Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Porto Ayora The Galapagos.

On Monday after leaving the boat at 8.15am!!! I went to Porto Ayora and there went for a stroll round The Charles Darwin Center. They breed tortoises and other endangered species here. It is the scientific center of the Galapagos, where all the indiginous animals are studied , as well as the introduced species which have caused so much damage. They have a programme to eradicate all species which are not natural to the Galapagos ( exept man I would imagine)
The Iguana in the middle is the land Iguana which as mentioned earlier was all but wiped out, there are still a few though and they are being bred here & re-introduced.

Below right is a picture of ´Lonesome George´ It is not a very good picture ( he is the one in the middle) but I could´nt really wait all day long untill he turned round. Lonesome George could possibly be the worlds´ most famous reptile!! if not the worlds´ most famous animal. "Why is that then " you may ask, well get your hankies out for this is a heartbreaking story. In 1906 the Giant Pinta ( island in the north of the archipeligo) tortoise was believed to be extinct. Then in 1971 one was discovered ,Lonesome George, he had been over 65 years on his own ( probably looking for a lady tortoise I should´nt wonder) wandering about Pinta. Exhaustive searches for any others after his discovery proved fruitless, and he was taken to the Darwin center, where he has lived ever since. He is the last of his species. His like are doomed like chingachcook* He is a mere 100yrs old ( which for a giant tortoise is not even middle aged ) and has possibly another 100yrs ahead of him, without the chance to meet or chat with another Pinta tortoise, poor chap. He should be the face of the WWF, as an example of animals which may become extinct( no maybe about it in his case!) not a panda!! he is not so cuddly though.

What is the collective name for a group of tortoises then ?

Views of Porto Ayora, and below a female marine Iguana just wandering up the pier.

What a coupon!! & this is a Female too.
I am off back to Quito tomorrow, a couple of flights so I dónt expect anything of interest to happen ( I should´nt have typed that!)
Yours SS


Once I met up with the others who were on the same trip we were taken to the tortoise sanctuary, where we met the tortoises. Some of these critters can weigh up to 400kg and live for 200yrs!! The reason their numbers were decimated was due to sailing ships taking them on board as fresh meat, apparently these giant tortoises can live for up to a year without food or water, ( they store water in their shells, a bit like camels with their humps) The breeding programme and their re-introduction back to their origional habitat means they are surviving.
We then walked through a lava cave caused by ...yip.. lava. Once the lava is exhausted there often is a blast of gas which blows out the remaining lava thus leaving a cave, this one was large big enough to drive a double decker bus through (unless you are a woman of course !). I have not included any photos of the cave as caves tend not to photograph very well ( something I have in common with them!)
Next we went to to boat to unload our kit & have our tea, at about 6.30 I am pleased to report.
After a spot of shopping for provisions for the trip ( beer mostly ) we left Porto Ayora at 12pm and began to motr toward our first site of interest. A bright starry sky with a gabbon moon and a idle sea, I stayed up for a while enjoying the moment.

Out first stop was Santiago Island one of the larger ones where we went ashore and saw some sealions and then walked over and I saw a Marine Iguana, I was quite pleased to have the chance to photogragh one, asI was unaware that they are everywhere, albeit with different colouring on each island. We then had the opportunitly to snorkle, it was a bit rough & my mask leaked so I did not stay in for terrible long, then round the point to snorkle some more , this time to see sharks, Edwardo Scotland ( for that was our guides name) told me not to touch the sharks ( what not even a playfull wrestle !) a warning which proved to be without need as I never saw any ( secretly this was not a disappointment!).

These Marine Iguanas feed off black algiae apparently and unlike their land cousins are plentyfull. The land ones have been almost eradicated due to the ravages of feral dogs ( introduced by man).

We left Santiago and motored to Bartholemew Island where we had our tea, again at 6.30. unfortunately it became very calm and the mossies came out, just as I was reducing my scratching of my flea bites I am all bitten again, the rest of them do not seem affected at all!

This is a baby sealion which is unfazed by close contact with humans.. as are most of the animals, as you can see from the photos you can walk up very near to them... perhaps it is because they have never seen a Glaswegian before... especially one which is white as snow and covered in bright red spots. I am surprised they do not consider I am the harbinger of some virulant disease from the old world.

This is the Island of Santiago again which suffered the most recent volcanic activity, only 125 yrs ago, huge areas of lava fields. As you can see there is a very strange tower on the other island just behind the boat, Edwardo could´nt explain that. The Galapagos are not on one of the cracks in the earths plates, it just seems there is a thinness of the earths crust where volcanic activity seeps through from time to time.

Great beach below where turtles lay their eggs, then when they hatch the frigate birds swoop and gobble them all up... you must have seen it on TV.

As you can see one of the turtles is desperate to get a better view of a rarely sighted "weegie"

We walked up this small volcano one afternoon, one of the few I managed. Not very interesting but good view from the top.

On the right hand bay of the island below we did a bit of snorkling which was fine, plenty of fish . Snorkling is great if you like looking at fish, seeing them up to their fishy ways, and it has to be said these chaps were particularly colourfull, unfortunately I do not have an underwater camera so you will just have to close you eyes and imagine lots off highly coloured haddock up to 3ft long in some cases. I had a nasty scare whilst looking at the fish, huge black aquatic animal surged beneath me, only a couple of feet away, WHAT THE F...... sealion that gave me a fright.

The seals will not get out of the way as we try to jump back on the tender.

In the salon of the boat Zolan ( can you guess which one he is ?) explained the history of Croatia to us all the way from 1101 untill the present day, with of course particular reference to the Balkans conficty of the 90´s. Its to long to go into here but when I arrive back in Glasgow and u would like the facts in detail do give me an email..

I wonder if any of you girlies would like to have been enclosed in a confined space with these Aussies for any length of time ? They were A bit too well dressed if you ask me ... but then again I looked like ´Man at Matalan´myself, even worse actually, I looked like ´Man at Matalan´who had shopped in a hurry!

The seals are sitting out of the shade in the bus shelter, and I would´nt be surprised if they later caught a bus somewhere.
On Monday morning ( day 4 of our 4 day trip) we were woken at 6am and on the boat to see the turtles at 6.10.am. Saw a few turtles but rather pointless trying to photo them in the water, back to the boat for breakfast and them dumped on the quay side at 8.15am ( an this was classified as a day of our trip ) Needless to say I felt I was done, so only limited tip left!!
Back to Porto Ayora for a few days, quite an attractive wee place by Ecuadorian standards and home to some 10,000 of them, The whole pop. of the Galapagos is 16,000.
Hope You enjoy the Photies. Glad to hear you made it back ok Cameron, see you soon.

Friday, 5 January 2007

The Galapagos Islands.

Left Quito on the 9.30am flight arrived Santa Cruz about 12.30 It is warm here 30 degrees I expect, I was told that a representitive of the boat would be at the airport, the burd in the travel agents said it was called the Mabel. There was no rep. there was a chap who shouted Merak at me a few times but i said no.. Mabel. So there I am at the airport rather clueless what to do .. asked a local who spoke a bit of english and he had never heard of a Mabel.He said to take the bus , which I did, then he phoned Gullivers for me. I had to wait at the Channel, which I did for an hour, I then phoned Gullivers and was told to take the bus to Porto Ayora and go to a restaurant which I did , This all took a couple of hours, & who did I meet at the restaurant......correct!! the bloke who had been shouting Merak at me.. It was the same dizzy burd who lost my bag that gave me the wrong name.
Was immediatly whisked off to see some giant tortoises , there are over 2000 of this species on santa cruz alone. Lonesome George ( you must have heard of him? ) is a different species and lives on Pinta I believe. After the tortoises, which can live up to 200yrs and weigh 400kg, we went to see a lava cave, this did not involve getting wet I´m pleased to say, then to the port to board the yacht, I think it is a 50ft jeanneau but not sure. There are only 4 paying passengers on board, two aussies in thier twenties and a croat from Zagreb, who owns an hotel in Rovinj, or Rovjin i can´t remember the spelling, anyway I was there 18months ago, As there is undercapacity I have a little cabin to myself, We leave tonight at midnight, so there will be no more "epistles" for a few days. I tried to buy some cans of lager for the trip but they only sell bottles in all the shops here, it truly is a strange place.
Over the next few days I am hoping to uncover even more mysteries of evolution, wish me luck.
I will be watching vigilantly for Iguanas, both diving and ones that just jump in !! yours SS

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Back to Quito..

I did discuss parasitical invasion with Toby the kayaking guide and he recomended the local solution, which is to consume a large amount of the local hooch, a distillation of sugar cane, it costs a dollar a litre , about the same as bleach and just as good for you. I bought a half bottle slugged some down, yeuch !!! but i´m sure it´ll poison the blighters !! Did tell you about the beer in this place PIlsner lager they call it. It is most certainly a morning lager, a refreshing drink suitable for consumption prior to driving long distances at high speed, or operating heavy machinery, it makes Kestrel seem like Special Brew. I happily left the Travellers Lodge, where i had been staying. I had suffered what I thought were insect bites on my legs and back, but this morning it dawned on me that they were flea bites, over 50 of them, well at $8 a night for a single room with ensuite .. I suppose one must expect a flea or two , one of the drawbacks of travelling around.
Caught the Quito bus 5 1/2 hours through some great senery, up over the pass at 4200m, with some vertiginous drops at the road edge and evidence of landslides round every corner, and as if this was not heartstopping enough, our driver , just to add an extra frission of exitement decided to have a bus race with a rival operator who´s vehicle was just in front, they all think they are Fangio here !! You will be pleased to hear our bus won after a particularly daring move by our driver, involving overtaking on a sweeping bend with a precipice on one side and the prospect of anything coming down the other way !!
Up untill now anyone who has read any of these little ¨epistles¨ may have thought´¨ ok for SWM but not where I would like to go for a holiday¨ well where I am off to tomorrow may well be somewhere that each and every one of you may have had a notion to go to at one time or another......tomorrow I fly to the Galapagas Islands for 6 days on a trip round the places of interest on a 50ft yacht, so there, I do not know if there is any internet access there, I will find out on arrival, this outing should be safe enough.... even I can outrun a giant tortoise !! I am also particularly interested in seeing the plentyfull amounts of boobies that the islands boast. yours SS

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Cueves De Jamandy

Decided today to seize the cycle, instead of the day, something a little safer, 15k up the road from Tena are the caves of Jamandy, so I thought I´d go visit them. Hired the bike from the rafting co. they had no trips on today as they were moving office, however Toby asked me if I would Like to go on another rafting excursion tomorrow on the the lower Mishauli river a grade 1v/ v , 5 is the toughest there is, he said I would enjoy it, " big water down a long narrow canyon " , I said I would think about it and left for Jamandy. Stopped for coffee & cake at Archidona , the weather is overcast but muggy, as it has been since I arrived, reached the caves which had a completely run down pool / water park attached, inquired as to viewing the caves and was given the choice of a $2 or $5 trip, chose the more expensive option and was introduced to Jorge the Guide, he was unusual for a guide where agility would be considered a prime asset, insomuch as he was; and is, a uniped! This disability did little to hinder his ability lead me through the caves, which I suppose were interesting enough for limestone caves, stalagtites and strange formations as well as 3 bats, at one point I had to submerge myself in an underground pool and by means of a bit of rope pull myself across to the other side ( wet again, and so was all my money ) The caves snaked in for a few hundred metres through some narrow gaps, so not for those of a claustrofobic*nature. Left there and peddled up to a nature reserve or zoo really , the most interesting animals were the leopards, which are smaller than I imagined and it would require a good few for a nice coat. I was then attacked by a one armed monkey, the inhabitants of this part of the world do seem to be very careless regarding taking care of their limbs, we bared our teeth at each other but he was`nt too fazed by that, a swipe with my boot soon had him turn tail and scarper. Being the rainforest it started to rain, once it went off I cycled back to Tena. I was disappointed to discover that the other party who were to go on the next rafting trip had called off and no other victims were forthcoming so my grade v rafting trip was cancelled, possibly just as well after my previous. Off back to Quito tomorrow. Thanks to all who leave messages, and to others who have´nt, do not be shy, your spelling cannot be as bad as mine. SS

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Down The Yacu...

Left Tena for the days rafting, there were 13 participants & was the only Gringo. Arrived at the river & after a safety briefing made our way down to the waterside, entered the raft and left, as you can imagine paddleing down a grade 3 river through some big water & huge troughs & peaks is not really condusive to photograghy with an electric camera. All went well and I enjoyed the scenery, stopped for lunch then set off again, we reached a particularly fierce strech of water and whilst attempting to paddle & keep the thing straight we hit a large wall of water & goddammit I fell out !!! I was too surprised to be scared but after being submerged then surfacing, then being submerged again, and being completely out of control, I do confess to being a little concerned about my welfare, I hear shouting from the raft "captain " of " ees ok only rapids, no rocks " mmm.. well what was that big hard thing I skelped my foot off then ? After bobing down for what seemed a considerable distance the safety kayaker came close enough for me to grab the rear of his kayak and hauled me to the bank, from where I re-entered the raft, the rest of the guys in the raft did not seem to understand the mortal danger I had been in & pulled me back in with accompanying laughs & Ecuadorian jokes, after that I was more interested I my own health than the direction of the raft & held on to the various ropes & ties with a little more tenacity than the rest of the crew, we exited at Porto Napa & returned to Tena. Busy place New years eve but I just have a few beers & talk to an Aussie for a while, untill I became bored and went to another bar.

After my near death experience of sunday I
decided to push my luck and go Kayaking down the El Napa, starting this time where we finished yesterday at Porto Napa , Toby the instructor & I were joined by a portly american girl of 25ish, after some rudimentary instruction ( I have never been kayaking on fast-ish water but i was sure I could pick it up and make a decent fist of the buisness ) I wobbled down for the first half K then I was warned about a tricky bit with high fast water, sure enough the first hard bit & I was upside down struggling to find the handle which releases the skirt, this time panic-ing helped & I found it & released myself from the Kayak, on surfacing I discovered there was still some distance till flat water so I was not safe yet, I managed to grab the Kayak which helped to give me bouyancy, Toby the instructor made hs way to me & I swapped my kayak for the back of his, Laura the American did it fine , even going to retrieve my paddle After emptying my kayak we started off again, I turned turtle twice more before we reached out destination 17k down the river, I do not know if I am suited to this as drowning seems an ever present and very real danger.
Or mibbee I am just a woose. We had a meal afterwards were I discovered there is some sort of parasite in the river which of course you can ingest by swallowing the water, So I´m not safe yet!! then back to Tena. Not many places open today or tonight so early to bed.