I got back into Huaraz after my exhilarating Huayhuash trail to find both Toms staying in the same hostel as I did. After catching up on how they’d been in Lima and another last supper, I took a night bus towards Trujillo. From here I connected to Tumbes, where I experienced the dodgiest border-crossing of the trip – involving a 20 km ride in a motorized rikshaw, a guy who supposedly was taking care of my safety whilst crossing the border, that same guy being pretty pissed-off when I refused to pay him and horrified reporter live radio report of Germany anihalating Argentina in the quarter finals of the world cup on the bus that finally took me to Guayaquil. After having arranged my plane to the Galapagos Islands, I went out for dinner with Sofie and Jay, a very nice Australian couple I met in the hostel.
Galapagos is not like any other backpacker’s location. For a start the (supposedly) high prices make it less attractive for the shoestring-traveller to get over here. As a consequence there isn’t a real hostel in town where it’s easy to meet up with fellow travellers and make plans for future dive/snorkel/cruise trips. Instead I had to settle for a single room in Hotel New Elisabeth. For 12,5 $ a night I had a little room, where the main space was taken up by a bed that made my old camping mat look comfortable, a fan that didn’t work and a shower with only cold water. The night-life in town was targeted at the American kids who were fresh out of high school and more than happy to pay top notch prices for their cocktails.
I couldn’t help but feel connected with Lonesome George. This icon of the Galapagos is a land tortoise who was the last surviving example of his species on the Pinta Island and since his discovery in the seventies is kept in captivity in the Darwin Research centre in Puerto Ayora. In a futile attempt of preservation, George has been presented several female tortoises of related species but hasn’t shown any interest.
So whilst I was discovering the island during the first days, looking for a cruise to take me around and planning some diving trips, I kinda felt lonely as well. Not having family and friends around for my birthday might have been a reason for that as well.
The only way to truly appreciate the magnificent scenery of the Galapagos Islands is setting off on a cruise. This allows you to discover the different islands, each with their own landscape, vegetation and animals. Looking for the best price, I had visited all the travel agencies on the island looking for a last minute opportunity. I finally found a great opportunity on offer by a slightly dodgy travel operator: a seven day cruise on the Samba. To get this special price, I would miss out on the first day but then join the group for a tour that went along Santa Cruz Island, Espanola Island, Floreana Island, Isabela Island, Fernandina Island and Bartolome Island.
Since it was my birthday, I decided this would be my birthday gift to myself, probably the most expensive thing I’ve ever gotten as a present. The cruise was amazing, I’ve met some really cool people on the boat (amongst which Sofie and Jay whom I had already seen in Guayaquil), spending 7 days on a boat was a nice change to the normal life in hostels and the wildlife we got to see was stunning.
Personal highlights for me were:
After saying goodbye to the majority of our cruise members who went back to Ecuador at the end of the cruise, five of us stayed for a couple days more on the island before going to other directions: Sofie and Jay, Stephanie and Jasper (a Dutch couple) and myself. We had the great idea to rent an apartment together at Casa de Judy. For 10 dollars a night we had an amazing flat with kitchen, tv and fan; just what we needed. Later that night I found out that Australian Tom was also on the island, so invited him to join us as well.
It turned out to be three amazing days. Because we had our own place, it felt different than staying at a hostel. It was more like 6 good friends who were having their holidays together. We went out for one more dive together to Gordon Rocks, where we saw tons of hammerhead, white tip and black tip sharks. At night we shared some delicious dinners together before discovering a bar that wasn’t filled up with American youngsters. Great times!
On Saturday however I had to pack my bags early in the morning to leave the islands behind. I regretted to say goodbye to my friends and the amazing environment of the Galapagos, but I had an important reunion ahead of me. My parents had already landed in Bogota and on Sunday we had planned to meet up in Cali.
How we’re doing right now on this family part of my trip will be described in a next update.