Day 3 : Isola Isabela

Breakfast was a 7am at Deli Cafe next door to our hotel. Better than yesterday’s at LoLo Cafe. A good coffee is a definite when we have a long day planned.

 

Betty, Barry, Patricia, Roly, Rebecca and Andrew

Then it was luggage downstairs ready for the trip across to Isola Isabela our next stay.  The swimming group are bonding and it’s fun and interesting to learn more about our fellow swimmers.

We had our usual briefing with Fernando our guide, then walked together to the port.
Sitting on one of the seats was a snoozing sea lion with his brother dozing under the seat. An everyday scene in Galapagos.


Into the boat and away. Two hours away!

The boat was snug and the day was hot! We sweated together chatting and dozing and bumping along. This is the surprise to me. The distances between islands.

When you come here to Galapagos, you can choose to have a cruise where you live on board and they take you from place to place for snorkelling, swimming, observing and walking.

Or you can stay on land and book tours of the more interesting places to go. If you choose this option the lady to talk to is Jill Blythe from Galapagos Alternative. She and her husband have helped put the swim trek together and has a business to help travellers who do it alone.

Neither of these ways includes the longer swims we are doing. This is a first and we are lucky enough to be on this trip.


After arriving at Isabela (Puerto Villamil) and Casa De Marita we had a lovely lunch before heading out for our afternoon swim. The new island is a great place – much quieter than Porto Aroya. We all lined up on the deck waiting to leave. We were facing the beach and for a moment I was tempted to stay ! But no the swim sounded too good.

The hard part was being back on the boats for a bumpy ride of about an hour to the Los 4 Hermanos. Once again two boats. One with not much shade! Today it was my turn on the sunny boat! Into the water we jumped. Pink, yellow and orange caps last.


It didn’t take long to spot the sea life. We swam into a cave with lots of spotted eagle rays. It’s a bit disconcerting for an Aussie, knowing the Steve Irwin story, to look at the ray, look at the long pointy tail and not be just a little scared! However Fernando said he had been an idiot and tried to ride the ray!

So I pretended to be brave and swam around counting the rays. We then saw a white tipped shark, lots of yellow tipped fish, iguanas and birds.
What the collective noun for a group of iguanas? A mess!

We hugged the coastline and swam and swam spotting fish,sharks, turtles, Blue footed boogie birds, sea lions and iguanas on the rocks. Amazing.

 Our swim this afternoon was 2.5km. and we all felt great.

Back on board it was afternoon tea. Very different to the snacks provided by the guides on other treks. And no hot tea. Mind you the water temperature is so good we’re not feeling cold.
Feeling pretty chuffed at swimming so far, we bumped across to Isola Pinzon to a gorgeous cove where we played with the assorted sea life. Turtles, sea lions and fish of all colours. It was a highlight.
We added another 1.5 km swim along the west coast of Santa Cruz. Then onto Isabela. Well deserved shower and off to the lovely low key village centre for dinner at the Grill.


Fell into bed for another 7 am breakfast.

The days on tour are long and exciting. Not much down time. Unless you count the time spent in the boat bumping over the water to the next adventure.

A Glorious Galapagos

When you have a big day ahead it’s a good idea not to miss breakfast. So at 7am we headed to LoLo (the cafe next to our hotel) for the standard swimmers breakfast. Eggs, bread, juice and coffee. By 8 am we were on the bus for the 30 min ride across the island to board our boats.

There are two boats this time. Not sure I like this idea as it divides the group. But I guess you can’t talk to everyone at once so as long as we mix it up it will work.

As we crossed towards the island we flew over yesterday I felt a combination of nerves and excitement. This is Galapagos.

It’s warm, blue, vast, fairly deserted and a dream of a lifetime.

And we’re about to swim it.

The ‘girl guides’ Marlys and Kelly gave out the swimming caps. Pink, Yellow and Orange. Slow medium and fast.

This year I’m a yellow! Swimming with Betty, Alex, Barry & Bill. Great group.

Into the water. Splash.
Off we go.

We immediately spotted hundreds of beautiful coloured fish followed by orange rock crabs, a ray , a white tipped reef shark, blue footed boobie birds

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The water temperature is divine though a little choppy. We completely circumnavigated the island (Daphne Major) – about 4 km. By the end it was getting rough but exhilarating.

Back on the boat (for morning tea) with its padded seating, shade cover and cute blue and white checked floor.

We missed the ‘tea wallah’ from our last swim trek. No hot drink! At least on our boat!  Apparently the other boat had full tea service. Hmm.

After motoring for about an hour spent eating and recovering we entered a sheltered bay at Pinzon Island and had the most fun I’ve ever had in the water.

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Swam and played with seals, saw turtles large and small swimming lazily around the rocks, was amazed to see a sea iguana, and watched the blue footed boobie birds dive with the precision of an arrow at the little silver fish.

After the show was over it was back to the boat for lunch.


Our guides are let off this trek. They don’t have to prepare lunch. The two boat owners do lunch!

Apparently each boat had its own menu!

Who had the best!

After lunch it was rest time before motoring around the island for another swim.
Now on our way back. High speed and rather bumpy!

What a day!

The evening drinks were held on the open verandah of our hotel with Fernando giving us the most incredibly informative talk about the islands.

A beautiful salad dinner at Isola Grill before climbing exhausted into bed.

Tomorrow we move to Isola Isabela. Can’t wait.

If you’ve been to Galapagos leave a comment to tell me your favourite things about it.

 

First day in Paradise 

Our plane flight was short. An hour and half. The view on arrival was promising. Blue and calm  Let the Trek begin!

We were met by the Swim Trek guides, Kelly and Marlys, and settled into the airport outdoor seating area to await some fellow swimmers. The temperature is warm and slightly humid but less than we’ve been experiencing in Brisbane!  The ‘girlguides’ Kelly and Marlys filled us in on the plan for the day. Then we met Fernando – a local Marine Biologist who will be giving us all the naturalist details on the animal life. He’s a gem. And gorgeous to look at and listen to. Very expressive face.

Unfortunately some of the flights delivering fellow swimmers were late, but it gave us plenty of time to get to know some of the others. Alex, a sweet but whip-smart girl from London; followed by Bill, who happens to be Simon (Mr Swim Trek)’s father. Then sisters, funny friendly Lynn and Lois from New York;and Joe an Australian teacher working in Beijing. Then lovely Betty from California. By 12.30 we were more than ready to head of to meet the others, who sensibly had arrived a day early. It was lunch on the Giant tortoise farm followed by a walk through the tortoise habitat.  So over a delicious fish lunch we met Rebecca from London; Barry – smiling Canadian; Roly and Andrew – paediatrician friends from London;and Trish – a Colombian living in Atlanta. Our group is complete.

Our walk through the tortoise habitat was great. Fernando is a wealth of knowledge and after lots of questions from our group we felt we knew a little or a lot about tortoises.  Off to our hotel, we quickly checked in and headed off for our first swim.  The hotel is back from the water and has the usual number of stairs to climb to keep us fit. Our room is clean,  big and has a veranda for all our wet things. Only downside is the wifi is only down 2 flights of stairs in reception. So posting here is haphazard. We are so busy.

The first swim was at a beach nearby and we had to hurry as the beach is closed by 6pm. It’s a National Park so there is no concession given to those who want a late swim! I tried to impress with my swimming but I’m still slow! But I’m in good company. We seem to be similar speeds overall. So the trek will be great.  It’s not a competition. We are here to observe, we are told and you better believe it. There is much to see.   Dinner was great so  off to bed. Swim tomorrow. Bring it on.

Hopping around Santiago 

Whoever thought of the Hop on Hop off bus had the ‘time challenged’ and foot weary traveller in mind. 
We started the day with a sleep in. We were so tired after our long flight the previous day. So around nine we went to the lovely breakfast room and had a great omelet. 
Then it was a wander though the quiet streets. A typical Spanish trait is to party late and not get going till noon. So we had the quiet cobbled streets to ourselves. There are a few interesting styles of architecture in this city but the area we are in , Bellavista, is old style, some timber, painted brick and lots of murals on walls.  

 
Our first stop was Pablo Neurda’s house La Gazetta. It’s his alternate house where he could take his mistress, away from the gaze of the cities eyes. It butts up again the hill we were going to visit later. It’s painted blue and has an interesting assortment of pictures. That’s as much as we saw as we decided we didn’t have time to wander around the house itself reading the translations. 
We headed along the narrow, shaded road and went to buy tickets to the funicular. An unusually tall Santiagoan ( is that what they are called?) helped us and we bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus for after our visit up the hill of San Cristobel. 

   
 
The funicular was old and a little rickety but zipped up the steep rise and delivered us to a large paved area overlooking the city. Great views. Considering we were on the first funicular the area had quite a number of people. Their clothes gave them away. Lycra, worn by the fit around the world, announced them as Santiagos cyclists and runners. The hill provides the challenge. 
There were more steps to climb to reach the large white statue of the Madonna as she looked out across the city. It was a quiet peaceful area with a large outdoor altar with terraced seating for outdoor masses and then a small pretty Chapel nearby. 
We returned down the hill and got the bus. It’s commentary was very good providing us with all the details you need when in a new city. It’s also a great way to see places you wouldn’t get to on your own in just one day. We got off only once as we had visited some of the more interesting buildings the day before on our walking tour. 
Lunch got us off and we struggled to find a restaurant with people in it. Lots of nice ones but we were a little ahead of the lunch crowd. It was 12.45 so I guess most people were only waking up. We didn’t like the idea of being the only people in a restaurant. We found one that filled the bill and the stomach.  

 
We hopped back on for a further look at the city including a stop at a very large shopping centre before heading back toBellavista feeling very pleased that the area we Jhansi stayed in. Thank you Fi from Mahjong for the suggestion. In fact all your suggestions were great. We just needed more time. 
I’m now writing this on the plane a five hour flight to Guayaquil the first stop on our way to Galapagos. We have a quick night there before an 8 am flight tomorrow. 
We’ll be very pleased to get there. 

Santiago 

Whoever thought of the Hop on Hop off bus had the ‘time challenged’ and foot weary traveller in mind.

We started the day with a sleep-in. We were so tired after our long flight the previous day. So around nine we went to the lovely breakfast room and had a great omelet.

Then it was a wander though the quiet streets. A typical Spanish trait is to party late and not get going till noon. So we had the quiet cobbled streets to ourselves. There are a few interesting styles of architecture in this city but the area we are in, Bellavista, is old style, some timber, painted brick and lots of murals on walls.

Our first stop was Pablo Neurda’s house La Chascona. It’s his alternate house where he could take his mistress,  away from the gaze of the cities eyes. It butts up against the hill we were going to visit later. It’s painted blue and has an interesting assortment of pictures. That’s as much as we saw as we decided we didn’t have time to wander around the house itself reading the translations.

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The Madonna on San Cristobal

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The llama at the gate to the funicular.

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The view from San Cristobal

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Amazing murals on the walls of Santiago.

We headed along the narrow, shaded road and went to buy tickets to the funicular. An unusually tall Santiagoan ( is that what they are called?) helped us and we bought tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus for after our visit up the hill of San Cristobal.

The funicular was old and a little rickety but zipped up the steep rise and delivered us to a large paved area overlooking the city. Great views. Considering we were on the first funicular the area had quite a number of people. Their clothes gave them away. Lycra, worn by the fit around the world, announced them as Santiagos cyclists and runners. The hill provides the challenge.

There were more steps to climb to reach the large white statue of the Madonna as she looked out across the city. It was a quiet peaceful area with a large outdoor altar with terraced seating for outdoor masses and then a small pretty Chapel nearby.

We returned down the hill and got the bus. It’s commentary was very good providing us with all the details you need when in a new city. It’s also a great way to see places you wouldn’t get to on your own in just one day. We got off only once as we had visited some of the more interesting buildings the day before on our walking tour.

Lunch got us off and we struggled to find a restaurant with people in it. Lots of nice ones but we were a little ahead of the Saturday lunch crowd. It was 12.45 so I guess most people were only waking up. We didn’t like the idea of being the only people in a restaurant. We found one that filled the bill and the stomach.

We hopped back on for a further look at the city including a stop at a very large shopping centre before heading back toBellavista feeling very pleased at the area we stayed in. Thank you Fi from Mahjong for the suggestion. In fact all your suggestions were great. We just needed more time.

I’m now writing this on the plane – a five hour flight to Guayaquil, the first stop on our way to Galapagos. We have a quick night there before an 8 am flight tomorrow.

We’ll be very pleased to get there.

More photos coming!!!!!

Hola from Santiago

A new country always brings anticipation and excitement. Would Santiago be what I imagine?

Our flight across was very good though an hour late getting away so an hour late arriving. Even so our driver booked online was waiting for us and chatted away on our way to the hotel.

First impressions of Santiago: Not as big as I thought it would be, grey & smokey sky, big roads with not too much traffic, dry grasses, big hills –  mountains by our standards, entertainment at the traffic lights, lots of street art, a little river running extremely fast, parks everywhere and a general feeling of laid back attitude.

We hit the ground running. I had booked a walking tour for 3pm and we only got to the hotel at 2 !

Our hotel the Il Tinto Boutique Hotel –  http://www.tintoboutiquehotel.com is well located in the Bellavista area,  a rather arty,  restaurant area opposite the main areas of Santiago. So we dropped our bags and  checked out the room – very nice black and white decor and overlooked the pool area. There was a commercial being shot around the pool so lucky we didn’t want a swim! We headed off to meet our walking tour guide.

Busking at the traffic lights – Santiago style

It’s the Free Walking Tours Co. Better known as Tips for Tours. You pay what you think they are worth at the end of the tour. There were about 15 in our group with a young local girl as our guide. About half the group were Australian including a couple from Newmarket (near us !) who also have a place at Caloundra.

We walked for about 2 1/2 hours and got a feel for the city and what it has to offer. I was surprised at how traffic-free the inner city area was – compared to other big cities. There are some lovely public buildings some of which were designed by Italian architects.

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This time of year is usually still hot and until today the weather had been over 33. Today with the cloud cover it was a comfortable 27 which was great for walking. And walk we did so that by 5.30 we were getting tired and hungry. We had missed lunch after getting in late and heading straight out, so we found one of the many bars and I had my first Pisco Sour. Delightful and refreshing and probably very alcoholic! So to help we shared a plate of cheeses and meats. Delicious.

I’ll include the description and recipe here so you can try one at home.

A pisco sour is an alcoholic cocktail of Peruvian origin that is typical of the cuisines from Chile and Peru, considered also a South American classic.

Ingredients: 1 oz Lemon Juice, 1 Egg white, 1 1/2 oz Pisco, 3/4 oz Simple syrup.

   Preparation: Vigorously shake and strain contents in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, then pour into glass and garnish with bitters.