Well I was pleased to wake up this morning feeling a whole lot better than I had the last day and nights. I was the unfortunate victim of food poisoning two days prior. After two nights and a day of porcelain hugging, hot and cold sweats and a fair amount of feeling sorry for myself, I awoke the morning of our Galapagos tour feeling back to normal. Phew!
Damien had met the majority of the other 13 passengers on our trip the night before at our briefing at the San Francisco Hotel de Quito. I had the opportunity to have a good chat with two girls our age, Jo and Mel, also from Sydney, over our breakfast. The funny thing is that all the other people on our tour are from Australia as well, except for Martin who is from the Isle of Wight. We have not seen a lot of Aussies in our seven months of travel so to be surrounded by them again is quite a nice novelty.
On the plane over we spent the flight getting to know Cairan from Melbourne, who is about two months into a six month holiday around South America. We were to discover that only one week into his vacation he was violently bashed in Valparaiso, Chile and by the sounds of it was lucky to be alive. He was apparently subjected to a fair amount of media scrutiny at the time. The attackers were caught on CCTV and apprehended by the police. As a result they have been charged and he is aware that at least one of the men involved in his bashing has been sent to prison. So it was interesting to hear him say that it was in Quito that he felt is the most unsafe in South America so far. He had also been the unfortunate witness to the severe bashing of a local when he was dining out in the Mariscal Sucre neighbourhood of Quito. Although Damien and I had both kind of come to the conclusion that Quito was not the safest of places due to the comprehensive police presence day and night, security guards everywhere, jagged glass atop people’s home fences etc, it was interesting to hear his perceptions.
After touching down at the airport we were almost immediately on the bus to our boat and home for the next seven nights, the rather aptly named Yate Darwin. Our room is on the first deck right up near the bow and we have a nice seat area where we can kick back and take in the sights. We both think we may have landed one of the best rooms on the boat, just quietly! I might add, that it was a real buzz that even before we got on the boat I spotted several iguanas, just to gently remind me of where I was and give me a little sneak peek of what I was in for. So without further ado, we were off. First stop Santa Cruz.
As we headed for Santa Cruz I started to get further confirmations that we were indeed in a special part of the world. Large birds, which I think were some sort of boobies (black with a red throat), were circling close above the boat and as Damien and I sat on our (for now) private little deck. Later on we saw a fish jump through the water.
We touched down on the beautiful island of Santa Cruz. It is a very flat island with lovely soft pale yellow sand. There are scatterings of dark black volcanic rock, cacti and other heath-like vegetation. The black rocks closest to the water were covered in large red crabs and I also spotted a large black iguana. As a group we went for a walk with our guide up the beach, we had barely walked a hundred metres when we came across two old exoskeletons of lobsters, just lying in perfect condition on the sand. A few steps more and there was a massive bird sitting unperturbed by us sitting on a rock. A few hundred metres more and we turned inland a bit to a small lake and there were some gorgeous pink flamingos. By this time I was definitely realising that it really is an abundant natural wonderland of the kind a nature lover dreams of. You literally walk a few hundred meters, and there is the next creature to spy. I unfortunately had left my camera on black and white after snapping heaps of pictures of these birds; thankfully I realised before we had moved on! We were particularly fascinated with one of the flamingos, as it was doing a kind of marching on the spot manoeuvre with its legs as it fed, presumably to dig up whatever it was eating.
We then walked back to where we had landed from our dinghy and were briefed on where we could go snorkelling. We were told by our guide that this was not the most impressive of snorkelling sites but we may be fortunate. Well, no sooner had I donned my snorkels and flippers, I came face to face with a huge turtle! Magnifico! It was so close to me that I could have touched it. It was not at all concerned by my presence and I spent a while watching him as he grazed on the seaweed. I called out to the others to let them know and Jo swam over to see the turtle as well. We both stuck our heads up to yell to the others and when we looked down again the turtle had gone.
Anyway, not long after I found it again, and luckily this time a fair amount of the others got to float around him too. I am pleased that few people in our group have underwater cameras because I was not able to buy one in Quito, and I can tell already that I am going to want some pictures of the underwater action! The fish life was also abundant but the turtle and my brief view of a white tipped reef shark (maybe a bit over a metre long) were the highlights.
Once back on board the boat, the sightings didn’t cease. As were neared the area where we are going to stay the night we spotted a seal just having a snooze on the seat at the back of a boat. Later I also saw (on more than one occasion) a very large shark circling around the boat. I am glad I didn’t see one that size today. I think I need to build up to that!
We are now all sharing our first night cocktail after being formally introduced to our crew. To sum up, our first day has been a total success and I can’t wait to see what is in store tomorrow!