Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Filling in the Gaps: The Amazing Galapagos.

The last proper post describing our journey was all about ´Pre-Inca Trail´time. That ending of that trek, for us, marked a significant turning point in the way we would be travelling, and in what surroundings we wanted to be in. ´Pre-Inca Trail´was all high altitude and cold weather, living in our hiking boots and alpaca wool. ´Post-Inca Trail´was much anticipated, because finally we would be at Sea Level again, where breathing is easy, climate is warm and the only footwear necessary are flip flops. Heaven. Indeed, after spending a few very cold nights and days in Quito, the highlight of which was nourishing our souls with some great Indian food, we were desperate to get out of the hills.

So you can imagine our joy when we stepped off the plane in Galapagos and felt the heat bathe us...stunning blue sky and intensly green landscapes greeted us. It wasnt long till we felt the sweat start to trickle down our backs, it was a very welcome feeling. Despite the fact that we hadnt slept in over 24 hours (our last night in Quito ended up being a big one), we felt rejuvenated. Welcome to the Galapagos!

This trip really did live up to the hype, at least for me. I have never been anywhere so beautiful in my life, and I felt priveleged to be in this incredible, unique part of the world. Straight off the flight, we met with our group leader and headed off for the start of our 10 day boat tour of the Islands. Now, in that 10 days, we saw some of the most incredible landscape, and got very close to so many different creatures (sometimes too close), that there is no way I will be able to properly do justice to everything in this blog. But, I will try to give you a taster.

Firtsly, I had no idea I would be so enthralled by all the creatures we saw. Many of the creatures that inhabit the Islands are Endemic (are only found naturally there, and exist nowhere else on the planet). Amongst these creatures are certain species of Land and Marine Iguanas, the famous Turtles, Penguins (!!), and countless species of plants. Take a look.

These stunning crabs shone an amazing shade of orange against the black volcanic rocks.
The world famous Galapagos Turtles.
Sea lions were everywhere...we swam with them so many times, they are so entertaining in the water! Total stars, so playful and friendly.
A Land Iguana. Being up so close to them was weird. But very cool.
A Penguin! We had no idea you could see Penguins in warm weather areas! An Endemic species to the Galapagos. As we snorkelled around the Islands, we were lucky enought to see a whole group of them swimming past.
A reef shark swimming near our boat. There were plenty of these when we were snorkelling too. In fact, there was a scary moment when Me, Mandi and a german guy who was with us, were circled by 2 of them! They were swimming around us as the three of us had our backs to each other...they say reef sharks are harmless, and luckily we were fine, but I don´t want to experience that feeling ever again! We were sh*t scared!
Apart from the amazing sights, sounds and activities of the trip, we met some great people. Special shout out goes to Cameron, the beautiful artist from Canada, who we had alot of fun with. Cameron, you rock. Also, to Andy & Clare, the British couple from Isleworth, London, of all places! The last thing I expected was be on a tour in the Galapagos with a couple who lived 10 minutes away from me in London! A&C stayed on for longer than they expected on the Islands and did some incredible dives. Looking forward to seeing the pics in the pub when we get back.
All in all, our 11 or so days in the Galapagos was just the balm we needed to heal our aching hiking feet. The first dip in the warm ocean was a feeling I wont forget, the hours of snorkelling, the hot, warm days, and that night on the roof of the boat where we sat shivering, huddled up, as we stared at the stars (seeing the Big Dipper constellation upside down for the first time!), and talking about all sorts of philosophical rubbish. Swimming with Sea Turtles, sailing alongside a huge group of Dolphins, dodging sharks, seeing Stingrays leap out of the ocean (didn´t even know they could do that!) ...there were alot of great moments.´
Our last night on the Islands was epic in itself, partying with great company and not sleeping till we were on the flight back to Quito the next morning. We left with heavy hearts, we didn´t feel ready to go (by now a familiar feeling) and we had time enough to get attached to new people again, but we left with an incredible sense of achievment. We had come to know the Galapagos well. So with tired eyes, and very brown skin, we set off in the direction of Colombia.
Our final country together.

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