Galapagos did not disappoint

After paying the rather hefty fees to our agent to come to the Galapagos, we catered to the 7 men who came aboard to complete paperwork, inspect the contents of our cupboards and dive the hull of SW and were then given the all clear. This is the most expensive place we have ever been to! It definitely didn’t disappoint.

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We had fortified the back of the transoms with plastic netting, which kept the cute sea lions off the cockpit area. They found the back step and after putting fenders there it took them another week to work out they could still wiggle there way under them. Oh well no mess at least. We had 2 regulars which we named Chuck & Darwin.
imageimageOn San Cristobel we went on a couple of hikes that didn’t need guides. Yes a lot of activities in the Galapagos require guides. The following are some activities we enjoyed:


1. The walk through the Interpretation Centre gave us lots of info on the history here and then you continued on to Cerro Tijertas to see Charles Darwins statue and the clear bay for snorkeling. The path then went onto Playa Ochoa & Punta Carola for turtles and sea lions galor.
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2. Taxi tour ($50) to Laguna El Junco (the only fresh water lake in the Galapagos), Galapaguera (tortoise breeding farm) and on to Puerto Chino with its beautiful turquoise water & white sand beach. After swimming & absorbing the sun we managed to catch a taxi for a couple of $s back to El Junco and cycled back into town.

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Giant land tortoises at La Galapaguera

Puerto Chino beach

Puerto Chino beach

3. Walked to Playa La Loberia about 50 minutes, for some snorkeling and saw 6 huge turtles hanging out in the bay.

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4. Wildlife everywhere; Marine Iguanas, Blue footed boobies, lava lizard, frigate males with their bright red throats, big crabs & of course sea lions galore. These sea lions do have quite the life, playing in the surf, lounging everywhere and anywhere, swimming upside down and chasing each other; great entertainment for us. Snorkeled and kayaked with them which was fun.

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marine iguanas feed in the ocean & lounge on the rocks spitting the sea water out of their noses.

marine iguanas feed in the ocean & lounge on the rocks spitting the sea water out of their noses.

 

lots of mum & pups feeding

lots of mum & pups feeding

We went diving at this stunning rock formation called Kicker Rock ($160 each). The 2 dives were great and we saw lots of different sharks; hammerheads, black tip & Galapogas Sharks, large turtles, sea lions and lots of different fish.

Great quiet anchorage in San Cristobel, but It was time to move onto Santa Cruz. We had heard the anchorage in Puerto Ayora was rolly but we found it reasonably calm; maybe the time of the year we are here. The anchorage is busy as this bay is the main hub for Cruise boats and dive live-aboards who come and go each day. They get to go to more islands and anchorages than we are allowed. Was fun kyaching past these boats in the bay.
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The following are some things we did on Santa Cruz:
1. Wandered thru town and out to the trails at the Charles Darwin Centre to see land tortoises and these stunning yellow iguanas. Saw the fish market on the way, which had a good variety and was alive with Pelicans and seals looking for scraps. Fresh fish for dinner.
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2. Tortuga Bay is about a 40 minute walk from town along a path that finishes on a beautiful white beach with a lagoon and trees with shade at the far end, to cool off after the walk. Loads of marine iguanas here. Loved the very old cacti trees in bloom.
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3. To Las Grietas, a small gorge with 3 small water holes filled with very “refreshing” water where you can snorkel or go swimming.
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4. Cycled up past Bella Vista to Tunel de Lava. As the lava flow from a volcano is exposed to open air the flow cools and a crust is formed outside but the molten lava continues to flow under the crust leaving behind a hollow known as a lava tube. The tunnel was huge.
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We went diving with Academy Bay Diving Centre, who we’d highly recommend, to North Seymour & Mosquera ($170 each) for 2 dives. We had an amazing time seeing lots of marine life up close and enjoyed good visibility. The sharks swim very close, Wow! Lots of hammerheads & white tip sharks, eagle and spotted rays.
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Our last stop was the island of Isabela, which is the biggest island with a beautiful long white sand beach that was nice for a walk. We had a nice protected anchorage behind the Tintoreras reef. Would have loved to kayak here but as its one of the islands tourist spots we weren’t allowed! Hmmmm.

We cycled out to the Wall of Tears, 6km from town where the wall represents the only evidence of a prison camp from 1946 to 1959 where the prisoners were forced to build the wall in this heat. You can walk to the top of the hill above the wall for a view back to town to see how harsh & dry the landscape here really is.

Huge volcanic rocks to be moving in this heat!

Huge volcanic rocks to be moving in this heat!

Passed turtles on the way, great to see them in the wild.

Passed turtles on the way, great to see them in the wild.

Walked along the boardwalk out to the giant tortoise breeding centre (free), which had all sorts of size tortoises and information about them. The boardwalk is also home to lots of marine iguanas and pink flamingos.
image The most popular tour here is to the Cabo Rosa Tuneles de Lava ($110 each) behind a reef where broken lava tubes form natural bridges and underwater stone tunnels. We snorkeled amongst the formations and saw huge turtles, sea lions, eagle rays, sea horses; something we’ve never seen and sharks sleeping. A treat on the way back was 2 huge mantas near the surface, which we stopped to watch them gliding about, very cool.
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Also went for a 16km hike to Volcán Sierra Negra ($40 each), the second largest crater in the world with a diameter of 7 x 10 kilometers, walking along its rim and down the other side amongst the old volcanic rock to Volcan Chico, which had last exploded in 2005. Amazing terrain that has that sulphur smell and you can feel the heat radiating from some of the collapsed small lava tunnels.

On the rim of Sierra Negra with harden volcanic rock below

On the rim of Sierra Negra with harden volcanic rock below

Amazing colors near Volcan Chico, on the side of Volcán Sierra Negra

Amazing colors near Volcan Chico, on the side of Volcán Sierra Negra

Lastly we wanted to snorkel with the small penguins up close so headed to Concha Perla near the main dock. These guys are only 30cm long and very fast.

We enjoyed the Galapagos. Alas it looks like the officials are going to tighten things up even more for yachties this year. Shame, but then they really don’t want or need us here. Maybe visiting by plane and doing a last minute dive / cruise trip organized in Santa Cruz so you get to more islands to see the wildlife would be the thing. You need guides to do and see the area and those activities are pricey and seem to rise every year, so expect it.

Off to the Marquesas in French Polynesia.

Feliz Año Nuevo, we’re moving on….

We had a great time here at Puerto Amistad, in Bahia de Caráquez, after traveling inland. A few cloudy days and no rain or lightening, so different to Panama, from what we are hearing. image

Audrey & Grant decided to do some travel in Ecuador & Peru as well, so booked a condo up the road near Canoa to celebrate Christmas with us. Definitely enjoyed a few nice sunsets on the balcony, with just a few drinks as you do.image

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They weren’t used to no snow on Xmas day, but I think they enjoyed the walk on the beach and jumping the waves in the Pacific Ocean. Good times!
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Bahia surprised us with lots of things on for New Years. Fireworks and a free band on the street with lots of people hanging out enjoying it. At midnight people bring their painted effigies of politicians, pop culture figures, and other icons of the year to torch in the streets. They come in all shapes & sizes.
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This tradition of burning the “año viejo” (“old year”) is symbolic of cleansing the bad from the previous 12 months before entering the new year. They also light lanterns and send them up over the bay. All very cool to watch.

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Got to know some local gringos and the staff, while at Puerto Amistad. As always it’s sad to say goodbye but for us it’s time to move on; we’re on our way to the Galapagos.

At Puerto Amistad with Tony, Julia & Jim

Last night at Puerto Amistad with Tony, Julia & Jim

With Gustavo & Oscar from Puerto Amistad

Really got to know Gustavo & Oscar 2 of the staff from Puerto Amistad; good guys

Here’s to a happy and prosperous New Year for everyone.

 

Ecuador – Los Andes

The volcanos in the distance from Quito beckoned us and we definitely were not disappointed.

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From Quito we crossed the Andes to the North into the Imbabura province with incredible views of Imbabura volcano, San Pablo glacial lake & Cotacochi volcano. These mountains just towered all around us.
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We were surprised to learn that this area produces a lot of roses and flowers for export and you’d see the growing sheds and road side stalls selling flowers everywhere.

 

 

 

The scenery just made us want to get some exercise, so we walked to the Peguche waterfall. Nothing to strenuous but nice to get some fresh air. We were surprised to see lots of Eucalyptus trees in Ecuador imported in from Australia.
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The town of Peguche is small with mainly indigenous people dressed in traditional clothing going about there everyday lives. Interestingly both the men & women have long hair here. The men and women seem to share the agricultural duties here.

they are small people and carry everything on their backs.

they are small people and carry everything on their backs.

the women here tend to the animals and the fields

we saw many cows being led around the towns in Ecuador

selling their bean produce

selling their bean produce on the side of the road

This town actually makes all the textile weaving that is found in many markets and stores around Ecuador. The women prepare the wool and the men actually do the weaving.
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While in Peguche we saw the Tren de Los Andes or the old steam train that takes tourists through the Andes. An expensive way to get around apparently. Here’s a video clip of the train going by but I’m not sure if its going to work. Our guide was so excited.

p1110735It was then into the Otavalo markets to see the local markets selling weavings & FRESH produce, both very colorful. Would have loved to get some fresh produce here.
p1110741p1110743p1110748We made our way through some valleys directly East of Quito to Pampallacta, also known as the gateway to the Amazon. The drive was impressive as we climbed up to 4000m where it was very rocky with coarse vegetation and down to the town.
p1110755The natural public hot springs of which there are many pools beaconed us. So nice and relaxing.

Our room had a nice pool outside with no one around, perfect!

Our room had a nice pool outside with no one around, perfect!

We made a trip into Cotopaxi National Park South of Quito. The landscape was so dry and flat with wild llamas about.
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Walked 4km around Laguna Limpiopungo with Ruminahui volcano in background

Walked 4km around Laguna Limpiopungo with Ruminahui volcano in background

Cotopaxi Volcano in the background, an active volcano

Cotopaxi Volcano in the background, an active volcano

Our guide took us to some amazing haciendas built in the 1600’s around the Andes to see the grounds, all of which were really impressive.

Hacienda San Augustin so different to the homes in the area

Hacienda San Augustin so different to the homes in the area

Interesting art work in the El Monasterio wing at Hacienda Cusin

Interesting art work in the El Monasterio wing at Hacienda Cusin

We ended up staying at a working farm, Hacienda La Alegria to experience their daily works. Maurico was awesome taking us for a 5 hour horse ride into the hills with some nice scenery.
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The farm has Alpacas and Llamas, dairy cattle and lots of horses. The farm dogs were very proud when they decided to round up the Alpacas and llamas for us on their own accord. The llamas were not so happy being disturbed.
p1110801Excellent time in the Andes. Heading to Peru.

Ecuador – NW Coast to Quito

Ecuador, it’s truly a diverse country and we really enjoyed our time here. The red dotted line in my picture above is where we travelled in Ecuador. Would have loved to get to some other towns here but then you can’t do everything.  image

The NW Coast
We were moored in Bahia de Caráquez a great place to leave the boat to go inland and see the country as it’s nice and protected behind a point of land, up a river.img_0700Unfortunately the NW coast region, including Bahia was struck by a 7.8 earthquake in April 2016 destroying many homes and buildings. In the photo above most of the white tall buildings have to come down still and need to be rebuilt. The people who have stayed (and many have left) are strong and are fighting back rebuilding their towns. We saw many temporary homes and volunteer groups along the way helping the many towns and communities on the Coast.
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We drove the Coast road from Bahia to Quito some 300kms. The landscape was so dry on the coast with bare dirt and hardy looking trees. Through all the small towns we passed lots of roadside stalls selling all sorts of things our fav being the candy stalls, which of course we needed to try. Yum!
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We went through one town where there were lots of pigs strung up at each restaurant entrance. Fritada is a traditional Ecuadorian dish available on the weekends and yes is made from pork hence the advertising out front. We had already eaten Seco de pollo or Chicken Stew, which was very tasty and filling so the pigs out front on the dusty road did not appeal.

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To get to Quito we drove up, up and further up, West over the Andes some 3500m where it got very cold.p1110634

Then it was down into Quito, which sits at 2850m above sea level.
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Quito was founded in the 16th Century on the ruins of an Inca City. It was designated as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and you can definitely see why. We stayed in the old city and wandered around the streets, which have just amazing small one way cobbled streets with beautiful old buildings, incl many churches and an amazing landscape, where there are 15 volcanos around Quito.

From the old city looking up at El Panecillo hill with the Virgin of Quito (40m high) overlooking the old cityp1110649
Plaza de la Independencia was beautiful at night and seemed to be busy all the time. img_0543Catedral de Metropolitana de Quito from the Plaza square at nightimg_0545
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The city of Quito is 65kms long and your only seeing a little bit of it here at a mirador on El Panecillo. Definitely a big place with lots of volcanos in the distance. Below is the views North over the old city with the Basilica, below volcan Guagua Pichincha to Volcan Cotacahip1110639

Lots of beautiful churches all around the historic district.
San Francisco is Quito’s oldest church and was built in 1535. This was a huge church with an amazing gold leafed interior everywhere you looked.
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Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús also has gold leafed alters and ceilings. img_0537img_0538

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basilica del Voto Nacional. The gargoyles on the exterior at Basilica are of animals not your typical faces

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On Mondays at 11am you can stop by Plaza de la Independencia for the changing of the guards, which is quite the affair with the President & VP of Ecuador standing on the veranda at the presidential palace and lots of people gathering below to watch the band, guards and horses parade around the plaza. Very colorful.
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We also went up the Teleferico or cable car to top where you get views over Quito North through to the South and can see how big this city really is. Lots of hiking and mountain biking trails up here.
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We drove up into the North of Quito where we went for lunch at the Pululahua Crater and had amazing views from the top of the crater. So nice to be out of the city. One side was mountainous and green while the other was so dry.img_0590p1110673Even went to the Equator Museum at the “Middle of the World” where we checked our GPS and yes we were at latitude 0. Whoever bought this piece of land was thinking, lots of tourists = money! They did a number of Coriolis effect tests to show how things are different south and north of the line. Eg. Which way does water turn clockwise or anti-clockwise. The Simpsons’ episode was right!
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Heading into them there big hills, Ecuadors Andes.

We are now Trusty Shellbacks

After bobbing around at the Balboa yacht club near Panama City for a couple of nights we headed over to Isla Taboga to clean our hulls. The town itself is cute and everyone was friendly as we wandered thru the skinny lanes at the base of the hill, which you can climb but sounded like too much work for us in the heat.
img_0364 image Then it was off to The Las Perlas Islands where we caught a tuna on the way, so sushi for dinner, yum. On arrival Brett was up up the mast trying to work out why our wind instrument has just started to play up. Great timing! Maintenance is a never ending job.
img_0377 We cycled around the most populated island; Contadora and were surprised at the large homes, most of which were for sale. Hmmmm. It was holiday time so we watched the bay fill up with large motor boats and fishing boats from the City. Most of the month of November is holiday time in Panama.

Found a Wrecked Ferry in one of the bay's

Found a Wrecked Ferry in one of the bay’s

Las Perlas had lots of nice bays to anchor where we could laze as the weather was pretty benign and there were only a few sailing boats about. Before we knew it we were at the furthest south west island, San Jose and heading out of the Panama Bay. Goodbye to the humidity for now.
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Our trip south to Ecuador was good even though we wish we had dagger boards for that upwind sailing. Took advantage of the currents and tacking West to help with the southerly winds and waves. Saw great phosphorescence in the water, lots of dolphins, a few turtles sleeping and a group of pilot whales that led us towards the equator. The seas seems to get bigger the closer we got, with 6-8ft seas.

Crossing the equator by boat is a big deal for up until that time you are known as a Slimy Pollywog but after crossing the equator you transform into a Trusty Shellback. Brett having crossed the equator last year still partook in the celebration with me with a jig in the cockpit and a toast to Neptune and to finally becoming a Trusty Shellback.

Note Vessel at 0.00.000North

Note Vessel at 0.00.000North

Note Vessel at 0.00.001 South

Note Vessel at 0.00.001 South

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3 sips for Neptune

3 sips for Neptune

As we were partying we look up and there’s this hombre in a very small open boat fishing in the large seas out today; 25 miles from the nearest land and 40 miles from the port entrance. Perhaps he wanted to join the party.

We really felt for this guy out here in his boat

We really felt for this guy out here in his boat

At the equator we’ve passed from the North Pacific Ocean into the South Pacific Ocean and have arrived in Ecuador. Yeah! Looking forward to some land travel.

Moored in the river in Bahia de Caraquez near the bridge, which is brightly lit up at night

Moored in the river in Bahia de Caraquez near the bridge, which is brightly lit up at night