A Travellerspoint blog

Things We Learnt on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

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1. Spending large sums of money can feel good!
It was sweet sorrow leaving Isabela Island in the Galapagos. We had such an amazing time there. But it was with relief that we emptied our back pockets and paid for flights rather than taking two 3+ hour boat rides to get to San Christobal Island on rough seas in a dodgey boat. Never have I been so glad to part with $600!!! The flight was only 20 minutes and we were the only passengers in a plane that seated about 30 people. The other cheaper airline had all its 8 seats booked. I'm not sure how the airline we went with will survive, hence it seems likely that soon there will be only one small carrier and the price will be higher still. Perhaps high season keeps them afloat the whole year???

2. Sealions smell - bad!
San Christobal is literally teaming with sea-lions. They are on the road, the footpath, under the playground and of course all over the beaches. They smell awful and can be quite noisey! The kids played around two sleeping sea-lions on the playground, and then Daisy stood on the apparatus above one of them and roared down at it. The sleeping creature sat up, looked at her and then scarpered to another quieter spot about 20 meteres away. Who knew Daisy was so ferocious!

3. Some things are far more awesome when you do them with your kids.
Brodin and my mission on San Christobal was to see a Blue-footed Boobie, a crazy bird with blue feet. They are apparently everywhere but we had failed to spot one yet so San Christobal was our last chance. A lovely Australian girl advised us to get a taxi out to Puerta Chino and climb around the rocks to see a colony of them, so off we traipsed. Sean was unenthusiastic as he had gone on a snorkel trip on Isabela and saw one then which he reported as being less than thrilling. We arrive at Puerta Chino and dodged seals all over the beach to clamber around the rocks. No sign of any birds other than a few frigate birds circling over head wondering if we are small enough for them to pluck for dinner. Sean gives up and I continue climbing around out to the point, with the kids hovering in between not sure whether to stop or go. And then I spot them. Perfectly positioned on the edge of the rock, with the sea behind them. I usher the kids and Sean over and we slowly and quietly sneak closer and closer. They watch us with bored stares. The kids are in complete awe. The wonder on the kids faces makes all these experiences so much richer than if we were doing them alone. Sean acknowledged this experience was far superior to seeing the bird the last time.
As we wandered back we spotted some frigate birds on the other side of the rock. Although without the zoom lens it was difficult for the kids to get a decent view.
Later, back in town Brodin said "I can't stop smiling". I asked him why and he said he thought it was bacause he got to see the blue-footed boobies.

4. Being cheeky pays off.
Being a coffee lover and a fair trade advocate I was really keen to visit a coffee plantation while in South America, and little did I know that the Galapagos Islands produce coffee. In fact, all three of the islands that we have visited have coffee plantations on them. I was planning on visiting one on the mainland at Macupucuna, out of Quito. When I discovered that coffee grew on Santa Cruz and Isabella I had enquired about whether it was possible to do a coffee tour and was told no. On San Cristobal, we planned to go to the Mockingbird Cafe for dinner which was recommended by the Australian girl we met. We mentioned this to our hosts at the hotel and they commented that the owner also managed the coffee plantation, Cafetal. So whilst sitting having dinner, I ask this gentleman if it would be possible to do a coffee tour. He thinks about it a moment and then suggests we return the next day at 3pm. He says he can show us a DVD and something else I don't understand. We arrive the following day with no idea what to expect or what this tour is going to cost. The cafe is closed but he takes us upstairs and shows us a promotional DVD for Cafetal coffee which was interesting. He then makes us an espresso coffee to drink before announcing "now we go to the plantation". He hails a taxi (taxi's on the islands are all white utes, as the roads are so bad they need 4WD, and they are everywhere as very few people have private cars, no seatbelts in the back and its ok to sit on the trailer). We learn the following through his limited English and our very poor Spanish.
The coffee is grown underneath the trees that were already growing there. The plantation began 120 years ago and has grown to cover 500 hectares with 300 hectares of coffee plants and 200 hectares of cedar and fruit trees amongst them. We saw orange trees, avocado trees, bananas, passionfruit and guava trees (which are not at all what we call guavas back home). Guavas have these long pods filled with large seeds surrounded by a white pith. The pith is juicy and sweet and is the part you eat).
The trees protect the coffee from the heat and the coffee keeps the ground moist for the trees. The plantation is in what they call "the highlands" which isn't really that high but is the highest part of the island. Strangely up there it is very wet and cool compared to the low areas and there is lichen growing on everything.
The coffee is 100% organic as no pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are allowed to be used anywhere on the island in an attempt to preserve the islands' flora, fauna and wildlife.
Coffee grows on trees which produce small red berries. Inside the berry is a little pale beige seed covered in a kind of gelatinous layer. This is the bean. Incidentally you can eat the outer berry and it is quite sweet and tasty but it leaves a slightly unpleasant lingering flavour. The berries are picked by hand over 2-4 months, twice per year, and then hand sorted to extract any over or under ripe berries. The beans are then shelled in a machine and then washed - a lot. Then they are dried and put in bags for transporting. The berries shells are kept and turned into compost to fertilise the coffee trees. It actually is a lot of work!
We return from our coffee tour and Nicolas tells us the taxi will cost $20. This is about half what we have paid peviously for similar taxi rides. Then we asked Nicloas what his fee is and he declined any payment at all!! This is a real shock in a place where it often feels like everybody is out to rip you off or at least make money out of you. We eventually slipped some money to his wife, but then the following day we popped in for lunch and to say goodbye before flying out and he insisted on giving us a bag of coffee, despite the fact we had already bought some from him. What an amazingly generous guy and an awesomely interesting experience. All because I was cheeky enough to ask the right person!!!
By the way if anyone is planning on a trip to the Galapagos Islands, Mockingbird Cafe on San Cristobal was the best food we had on any of the three islands and the owner Nicolas is lovely!!!!
By Rachel

Posted by Fletchers 04:30 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

Brodin and Daisy's Galapagos Reports

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It a different time of day and a different day in SOUTH AMERICA and New Zealand. I Don't think you  know this but I do.
I went on a coffee tour today and it wad a cafe person that I went on the tour with amd I'm at his cafe now having dinner.
Before I had a little sleep I went out and saw some blue footed boobies. They are a type of bird that have blue feet and blue beaks and blue eyes. I don't know why they call them boobies. Maybe because one looks like a Boobie. I could go really close up to the blue footed boobies and I went really close to one and it went "arrrrrrr!". I got a little scared and went back.
I thought the blue footed Boobies were really cool because they had webbed blue feet and blue eyes and beaks and white feathers and they were really colourful.
By Brodin

I saw a baby seal. It sounded like a sheep. One seal maked big noises. I saw flamingos. I liked the colours on them. We goed in the pool.
It was fun when a dog went into the water fountain.
Brodin got scared of the seal. I saw some fish down by the ladder when I was snorkeling. I told mum to let me go and she let me go and I snorkeled all by myself. The seal jumped up under the seat and we didn't see it and I sat on the seat.
By Daisy (with mums help).

Posted by Fletchers 04:22 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

Thanks for your "Posts"

Hi everyone,
thanks for your posts.Just thought we would let you know that we do enjoy reading your messages. Please note that there is no way for us to reply!
Thanks to our new friends Jose & Valeria in Quito we will have i-net access till next Tue when we fly to Cuba (via Panama). We expect to drop off the radar for the 17 days in Cuba...but who knows unexpected things can and do happen!
Sean & Rachel



Posted by Fletchers 18:24 Comments (0)

The Galapagos Islands Amaze

The Galapagos Islands are made up of many islands, with about 4 of them inhabited by Ecuadorians. The populations are small with the most people living on Santa Cruz. The main town, Puerta Ayora reminds me of Kaikoura in the off season. It is quiet, with a mix of locals and tourists. It has souviner shops lining the few streets and numerous art galleries and cafes. The waterfront is nicely developed with sculptures and children's playgrounds. Whilst I insisted I did not travel halfway round the world to hang out watching the kids play in a playground, there are times when they work in our favour, rather than dragging the kids around town needlessly. The kids are getting a bit over walking everywhere although they are doing remarkably well.

The boat ride to Isla Isabela was pretty horrific with both Sean and Daisy hurling. As someone who grew up on boats and generally loves a good stiff breeze and a few waves to keep i interesting and exciting, even I would like to think that that was the limit of rough waters that the boat would travel in, but I am not convinced it was. The cracks in the ceiling that leaked sea water in as the waves crashed over the boat were somewhat concerning as i sat there wondering what other cracks the boat may have and how they may be faring as we smash down on another massive swell. The life jackets the kids were wearing were made for rather large adults and we were not sure how helpful they would be if the next wave flipped the boat over completely. Needless to say, we are now looking into flights from Isla Isabela to Isla San Cristobal rather than the two boat rides we have already booked and paid for. Initially we ruled out flights due to the price, but now we feel the risk is too great, not to mention the discomfort for those landlovers amongst us.

Isla Isabela is less touristy and the roads are not tarsealed, there is a very small town with only a handful of shops for essential services at high prices, and a few cafes. We are staying at a hostel right on the beach and it is georgous. The kids can play on the beach or in the sand yard filled with a volleyball net, tightrope, and hammocks, whilst we sit at the bar chatting to other tourists and the hosts. It is really idyllic. Apart from the iguanas that you have to avoid stepping on all the time! They are everywhere! And the kids never seem to tire of pointing them out.
A short walk from our hostel was a Flamingo colony. Whilst there were not a huge number of them, it was spectacular to see these stunning birds, trawling through the water for food.
We continued along the trail for another few minutes and we reached the tortoise breeding centre where we were able to see Isabela Giant Tortoises at all stages of development. They begin life with a soft shell and due to all sorts of introduced animals, the babies are very vulnerable and hence the population had become endangered. That and the fact that it is very difficult for them to mate - probably because they are so slow to move it takes them years to get to each other, much less actually perform the deed, and I suspect the old females gets crushed under the weight of a male giant tortoise's weight!!! Apparently they are slowly releasing more into the wild again once they are large enough to survive and they hope that eventually they will roam around the streets in huge numbers just like the iguanas do, oblivious to the tourists photograhing them.

On Isla Isabela, seals are everywhere. There was one on the jetty greeting our boat when we arrived, they lie around on paths and beaches and come to investigate people swimming. We went for a short walk from the port and there is a pool that is protected by a reef, meaning few waves. It is surrounded on three sides by mangrove trees which turtles and seals and many fish feast upon.
We clad ourselves in wetsuits and snorkel gear much to the locals amusement -they kept calling the kids "linda" which means 'cute'. Brodin and I snorkeled above a marine turtle and then I glance over and see Brodin high-tailing it back to the dock! I follow him and ask what the problem is and he explains that he was scared when he saw the turtle moving upwards that it was coming to get him! I managed to get him to return and have another look and after a while he relaxed. Two seals then came over to see what we were up to and swam around us, playfully. Again Brodin was a little nervous and after a few minutes he swam back to the dock. When he grabbed the side of the dock he was very surprised to see a seal standing at the edge on top of the dock looking down at him! Brodin wasn't sure what to do, and then the seal plunged into the water right beside him! When we got out of the water there was another seal sleeping under the seat only inches from us.
Then a marine iguana swam on past. It is incredible to be so close to these creatures and they are so comfortable around people. They don't seem to fear us and hence there is no sign of aggression towards us at all. The rules are that we are not allowed to touch them, which probably helps them to be so relaxed around us.
What an amazing place this is. It is hard to express just how wonderous it is. We did wonder if having seen the DVDs that it would not be so exciting or interesting, but nothing can prepare you for the real life experience. I think the rest of our trip is likely to disappoint after this. Perhaps we should have left the Galapagos Islands til the end!!!
Next instalment willinclude San Christobal and the blue-footed boobies!

Posted by Fletchers 19:42 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The Flipside, Quotes & The Best Thing You Did Today

By Sean

"The flipside"
...for those families considering to do a similar trip...what the photos and lyrical prose don't show or tell you. Most of these things could happen to you in NZ by the way.

Mon 24th Quito
Near miss when Brodin decides to step out onto the road into an oncoming car. Fortunately Rachel was holding his hand and pulled him back onto the footpath.

Wed 26th Sept Travel from Quito to Baltra Island Galapogos
Bad nights sleep due to several bouts of diahorria....damn lettus washed in tap water the likely culprit. Up at 6:15 and off the airport at 7:15 with long waits at the airport where passengers are encouraged to hurry up and wait in a que! Someones patience is wearing thin but the kids are happily playing games with each other. Fortunately Rach fairing better after three days of antibiotics for a cough and sinus infection she just could not shake and has had her coughing ever since Santiago. The descent from around 3100m in Quito to sea level was hard on the ears and sinus air gaps resulting in enough pain to make me wince. Brodes sufferred a little too but came out of it all OK. Thank goodness LAN give you lollies to suck for the decent!

Fri 28th Sept Santa Cruz Galapogos
Daisy and Brodin decide ownership of prized playing card by tug of war resulting in Daisy doing a backwards somersault off the bed with the back of her head connecting with the hard tile floor. If it were not for the landing I would have given her 10/10. Fortunately ice and palmol are on hand and no trip to 'hospital' is required. Certainly gave us all quite a shock.

Later same day after a storm passed through over night (loud booms but no lightening to be seen) on route to Isabella in a home made boat who's structural integrity was later questioned by another sea captain. Worst part was suffering sea sickness for what felt like eternity while the hull crashed against the rough seas. The best moment was throwing up over the back of the boat..man the relief is hard to describe!

Sat 29th Sept Isabella Is.
While staying at the very cool Iguana Hotel (Calleta Iguana) right on the beach, volley ball, hammocks under shade and bar all aptly run by the hotel's best asset Emily) Brodin somehow manages to bend back two finger nails on one hand while diving under the tight rope which fortunately is suspended only half a metre above sand. Again palmol and plasters all that is required which is fortunate as there is no hospital here.


On Galopogos
"Brodin you are talking too much...(louder and slightly more annoyed) Brodin... (louder) Brodin stop talking now I need to concentrate on getting dressed!"-Daisy
Regarding Flamingos ..."They sound beautiful, they sound like music "-Daisy

Regarding Blue footed boobies "I can't believe l'm seeing a real one. lts like a dream! "- Brodin

What was your most favourite thing you did today?

Sat 29th Sept Isabella Is.
Rachel- seeing flamingos, Daisy, Brodin and Sean- snorkeling with the turtles and seals at the main port.

Sun 30th Sept: Isabella: Casando Rosa/Calleta Iguana
Brodin-playing spot light. Daisy- swimming the waves at the beach.
Sean- snorkeling with the turtles and playful seals at Tintorenas.

Mon 1st Oct: San Crystobal
Brodin- "definately not being in timeout!"
Daisy- "swimming in the pool"
Rach- "discovering a Kiwi from Alexander who setup a touring business called 'GalaKiwi', it was good to see another kiwi making his mark on the world"
Sean- "flying for 25 mins instead of having to spend nearly the entire day feeling ill on a boat....despite the expense!"

By Sean.

Posted by Fletchers 17:33 Comments (0)

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