First of all I would like to thank all of who took the time to send me messages of my website. I only found them today and was very moved to read the messages. Yesterday I forgot to save an entry and all my thoughts on Quito were erased so I was feeling a bit low before I read my messages. I then had the puff to rewrite the Quito thing. Thanks again. I might be able to do this by the time I get home. Eoin is at the computer beside me otherwise I would despair. We are going to Lima tomorrow and then he is off home while I go to Santiago in chile to meet my sister and brother for 2 weeks. They are both computer literate. Hurrah. Anyway we definately had an adventure holiday in the Galapagos Islands.
We stayed on 3 Islands San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela. We stayed in small hotels , a hostal and a tent and I have to say I slept like a baby everywhere. No more altitude, loads of exercise and terror help you sleep.
The first day started off easily enough. We walked a lot around the island looking at interpretive centres and to the top of hills to lookout centres where you can see frigate birds, blue footed boobies and a lot of small finches . Darwin based most of his theories about animals surroundings shaping their evolution on the differences he saw in the finches on the islands he visited. I managed to keep up with the group. Like an old car I was very slow going up the hills but made up for it on the straights and going downhill. I was exhausted but not daunted.
The next day we bundled into a small boat to start our adventures. The crew asked us to put lifejackets on as we left the harbour but then everybody took them off!! I had taken my travel tablets and had my antiseasick bands on so I was ok. These came to be my next survival kit as for the next 5 days we went everywhere by boat. Anyway we were fitted for wetsuits (it was quite chilly and the water was quite cold) and flippers and we all threw ourselves into the water. We consisted of a Chinese Australian family with 3 boys aged 11 to 20, a Canadian champion swimmer aged 35, 2 English kids and 2 Americans in their mid 30.s and me and Eoin. The Chinese mother opted out because she got cramps in the cold water. She told me later she was terrified. Nobody had flotation devices and I had no idea how to swim when you are snorkling and I dont like to be out of my depth. Anyway the group led by the leader moved off up the coast line heads down hoping to see tuttles and sharks!!!. I tried to keep up by using the breast stroke!!! ( you can picture that threshing about and getting nowhere. I had also told Eoin I didnt want him minding me!!) I am sure you all know you keep your arms at your side and just move your feet and ankles. The guide who was a lovely girl had asked who had done snorkling before and everybody put up their hand including me. I had done it on the Barrier Reef where you just toddled around the boat not moving at all and now I was in a race against a strong current in very cold water. The waves were slapping against my face and the water kept coming down the tube into my mouth. When my mask was down in the water I could not see which way the group were going so I felt I was swimming backwards and definitely out of my comfort zone. Miles out of it. To my eternal shame I put up my hand and the boat took me on board. I neglected to tell you that the american girl was even farther back than me and one of the minders helped her catch up. I vowed that whatever distance I was out of my comfort zone again I would keep going and I did. The group came back talking about the enormous sea turtles they had seen but the leader comforted me by saying the conditions were far from ideal. I didnt help. Anyway I got my chance. After a lovely lunch on board and then a warming walk on a sunny beach we headed out into the wide ocean to an enormous rock split in two with a channel right through the middle. I seems we were going to swim the length of this channel and back looking for white tipped sharks which breed there. We were assured these sharks were harmless but I could see the whites of the eyes of quite a few of the group. Chinese mama had her excuse but the rest of us took a very deep breath and jumped in. The water felt much warmer out there so I wriggled in to the middle of the group and watched how Eoin was swimming and off we went feeling like lambs to the slaughter. I know I certainly did. Down the channel we went in a tight clumb. I had my eyes only open enough to make sure Istayed in the middle and didnt see anything. It was very gloomy and we relaxed a bit and started looking . I thought Isaw a shark but it was a very long way down and didnt look too threatening. We turned saround and swam back this time against the current and headed towards the boat still in a tight clump. The leader then said that was fun who wants to do it again. Apart from Eoin who loves this kind of thing we wll nearly levitated into the boat and sat there shivering and thinking we were very brave. If only we had known what was to come a few days later!!!!!!
The next day was the test of stamina. We walked up to the rim of an old volcano, miles arould it and then on to a young volcano that had erupted 5 years ago. This was like walking on cinders from a fire still warm and smelling of sulphur. The sun had come out so the heat was coming form every direction. It was riveting to see the vents where the still hot air was escaping the different colours that the escaping gas had released from the lave. There were wide avenues of flowing lava just congealed on that spot. Tunnels that the lava had carved out as the magma rushed down downhill. It was a most desolate and yet vibrant and exciting places with occassional splashes of green where a few cacti had rooted and were starting off life there again because they attract lizards and birds. We walked for 7 hours and covered about 12 miles going up and down through soaking mists and suffocating heat. Apart from one time when I thought we were at the end and found we still had a hour more of climbing I kept up in my fashion. ( Eoin pushed me along for a while then until I got my impetus back) I learnt from the snorkling and tried to keep at the beginning or al least in the middle.
We spent the next day walking around a lot of different areas looking at nesting marine iguanas, funny little penguins and the best place of all. the centre where they breed, rescue and generally promote the land turtles. They have brought many species back from th brink of extinction. They have nurseries where little ones the size of a soldiers helmet race around. Areas where the mature adults 40 plus breed the next generation to be released back into the wild and areas where the 150 plus live their lives in comfort. There is one turtle called Lonesome George who is the last of his line.
The next day back to the water. We went for another walk around the volcanic habitat for the marine iguanas just to limber us up for the final test of nerve. We walked along a path beside another crevace in the lava and looked at the Yes you are ahead of me, the white tipped sharks motoring up and down their nesting and resting place. The crevace was only about 3 metres deep and about 1 and a half metres wide. (9 feet deep and 4 feet wide) and the plan was we were going to snorkling for about 15 mins through this hellhole. None of us were going to chicken out except chinese mama who luckily enough for her had aready made her excuses. We didnt jump out of the boat this time more like a slither and off the group headed to the narrow crack in the lava, The walls were about 6 feet high which is important later. I was second last as I had a plan to hold Eoins hand if it got too awful. He was last. As we got to the entrance Eoin was looking at something in the water and I didnt dare to lose the group again so in I ventured without my hand holder. The beginning was sunny and full of fish dirt so you mercifully couldnt see anything in the water then we moved into a darker area and I saw 20 big sharks under me just mooching around. To say I was terrified was an understatement ( blessed the beta blockers again) but there was absolutely no choice but to keep going: I couldnt turn around in that narrow area and I was very eager to keep my fins on the top of the water and the walls of lava were 6 foot high on either side. Panic was not an option either as what could anybody do for me and I didnt want to panic the sharks did I? so in the words of Dory in finding Nemo I found myself saying" just keep swimming, swimming, swimming". After about 10 mins of this and having swam over at least 30 sharks and had one come much too close to me for comfort we came to a fork in the channel. Chinese daddy was waiting there as I thought telling me and Eoin which way to go so I went on down the right one and I thought nothing could get worse but it did. The walls got closer and there was barley enough space to swim so now I used my hands on the walls to propel me faster and hopefully with less splashing of fins over the clusters of sharks. Finally it was OVER and we were out in the blessed ocean. AS I swam in a very cool fashion now over to the boat I began to wonder where Eoin and Chinese daddy were. It was a good five minutes before they appeared and Eoin didnt tell the story of their adventure until later when we were on our own. I think Chinese daddy had lost the plot a bit. I also think he was very shortsighted so when Eoin caught up with him he was upright in the water treading water which meant he was virtually standing on the sharks heads. A shark was coming around the aforementioned corner on top of the water at this moment. It panicked when it saw Eoin and daddy and it started turning in the water to get away brushing against Eoins body. I am so glad I had not waited . Eoin said to daddy" do you realise you are standing on the sharks" and he said "only small fish not bite". Eoin then decided to try to catch up with the rest of us as daddy was not worried in any way. This definately was not on my list of 100 things to do before I die but there you are I have swim with a lot of sharks in an enclosed area.
We were up at 5.30 the next morning and yes I did sleep very well to make a 2 and a half hour journey back to the island with the airport. It was very rough so my rescue kit was out in force and even that did prevent me from feeling nauseous. Eoin then advised me to find a fixed point to look at like the horizon. That was a joke as we never saw the horizon during the whole journney. The swell was enormous anyway I found a cloud to stare at and I spent the whole journey with my eyes wide open staring at that cloud. It worked even though Chinese mama was gettin violently sick at my side the whole time. And here we are back in Quito safe and sound and on our way to Lima. I wonder whats next?
After all that drama Jessica our wonderful guide from the Galapagos brought us to a very easy place to snorkel. We just had to scramble over volcanic rocks and listen to her warning. " Dont put your feet down on sea urchins as they are poisonous". This was the most serious thing she had said in the whole week so I have to imagine they were very verry poisonous. I decided to keep a hold of Eoin the whole time so we proceeded around the quiet bay with him swimming powerfully and me hanging on to his wet suit and getting a free ride. This seemed to be a good idea until I remembered too late thats hes not afraid of anything even sea urchins so I had a very close look at a group of about 30 sea urchins. It was hard to guess how deep the water was so I was imitating a flying fish i.e as much of me as physically possible out of the water.!! Happily we moved on and we saw 2 huge giant turtles. One peacefully asleep on the bottom and the other swinmming away from us. Needlessly to say Eoin took off after it and there was no way I was going to let go so we proceeded at great speed in its wake. Its amazing how fast such a clumsy looking, heavy mammal with short legs can swim. Thankfully he left us behind and I was able to get to the shore without any more drama.