engineering laboratories just the same as I did before I joined the police. It is a very specialised job employing very few people. We chatted about engineering stuff and soils tests for ages whilst Karen just glazed over and yawned. I have never met anyone in this field of work outside of a laboratory in my life. I was made up and Karen was bored to tears.

Raphael, Karen and Ray.

Our flight was a bit delayed which was bad news for us as we had a scheduled boat to catch at the other end for transfer to another island where we had booked a hotel. We were finally called through and off we were for the 600 mile flight to the Galapagos.

Our transport to paradise.

Guayaquil from the air. Going up.
The first islands of the Galapagos. Going down.
We arrived at Baltra airport and I was a bit nervous about catching our onward boat. We went to immigration although we we still technically still on Ecuador and the desk next to passport control wanted a $200 Galapagos entrance fee. "Can I pay by card please". "No, cash only". Doh, a rapidly depleting wallet.
We got our bag and sat on the bus for the first stage of our trip. A 5 minute bus tide down to sea for a 100m ferry ride to the main island. That will be another $2 please.
Once off the ferry we were in a serious hurry. We had a 30 mile trip across this island to catch our boat and we only had 45 minutes to do it in. Fortunately the road was virtually empty and we made good time. En route we saw some huge tortoises (and I really do mean huge) wandering around in peoples gardens.
We got to the port with 5 minutes to spare and went to the ticket office for the boat. "Can I pay by card please", "No, cash only". Doh. I did not have enough to pay for the fare both ways  ($120 in total). The teller pointed me to the ATMs and I duly partook of their fine electronic wizardry only to be told that my card was blocked (it was in Spanish so I was not absolutely sure what it said).
I went back to the teller and just bought tickets for the outbound trip. Oh poo, I was now in trouble. Then the teller told me there were no ATMs where I was going. I had just been given the big finger again by the only ATMs in the Galapagos. Luverly, and just before Christmas too, could it get any better ?
Anyway, the boat was waiting for us so we jumped on for the 50 mile trip to Isabella Island. I got on the phone to my bank and spent £10.50 in call charges to be told that my card had been blocked but as I had called they have now unblocked it. I explained to the phone girl that I was now up poo creek with 3, 200hp engines speeding me rapidly away from the only ATMs within a 600 mile radius. "Sorry sir, but we have reinstated your card though". I hung up.
We were now in very very deep poo poo. We only had $45 in cash, no means of getting any more, the hotelier wanted $277 for our 5 day stay and we also needed $60 to get back to the Island with the airport. Oh, and then there is the small matter of not being able to eat. Christmas was going to be a bit dire as things are not cheap here, this is the center of the known "lets fleece the gringo" universe.
The boat trip was a very bumpy 2 hour endurance test with a few green faces on board. Oddly enough I was not one of them. I was too angry and pissed off to be sick. Karen was keeping her distance from me as I was not good company to be around.

I hate boats but for once I was not sick. Wohoo. The only good news of the day.
 We got to the dock at around 4pm and were transferred to a smaller boat for the last 200m. Why the one we were on could not go to the dock is a mystery to me. I formed the opinion it was just to employ more people in the gravy chain. We had to pay another $2 for the 200m trip. Once on the dock, another hand was thrust out for another $5 each dock fee or $1 for Ecuadorians. See what I mean about fleecing the gringo's.
This guy obviously had a leak at the back of his boat that has now been sealed.

"It is Christmas yet", "Nope, 3 more days", "So what did you get me", "Same as last year", "Great, I love fish".

Now normally I would just grumble at this but as my wallet now only had $45 in it I was ready to slash my wrists.
The hotelier's wife was at the dockside and I had to explain to her that I had no way of paying the bill. Never the less we hailed a taxi for the 1 mile trip to the Hotel Sula Sula. Once there we met the hotelier, Julio. Again we had to explain that we could not pay him due to the friendly assistance of the fraud department of my bank.
He was not fazed at all. He said it happens regularly and we could pay for the hotel when we got back to the other Island (and ATMs) through his other office there he also stated that if we wanted to do any trips we could add them to that bill to. He then went on to say that he was a tour guide himself and has a business arrangement with 5 restaurants in the port and if we wanted to eat there, just tell them to send him the bill. Fortunately I was was sitting down when he told me this as else I would have collapsed with relief. What a lovely man. He later took us on a trip around the village and pointed out all the restaurants we could use. As usual, Karen was nowhere near as stressed out about the situation as I was and was convinced that we would find a way around the problem. To be honest she was like this when we were at work. She can a be a real crutch in a crisis, calm and collected, and I love her for it.
  After settling in we went in the center of the village and spotted a restaurant with a VISA sign. We jumped in there for a mediocre meal but we were at least able to pay for it with my newly reactivated bank card. We also managed to talk the German manager into giving us $50 cash too but we still needed to pay 12% tax on it. At least we had some money in our pockets.
I am slowly calming down, the smile has reappeared - a bit.
It was then to bed and we were exhausted from stress alone, regardless of the traveling.

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