A Travellerspoint blog

Kicker Rock and eye to eye with the beasts

sunny 20 °C

Our last full day had arrived in the Galapagos and we had decided that to do one more special thing and bravely booked a tour to Kicker Rock which is located close to Isla San Cristobal. Having heard so many good things of other travellers we were hoping for this to be the perfect finish of our visit. After again leaving money and not knowing what was going to happen we managed to get on a tiny boat at 7 in the morning...only to find out, that not having breakfast before was the best idea ever!!!!!!!!!!! The 2 hour boat ride pretty much felt like bumping down the stairs on your bum and luckily seasickness swapped a space to the girl next to us, Rob was looking a little peaky though.
We arrived into San Cristobal and we were quickly transferred onto another boat where our guide Alejandro fitted us in some wetsuits and announced that this was the reason why this tour was the best...as you could stay in the water for longer. This sounded believable but we soon noticed that the three other boats all with people in wetsuits too;). We first went snorkeling on a little beach near to where Kicker Rock was and then had lunch on the boat. The lunch was good but everyone just wanted to go to Kicker Rock. We hurried up and got there after another 30 mins of bumping around on the waves. The Rock itself is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and looks stunning when you approach it. It has a channel which is supposed to be one of the best snorkelling spots on the Galapagos. Not being sure of what was going to await us and hoping this wasn t going to be the end of our travels cause of some missing arms or legs. We jumped into the water and quickly noticed how unbelievably clear the water was (considering we were in the middle of nowhere). Rob managed to survive his first salt water attack and we put our heads under water....to be greeted by a huge amount of fish under us...and nothing else than....Sharks!!!! Slowly diving directly under us, chasing fish from time to time and disappearing into the dark blue sea again. The sharks were just everywhere and this is exactly what we came for. We grinned at each other and started looking into the depth again, just to be greeted by a huge swarm of Rays swimming just a meter beneath us. We began to slowly follow them and they would let us come so close that we could have touched them. Within two minuites of jumping into the water we had already thought that this was already the perfect finish to the trip. When then the huge Hammerhead shark of at least 3 meters appeared I just stared in amazement and was even able to take a photo. The Hammerhead just looked too majestic and for a moment I actually got a little shivver hoping he wouldn t see the diabled sea lion just behind me ;).
Our guide gave us lots of time and we managed to early snorkel around the complete Rock...seeing lots more Rays, colourful fish, turtles, sea lions and I got so lucky when I a big shiney thing appeared a meter in front of me....it turned out to be a big Swordfish and this time I did not forget to get a nice little pic of him. We jumped back into the boat about 2 hours later...freezing and just wanting to get out of the wetsuits but so happy! Our last day was a big blast and couldn t even be spoilt by another 2 hour boat ride back to Puerto Ayora. For dinner we had some huge fish for cheap and fell into our beds feeling so good.

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 15:56 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

galapagos cruise...or muppet show?!?!?!?!?

6 day Galapagos cruise and a lot of underwater fun

sunny 28 °C

So Tuesday 6 days ago it was finally there...the day that we should start our cruise around the Galapagos Islands. We happily checked out of our hostel room and started waiting around for a day trip that was part of the cruise but didnt start till two pm. Waiting can be quite an annoying thing just to say ;). After walking down the main streets of Puerto Ayora for the third time it started to become rather annoying having people staring at robs moon boot and we decided to have a drink and then went to the travel agency that booked the tour. After another hour or so we met our guide Julio who drove us to the Highlands of Santa Cruz where we walked along old lava tunnels (noone told us that it included crawling around in muddy puddles as the ceiling was a little low for the non Ecuadorian standard) and then went up to the main place of desire....the Giant Tortiose Reserve. The reserve was probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Even a few miles away from the reserve we could spot some of the Giants blocking the muddy access road. Once we arrived, we began to walk through the area with our guide. The tortoises were.....huge, quiet and slow and somehow we just felt like a dinosaur could just step around the next bush in a second. The Giant Tortioses really are so very different from every other animal we had previously seen and we watched every one we saw with absolute amazement even though it was raining cats and dogs by that time. Soaking wet but with a big fat smile we finished the tour and found a few tortoise shells (obviously the previous owners had died and not just decided to go for a quick walk), Rob and Julio forced me to climb into the shell to take the classic tourist pic...making a fool out of yourself never felt that good ;).
After this pretty good start of the day we got back to the agency to be told that we had another hour to kill until we could get onto the boat. We started getting a little nervous of what was actually awaiting us on the cruise. Pablo who we had booked the tour with dropped us off at the pier and soon enough we boarded the boat. We found that everyone on the boat was waiting for us...not just by the crew and guide but also by a bunch of American paparrazi led by two guys that looked like the two old guys of the muppet show!!! We sat down at two empty spaces..which luckily was next to a dutch couple that later turned out to be the only normal people on board. After the first briefing dinner was served and we quickly noticed that everything on the boat seemed to look good so far (by that we mean that there wasnt any holes in the bottom of the ship). After a decent sleep that only was disturbed by the constant noise of the engines and some nasty waves we arrived at Isabella Island, the biggest of the GP Islands. We got of the boat to see some more Giant Tortoises in the Isabella Breeding centre, where the animals are being bred and then released into the wilderness on the islands. The trip of two hours or so took us double the time as the American Oldies soon grabbed out their weapons aka 5 huge cameras that probably weighed more than an averge tortoise. It seemed that they managed to take photos of not just every tortoise but also every finch and every fly or blade of grass. Soon enough we found out it s best to walk in front of them before they scared everything away with their camera clicking noises. After the Breeding centre and a nice nature walk exploring the fauna and flora. We were able to pick wild Maracuja fruits and we had some beach time that we quickly used to run away from anyone that had more than three cameras around their necks. The beach was empty, white and the water just was so refreshing. The little beach bar by the side even topped this with a nice cocktail and a lovely sunset. We started to relax, knowing that we hadnt wasted our money on a poor quality tour. A few hours later when I found out that dinner and wave cruising isn t a very good idea when you re not used to it ;). After Rob gave me some good advise which was more than useless (it really helps if you keep food in your tummy!!!) I finally dropped out and slept through. The next morning started with an amazing breakfast and our first snorkel...yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Being so excited we weren t even bothered about the cold water (it s a lot different snorkeling in the Pacific than just in the warm water of any little bays in the Mediterranean or Whitby harbour) and we started exploring under water...me always being a little worried about the disabled sealion that was swimming behing me with only one flipper ;) and the intermittent water gurgling that I heard behind me. He did a pretty good job though I have to say. We soon began to see the beautiful underwater world that the Galapagos was so famous for. Withing seconds there were lots of fish, small, big and colorful, slowly hanging on with the currents and feeding...and minutes later we were both speechless, not just cause of the snorkel, but of the huge turtles that we were surrounded by. They slowly slid through the water,a little like they d fly. Our underwater camera case had already payed off by now and we tried to carefully swim with the Giants that would sometimes come closer than just a meter towards us. It seems strange to say but after the first snorkelling trip we were almost desensitised to swimming with turtles. After an hour or so we were called out of the water, we were slightly cold but just so happy. We had a little break, some snacks served on boat and then got ready for the next walk on a Lava field on Isabella with it s many huge Volcanoes. The next days pretty much were the same...a combintion of walks and hikes, with exploring the nature and learning about the volcanos and the galapagos nature and snorkeling. We liked all of it but preferred the snorkelling as there was so much to see and the turtles being everywhere was just amazing. we spotted some rays and even sharks and dived around with the curious sea lions that love a little hide and seek in the water and swam with Penguins which were so agile in the water. We cant really list every animal we had seen and swam with and we know that this blog may not do justice to the amazing time that we had. Also in the water we were at least safe of the American camera invasion as one of them had blown up his underwater case on the first day. The only thing that happened frequently were flipper hits on the head or an ellbow in the side when some of the oldies tried to fight against the waves or was to short of sight to notice us next to them ;). On the land trips we saw lots of Iguanas and Lizards, different sea lions, a variety of birds, crabs, finches, hawks and on our lucky fourth day we were greeted by a family of Orca killer whales that swam close by to our boat. This all doesn t even count in the jumping Manta rays or the Mola Mola flukes that you can spot from time to time whilst the cruise and the frigate birds flying with the breeze of the boat. The crew was very welcoming and helpul with everything, our guide Jennifer very nice and trying to point out enough finches for every american cam ;). Our cabin was small but clean and comfy and with quite a big bathroom and hot showers. The food was amazingly good....big fresh breakfast and warm lunch and dinner with great dessert and a big compliment to the chef!!! Being back today we really enjoyed our cruise and also think we ve made a good last minute deal. Now it s time for some more action and so we re off to book some more snorkelling for the next days...off to Kicker rock on San Cristobal....where the sharks are waiting!

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 15:15 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

it must be Paradise...Galapagos Islands

Für dich!!!

29 °C

Als wir vor knapp 5 Monaten aus Bolivien Hals über Kopf zurück nach Hause geflogen sind, hätte ich nie gedacht, dass wir jetzt hier sein würden. Der Gedanke, wieder so weit weg von zu hause zu sein schien unerträglich und die Entscheidung wieder Flüge zu buchen war einfach nur ein Versuch, irgendwo wieder anzufangen. So sehr ich mir lange nicht sicher war, kann ich jetzt sagen, dass es sich richtig anfühlt und ich bin mir sicher, dass es dir hier so unglaublich gut gefallen hätte Papa! Unser Blog ist von jetzt an für zwei der wichtigsten Menschen in meinem Leben, denen ich so dankbar bin, dass sie immer für mich da waren und sind... für Mama und für dich Papa! Ich hab euch so lieb!

When we rushed back to Germany head over heels about 5 months ago I had never thought that we would be travelling again. The thought of being so far away from home again seemed unbearable and was one of the last things I wanted to happen. The decision of booking flights again was more of an attempt to find a new start somehow. As much as I wasn t sure if it was the right thing to do, not even on the flight here I can now say that it feels right and I am so sure that you would have loved it here Papa. Our blog is from now on for two of the most important people in my life, that have always been there for me...it s for you Mama and especially for you Papa! I love you so much!

The start of the trip didnt go to plan as we had to push our flights back a couple of days as I (Rob) had ruptured my ankle ligaments. We decided to finally fly a few days later...with a bit of mixed up feelings if this was working, a bag full of pain killers, antithrombosis injections and a transformer shoe. My foot had started to swell after only the train ride to the airport and didnt really get better with a long stopover in Madrid and Havanna. Stopping in Havanna sounds cool at first but really isnt. It turns out that the Cubans love a good imigration check and stopped us for not having a tourist visa for being on a connecting flight. It turns out that we knew the Cuban immigration rules better than they did and after a few hours in the illegal immigrant area we were realeased into the departure lounge. The rest of the journey to Quito went smoothly but as soon as we arrived we basically flopped onto our bed and went to sleep. It was only a short nights though as we were up early in the morning for the flights to the Galapagos Islands.
We were still tired and slightly jet lagged but happy about going to our intended destination. We checked in and made it to the departure lounge in good time, however once we had sat down we realised (well Catha realised) that we didnt have enough money to cover the park entrance fee (a cool $100 each). Catha ran back through the security checks and managed to finally find an ATM that accepted our cards. Catha made it back with a few minutes to spare looking slightly flustered but i have to point out that even with my one bad leg i still could have done it quicker!!!
We flew into Baltra, a tiny island that has an airport and a little harbour...well lets say peer. After the first panic attack of not knowing where to go now we jumped onto a bus, that dropped us off at a ferry and from then it went pretty easy. we crossed a little channel to Santa Cruz (one of the bigger islands) and got a bus to Puerto Ayora, the main town on the island. Being tired and with two heavy bags the walk to find accommodation wasnt too pleasant but eventually we got lucky and found a decent place straight away. I must add that my bag had got considerably heavier as Catha had decided to sneak some things into my bag that were too heavy for her to carry. The walk to the hostel was pretty tough but then the real work started...finding a boat cruise to the standards we wanted...long enough, good enough..certain islands..and obviously as cheap as possible!!! We spent the majority of the day sitting in travel agencies asking the same questions and getting the same answers. As the day was drawing to a close we decided to give on last token effort and we were actually lucky enough to find a good deal...we think so far!!!
On Saturday we decided to have a chilled out day and head upto Tortuga Bay or Turtle bay which is a 2.5 km walk from Puerto Ayora. The walk to the beach was a little cheeky but so worth it. We got to the beach around noon time and found it almost deserted with only a few surfers around. The setting was just perfect and amazingly beautiful. The beach was made even better by having loads of animals that were there...especially the lizards and iguanas. We walked on a little further and found a bay with calm waters we bathed in the sea and watched the pelicans fishing for food for a few hours. We decided to head back just before the gates to the beached were locked but as Catha was so excited about seeing loads of animals and taking photos of them she managed to forget her flip flops, I found this quite funny but it wasnt so funny when she had to do the 2.5 km walk back over hot stones barefooted (secretly i still found it funny but i did the token concerned look when she caught my eye). We had a lovely day, even though we couldn t spot turtles that are known to lay eggs on that beach it was a brilliant first Galapagos day and we re now looking forward to many more and especially our boat cruise on Tuesday.

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 16:20 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Salar de Uyuni and a salty aftertaste

About cold feet, flipping a coin and having the most amazing 3 day tour possible.

So after a fresh start the next morning we decided to start shopping around for our 3 day tour into the Salt flats...which sounds easy, but if you have to choose between 80 tour operators you'll start to notice that everyone will tell you the same thing and it doesn t make the decision easier. We had met a few other travellers and found we had enough people to fill up a car. After walking around for ages and listening to a massive argument between a traveler and the most reputiable company we decided to flip a coin and went with Quechua Connection. What we weren t a 100% sure of what the company was like until we were sat in the cars and luckily it turned out to be the best choice we could have made.
On the day of the trip we had one last shower (Cathas first one since weve been travelling...since Rob likes to use my towels to clean his feet!) and packed our bags with lots of water, fruit and sweets and all available warm clothes. We met up with our guides, Jose and Augusto, packed the bags onthe 4x4s and set off. After 2 minutes Augusto (Joses dad) turned out to be a lovely driver, we plugged our Ipod in and when he stopped at home to pick up 2 huge cakes, we all couldn t wait for lunch. Augustos English was as good as our Spanish...(un pocito ;) ), but we got along very well and Jose who drove the other car spoke really good english. The first stop, the train cemetery didnt really sound very appealing to us, but as it s included in the tour we drove down there and found it to be quite a funny and quite a unique place. the cemetry is full of loads of old trains and engines standing around in the desert, but you can climb them and they re just so oldschool, think of the trains that are in Thomas the Tank Engine and you ll get the picture. After around half an hour we set off again. From the salt flats we headed onto the salt flats and after a few minutes it already seemed as if there was only white around us with the mountains on the horizon started fading into the sky (the reflection f the ground makes it look like they fly). The view was simply amazing. Upon arriving on the salt flats we visited a few salt factories (stalls where families process the salt), obviously we had to walk down the obligatory shopping mile and after we stopped at a salt hotel for lunch. The salt hotel is an actual hotel made of salt. Whilst we had a little walk around, started taking pics Jose and Augusto took 20 minutes to prepare lunch and we were then seated next to the cars, outside, in the sun having great food and...indeed the most amazing apple pie!! (All other groups were sat inside in a boring hut.) The other groups had left when our guides started grabbing out eggs, a bottle of wine, spoons, dinosaurs and numerous random objects and then they started shouting 'crazy photo'. We ended up with lots and lots of amazing and funny pictures and we began to realise that we had not only found that we had the best drivers, and cooks but the best photographers too! After all the jumping and posing we were pretty exhausted so we drove further up to Isla Inca which is a random Island in the middle of the baron salt plains the has thousands of cactusses. We were able to climb around the island which was well worth it however we were short breath due to the altitude, obviously i didnt tell Catha that i was struggling with the altitude and laughed at her when she said that she found it hard to breath. After we finished exploring Isla Inca we drove to Isla Pia Pia, which was another island in the middle of the plains but we found that we were the only group there, Jose said it s one of his fave spots and we soon saw why. There was a huge cave with coral arches , after a cheeky climb up another hill (obviously i pretended that i wasnt tired after the climb) we reached the top to find a stunning view of the sun setting over the plains. We watched the sun set in the middle of the flats was just amazingly beautiful with nothing but our two cars for miles around. The area was so quiet and when the light was almost gone the mountains gave off a violet glimmer. Augusto began to get excited again as it was another opportunity for him to start taking more crazy photos and we were amazed too as you could tell he really had as much fun as we did!!! After another exhausting photo shoot we set off again for a drive into the darkness to where we would be spending the night. We arrived an hour later to find a small cluster of huts which turned out to be twin rooms with ensuite bathrooms (obviously only cold water). The rooms were quite warm due to the buildings having thatched insulation. We sat down for the evening meal and found out that we were to be served Flamengo which was one of the tastiest meats we have had in a long while. After dinner we had a bonfire, even got some wine and and it s was great to relax and get to know everyone in both groups.
We woke up after a good nights sleep and found that the room was relatively warm. We had breakfast of bread and butter and set off at 7 for the second day. The further we drove into the salt plains we noticed that the landscape began to change with the rough rock formations combining with deep but distinct colours and smoking volcanoes. We began to learn more about the landscape and how the salt flats were formed and why the coral built up in certain parts of the deserts. Another highlight of the tour was the different lagunas we visited. The water was icy cold and you can even see a thick ice layer on the top but you can also see...FLAMENGOS...yes...we d never thought they d stay in the cold, but they were happily walking and flyng around and it just looked brilliant seeing them on the lakes, this also explained where our meal came from. We had a second lovely lunch with a top view of the laguna and in the afternoon went up to some more volcanoes, visited a tree rock (easier to explain when youve seen the photo) and shot about 20 lamas to death with our cameras. Its hard to describe, but the scenery is just beautiful and the plateau that we drove on so wide.
The red laguna was our finish of the day and we arrived in the second nights accommodation. It was a dorm with 7 beds...very basic, but we knew that (kind of)!!! Jose and Augusto made sure we had enough tea and coffee to keep warm and dinner was good again (Picque a la macho....typically bolivian....a mix of potatoes, cabbage, onion, sausage, egg...everything you wnt to fill you up.). Jose tried to convince us to watch the stars and the moon coming up....which only worked on half of the group as the temperatures had now dropped down to -12. We went outside to watch the moon rise over the mountain and were happy that we took his advice to go outside. Jose then began to tell us about the stars and the constolations and after about ten minuites of pretending we could see what he was talking about we went back inside and into bed. As you can imagine the rooms were pretty grim as we really were on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere but we were provided with a hot water bottle and after putting on every single jumper, hat, gloves, scarfs, trousers and socks that he had we went to sleep....at least for a few hours.
We were woke up after a pretty rough nights sleep at five am as we were to watch the sun rise over the guisers (not glaciers as i thought he originally said...big diappointment early in the morning ;) ). We were all pretty tired but looking forward to getting into the car so we could feel the heating. We set off and found out that even though the heating was on full blast the inside of the windows would ice over due to the cold weather. We arrived at the guisers for sun rise and walked around taking photos. After jumping through the big plumes of steam to warm us up we got into the cars and headed to the green and white lagunes. We found that even more Flamingoes were flapping and snattering around in the water. We were still pretty cold at this point but we knew that we would soon warm up as we were to go to the hot springs. We arrived at the hot springs and dashed straight into the water which was around thirtyfive degrees. I was almost going to complain that it was too hot but after remembering the harsh cold of the night before Rob started flapping around (best Flamengo I have seen on the tour). As we were running a little late we only had thirty minuites in the pool but it was more than enough to warm up and start to feel better. We quickly got dry and went back into the cars for the seven hour drive back to Uyuni. I think that almost everyone was looking forward to the drive back as we thought that we would be able to catch up on the sleep that we had missed from the previous night however we forgot that there wasnt any roads on the salt plains and soon found that it was going to be a long, long drive back!!! After a few hours stopped in a gourge and had lunch. We then got back into the car for the final journey. By the time we got back we were all knackered and ready for a hot shower in the hostel before the overnight bus to Sucre, but we were also sosososo happy with our tour and guides and can t say thank you enough for giving us such a great time!!!

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 15:45 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Holaaaaa Bolivia!!!

About border crossing into Bolivia, a hissing green monster, funny smels and crazy bus rides.

semi-overcast

So here s the story of the peanuts heading over to bolivia....after a very early start at 4am we left Humahuaca, got on the bus to the Bolivian border. We arrived at the Argentinian border town of La Quieca and were greeted by a chaos of people, bags, busses, dogs, kids and smells. We found a taxi, made it to the border, were stamped ot of argentina and after a little walk happily and smiling stamped into Bolivia!!!! Villazon is a weird mid size border town, money changers everywhere and the loudest bus terminal you can imagine. Women screaming Potosiiiiii, Uyuniiii, La Paaaazzzz and rusty busses everywhere...so what do you do if you don t know which is the best one to go with?? Indeed....you flip a cin and choose any...which in our case turned out to be a big rusty green beast with lamps hanging from the roof but to give it credit an accurate leaving time. The semi cama seats weren t too bad and we had a pretty quiet ride to Tupiza which was the next big town which was three hours way. Arriving in Tupiza the bus was out of a sudden cramped with people, old woman with coloured clothes, screaming kids, men and women with billions of bags and girls trying to sell Gelatina (jelly topped with cream). Rob started panicking when he nearly had the biggest granny dressed as the James Bond villan Odd Job seated on his lap, i was fascinated by the chaos and heat but luckily we were seated next to the window which made the trip bearable. Unfortunaltely after another 10 minutes on now a dirt road the luggage boy fell out of the rack beneath the bus and was run over by a car...they had to transfer him into hospital. We still dont know why he was in the luggage rack and why he decided to jump out when a car was coming the other way. We kept going, but started to feel a little more concerned about the journey ahead. The road we took to get to Uyuni turned out not to be a road but more of a dirt path, maybe half a meter wider than the bus and the bus driver seemed to have an obsession with the horn even without any corners. (Not that he would slow down at a corner anyway.)...As we were speeding through the countryside the scenery was beautiful and probably one of the best we ve seen and it was only interrupted by the hissing green beast that sounded like it was about to die as it made its way up to the plateau on which Uyuni lies . After more funny stops, people screaming VAMOSSSSS (GO?) all the time we got to Uyuni in the early evening. The hostle turned out to be the only one to have at heating at night and hot showers which we were more than thankfull for.

I have to say that on this one occassion that you were right dad, that bus ride was almost exactly as you described it...and we both know that i never admit that im wrong!!!

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 15:33 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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