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Crossing the Andes ... to the Brazilian beaches Nine months through Ecuador, Peru, Chile, bolivia, Argentina and Brazil


ECUADOR | Sunday, 17 December 2006 | Views [808]

Isla San Cristobal

We´re greeted on arrival by a pair of sealions at the little harbour and I'm lucky to get the unique opportunity to catch them on camera.  By the end of the day I´ve seen more of them than pigeons in London.

The afternoon is spent trying out some off-road, high-speed mountain biking.  It dawns on me that booking this trip with a kiwi company might mean I´m in for more action than I´d bargained for.

I then have a full day in my wetsuit.  The dives are amazing and I get my first taster of swimming with sharks (white-tips) and playing underwater with the sealions, who are far more playful in water than their alter-egos on land.  There are also turtles and a variety of bright, colourful little fish.  I come up with a nose bleed and a stiff neck.

A bit of time back on dry land to lie in the sand with the seals (until they go for me), spot the marine iguanas camouflaged on the lava rock, and get close up to the bright red crabs and all sorts of birds (bright red-beaked oyster catchers, nesting frigates, blue-footed boobies etc etc).

Isla Floreana / Isabela

Snorkelling at Floreana we observe the surgeon fish keeping their territory clean - the guide puts an urchin bang in the middle of their living room and they push it out like a game of blow football.  Also ´play´ with some star fish (choc chip and blue) and a sea cucumber.

Isabela´s like a tiny piece of paradise.  White sands, clear blue water, cute little houses (and the essential beach bar).  Although it´s got a bit of an unsavoury history as the colonial prison where guys were forced to carry sharp lava stones twice their weight to build a wall to keep them in (!) and punishment involved being shut in a 20 foot steel tube in the midday heat for days.

We hike to Volcano Chico in the Sierra Negra to see the second largest crater in the world.  Only the other one isn´t live.  Walk across lava fields checking out lava tunnels and the different types of rock and ash.  This place would be a geologist´s heaven.  And it doesn´t even smell of eggs.

The next day wé start the morning at a breeding centre for the Giant tortoise and see a just hatched baby.  The cutest thing i ever saw.  Even more than puppies.  This one is going on YouTube.  The centre is really interesting, with a heavy focus on tortoise sex.

For the rest of the afternoon I´m back in the water.  Should really have been ON the water, in my kayak, but I get taken by a big wave.  I swear the penguins were laughing at me.  I rescue myself (with a bit of help) and then nearly fall out again laughing at Nick trying to get Camaron back in his Kayak.  Cameron is a big ginger american kid who lives in his wetsuit and whose name in Spanish means Shrimp (irony not lost).  He provides me with much amusement during the tour - mainly imagining the jokes and faces Rob and Dan would be making.

Isla Santa Cruz / Santa Fe

Santa Cruz is the tourist capital of the Galapagos so as the boat pulls in my senses are overloaded with internet cafes and souvenir shops.  And a very nice luxury hotel with hot showers. Bliss.

We drive out to the highlands to see the Giant Tortoise in the wild.  Witness some live tortoise sex.  I later find myself inside an empty shell in an interpretation centre immitating their dropped jowels faces for some very unflattering photos.  Also visit the Charles Darwin Research to see Lonesome George, the 120 year old who´s too slow now to get himself any,  So there goes the subspecies.

At Tortuga bay there´s a bit of time for sunbathing, swimming and watching turtle sex in the laguna.

My last dive is a success by my standards.  No nose bleed, see some cool stuff like an enormous spotted ray and I don´t run out of air so there´s enough for the sealions to play with at the end (eating my bubbles).  But the boat ride back is rough. I hurl myself off the boat as we reach dry land and then hurl off the jetty. Woohoo, my first bout of food poisoning.  Watch the bright coloured fish tuck in to my lunch.  Want not, waste not.

Tags: On the Road


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