Saturday, 28 December 2013

269 Boxing Day and leaving Galapagos.

26th December 2013
Miles Today 50  Total 30,633
We were up early again today in prep for a trip to the “Tunnels”. We started out with a 1 hour boat trip, Westwards, along the coast. On arrival we saw why the area was called the ‘Tunnels’. Lava flowing over softer material, probably sand, had solidified and when the tide had taken the underlying material away, it had left bridges of lava, hence the term ‘Tunnels’.

A reluctant ‘John Travolta’, our Captain.
This place is weird in that Cactus grows just above the waterline, it is the only place in the world where this occurs.

These birds just let you walk right up and take piccys. This was from about 12”. A blue footed Booby.

After the Tunnels it was time for a spot of snorkeling, not too far from where the Tunnels were, in fact the tunnels were still there but underwater. This left some lovely places for big fish etc to hide and I set the GoPro up to take a photo every 1 second so I did not have to fiddle with the shutter under water. This is a good and a bad thing. Firstly I means I can just point the camera in the right direction and hey presto, lots of piccys and there is a good chance I have got what I want. The down side was having to sift through 1500 photos to find the 20 or so good ones. This is especially bad when you forget to turn the bloody thing off when just swimming from place to place. Doh !
Still, we got some good ones that we can cherish in our old people’s home in years to come. Also with the help of Paintshop, we were able to bring out the colours back and the definition better.
Some of the underwater tunnels left by the weird lava flows.
A big fish. Hieroglyphic Hawk fish
A "giant Damselfish"

A lesser spotted  Ray  looking for more fish.
The underwater landscape.
A Sea Horse.

A huge Lobster.
We then found some marine turtles and this just blew us away. It was fantastic.

Karen swimming above a very big Turtle.

We were then called over to a small cave where there were some sleeping sharks. Wohoo....

There are actually 5 sharks sleeping here. You cant see them all at once due to the light but they are there.
This is the original photo of the above to show how Photoshop can help bring the reality out of a picture. Underwater, your eyes and brain adjust to some degree and Photoshop helps to compensate for what the camera struggles to do in bad light.

The original of the above picture.

Another closer view inside the cave.
Then Captain Travolta found an octopus. Sadly it was then to become his dinner for the night. Incidentally, the Captain looks a lot like John Travolta and has collected this nickname.
Us two mimicking fish.
We did have a laugh when Karen spotted something and shouted to me, "Ray", "Ray". It caused a furore as everyone suddenly migrated to her expecting to see Stingrays. It was then shouts of "No, No, mi esposa Ray".

Once the fun was over we sailed the 1 hour trip back to Puerta Villamil and Karen then went for a walk to do some bird watching and I got talked by our Hotelier, Julio, into walking up to the top of the volcano, Sierra Negra. As the sky was clear and it was the first time we had seen the top of the volcano since we arrived, it seemed like a good idea. Stupid boy. After a a ½ hour taxi ride and a 30 minute walk to the top of the volcano the clouds had come back in and we could see the grand total of very little.
This is the Caldera which as you can see has thick clouds rolling in and we could only see about ¼ of the way across. A big disappointment really.

The mist gave the place an eerie feel on the way down.
On returning to the hotel, Karen had been taking some bird piccys and here are some of them.

A black Necked Stilt.
Another Flamingo.
A Smooth Billed Ani.
A friendly little Finch.
Friday 27th December 2013
Miles today 54 Total 30,687
A 5am start left a pair of very tired travellers sat on the dock waiting for the boat back to the main port of Ayora. However the birds, penguins (yes, I know they are birds too) and the seals giving us a serious fishing display. There were hundreds of Blue Footed Boobys all diving for fish only a couple of feet from where we were stood on the dockside.

We were then subjected to a bag search for stolen iguanas and seals. When none were found we boarded our mini boat for the 2 hour trip to Santa Cruz Island. At around 8:30 we arrived bored, tired and battered but alive. 
3 Trusty Yamaha’s taking us home. (I am horribly bias I know).

Sunrise as we left Isabella Island.

Our first job was to get some cash out. Again my card did not work but fortunately Karen’s did and we finally had some cash so we could eat where we pleased (as opposed to the only restaurant in town with a card machine). We then found a restaurant and dived into an English style breakfast. Bliss. It was then a short wander to our pre-booked hostel. After eventually finding it we moved in and had a couple of hours sleep. It was then out to the shops for the obligatory T shirt and fridge magnet hunt. 
The street outside out Hostel. We were back to the epicenter of ‘Fleece the Gringo’ land.
You don’t see many of these.
We passed the local fish preparation area and there were some serious fish being bought ashore. Whilst they were prepping then the local wildlife decided to turn up for the easy meals. It was incredible. Pelicans and Frigate birds fighting over the fish pieces. A couple of the pelican's bit off more than they could chew – literally.
It was hilarious and I have slowed the good bits down so you can see them better.

I’m next...No me....  No me..... Oh for God sake, who has pooped on the dinner table ? Jerry, was that you ?

I can’t talk right now, I have my mouth full...
The above bird eventually gets his meal down. The one with the nearly whole fish decided it is too much. Spits it out and as he does, another comes along, tries to steal it off him and accidentally kicks it back into the sea.
After some more grub and a relaxing afternoon we went to the pier area and saw some baby sharks and rays in the lit up harbour.
A Golden Ray. We have seen many more Stingrays but missed the photos.
Saturday 28th December 2013
Miles Today 1,045 31,732
A slightly later start today back for the airport to the mainland. We caught a taxi almost all the way and then the water taxi to the Island of Baltra where the airport is.
The long straight road over the lava fields of Santa Cruz.
Our water taxi to  Baltra. The island with the airport on. It crosses the stretch of water you can see in the above photo.
Baltra airfield was built by the US Americans due to its proximity to the Panama Canal. It was used as a defence airfield during WW2.
When we checked in we could not find our immigration papers to enter the Galapagos. They were probably in the luggage we had just checked in !
We paid £10 each for these and have no idea where they were. So it’s back to ‘Fleece the Gringo’ time and another $20 to exit the island. It is a bit sad, but my logic to them was. I must have already paid this or I would not be here. Did it cut any ice ? Take a guess. Essentially we have paid $240 to the Galapagos government to visit their islands only to be ripped off left right and centre by everybody and his dog and then pay 12% tax on top just for fun.
Karen has a different opinion and has enjoyed her stay here. For me, I enjoyed the wildlife side of it immensely but was left deflated due to the rip off culture that exists here and the lack of ATMs considering it is a tourist hot spot. I have no doubt Karen will slap some sense into me at some point. I am called grumpy for a reason.
Anyway, as I write this we are at about 30,000 feet and crossing another time zone so we are now back to 5 hours behind the UK. I am looking forward to seeing Wallace again. I know to most people he is just a motorcycle, but to me, after Karen, he is my best friend. (Karen calls Wallace a ‘She’, God only knows why, Women !!!)
Reliable, sure footed through the rough, and able to carry some serious baggage!

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