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What have we been up to? The highlights and some lowlights. Part 1: Isabela

There’s a lot to catch you up on so we are breaking this into three parts by island. The first is our week long stay on Isabela island, Galapagos.

MAP GPS 2012 - Isabela

It’s the biggest island in the archiepelago and shaped like a sea horse. The town itself (Puerto Villamil) is rather small and is on the southern tip of the island. Looking back, I was most excited for this island pre trip and especially the hostel we had booked in advance. Turns out I got half of it right, loved the island but our hostel was very overrated for the price. Yes it’s on the beach and that’s amazing, but our room was on the street side, no ac (which I can deal with) but no cross air breeze and a fan that barely worked. This made for some rough nights of sleep, coupled with the late night music from the  two bars located on each side of our hotel. Are we getting old or what? hah…Anyway, I don’t want that to take away from the beauty of this island and some of the awesome things we did.
In front of our hotel, Casa Rosada

In front of our hotel, Casa Rosada

Our favorite activity on Isabela was the trip to Sierra Negra. This is the largest volcano on the island, with the last eruption in 2008. It was an entire day tour where you bus up into the highlands with a group of 12 others. Our naturaliast guide lead the way and you hike 8KM to the top. We really enjoyed this day and have some cool pictures from the views. It felt like what you would expect maybe walking on Mars. Pretty amazing. I think I would really like to see magma (the hot lava) in action! Not only was it very interesting to learn about volcanos, we met some really great people during the hike. Janet and Rick from Canada have been traveling for the past 6 months and had some great recommendations for other parts of South America and specifically Colombia.  Drew, also from Canada is traveling solo for a year or so- he just finished college and is taking some time to travel before work begins.

Lindsay at the top

Lindsay at the top

looks like Mars?

looks like Mars?

we made it!

we made it!

Jeff hiking up.

Jeff hiking up.

Here’s a few other things we did during our week stay.

After a 6KM bike ride, mostly uphill, you arrive at the Wall of Tears, a large wall (20ft high, 6ft wide, 300ft long) made from stacks of lava rock. In the 1940s and 1950s Isabela was a prisoner camp. Back then there was absolutely nothing for the prisoners to do to occupy their time so eventually someone suggested they carry large lava rocks from the sea to the middle of the island and build a wall. Once the wall was finished the prisoners would take the wall down and rebuild. Pretty crazy? Can you imagine having to carry these rocks several miles to construct a pointless wall and then be told to take it down? Literally the definition of busy work with no end goal. It’s actually kind of sad, and hence the name Wall of Tears. There is a small memorial dedicated to the prisoners that lost their lives building the wall.
The bike ride up is pretty tough. You are sweaty and tired, so on the bike back you can stop at a few beaches along the way and a lookout view point at the top to see most of the island. You could also stop off at the tortoise breeding center and hypersalinic ponds where the flamingos live, but we saved those stops for our early morning runs. I still think it’s weird that flamingos and penguins live on the same island…
Biked up to Wall of Tears

Biked up to Wall of Tears

Wall of Tears

View from above the Wall of Tears.

 

Jeff in front of the Wall of Tears

Jeff in front of the Wall of Tears

The flamingos

The flamingos

With eight days on Isabela we needed to make sure that we filled our days with something – and after having spent a small fortune on scuba diving the previous week we opted for the cheapest activity that was offered: Kayak & Snorkel.  Our hotel (and for the record, pretty much every hotel and tour agency offers the exact same activities) offered kayak tours, Tuneles tours, volcano tours and a tour of the Tintoreras. Kayaking sounded fun. And a tour? And a snorkel? Ok, were in. The dude working at the hotel told us the night before that we just needed to be ready at 930am and wait out front of the hotel. That is all that he said.  That was a little misleading. In the morning he tells us he will be joining us. Cool.  Then at 930am he tells us that we need to leave ASAP because the “guy” is getting impatient. We walk to some random guys house, yell for him and once he appears we all walk to the main pier together. There are two two-person kayaks waiting on the beach. Jeff and I in one, the “guide” and our hotel worker in the other. They “tour” us around the bay. At one point they start kayaking toward a dark spot in the water (remember, we’re in a bay…boats parked…) and both of them start excitingly saying that it is a sting ray and/or a turtle. We approached, circled it and then quickly determined that it was a sunken buoy. I was in the front of the kayak and turned around to look at Jeff, we both had “what the fuck is wrong with these guys?” looks on our faces.  We kayaked around the Tintoreras (a protected spot across the bay that day tours go for snorkeling) but never actually entered due to our “guide” not actually being a guide and therefore not allowed in.  Eventually we got to our snorkel spot and jumped in for a little bit. The water felt awesome but the visibility was bad.  You couldn’t even see a meter in front of you (like that meter reference? Everyone uses the metric system here and I can’t believe we use the imperial…but whatever…funny side note, I am not so great at math sometimes as many of may know so my conversion can be a bit off  for example I said we saw a shark that was 6 meters long.. Jeff looks at me like WTF Linds? Oops, I meant 6 feet! So kayak tour, did we get ripped off for $35 per person? Hmmm…survey says yes.

Watch a quick KayakVideo 

As you can imagine we weren’t interested in any more snorkeling tours that cost money or were organized by our hotel.  Thankfully Isabela has a great FREE option. Conchapela is a “pool” protected by rocks on the outside and home to a lot of sea lions, some fish and a few turtles. The water is so refreshing and it’s a short walk from our hotel so we ended up swimming and snorkeling here twice.  The first time we swam around with a turtle for a bit, and the second time we came close to a sea lion cruising right by us. Near here you can also walk to a beach and see the penguins swimming and diving. My god they are fast. We tried to get footage on the GoPro but no dice.

Sea lions blocking the way to Conchaperla

Sea lions blocking the way to Conchaperla

We dedicated an entire post to our favorite meal on the island – Hauser. The food, the company and the conversation was such a pleasant surprise.

In front of Hauser Restaurant

In front of Hauser Restaurant

The sunsets. They are beautiful, around 6:30pm Beto’s bar puts on some good tunes and you just sit and watch the sun go down. We did this every night and got some really great pictures.

Beautiful sunset on Isabela

Beautiful sunset on Isabela

Another amazing Sunset

Another amazing Sunset

On Santa Cruz we spent a lot of time with our scuba group, getting acclimated to our new surroundings and we stayed at an apartment by ourselves. This isn’t the best way to meet new people.  Isabela was different. We met a couple of folks that made the island special. A great group of gals from Germany and Austria who were on holiday for a few weeks traveling through Ecuador and Galapagos. We had a fun night out with them starting at happy hour and continuing on for several hours..lots of drinks.  We also met Polo and Rudolfo, two guys from Guayaquil and that’s how we ended up going to Hauser restaurant.

How we met Polo and Rudolfo after asking them to take this picture

How we met Polo and Rudolfo after asking them to take this picture

The food– while this is not a highlight per say, I thought you might want to know what we ate. Breakfast was included in our stay so each morning it was made fresh to order from 7 to 9 am and we would enjoy it outside on the picnic benches overlooking the ocean. It ‘s really a great way to start each day and we would end up sitting out there for several hours each morning with a few cups of coffee, our journals and the laptop for some blogging. Lunch was hit or miss and depended on our activity for the day- sometimes we skipped it or just had a snack. Our favorite spot was a little shop serving sub sandwiches for $2.50 on fresh homemade bread so whenever they were open, we stopped there. Dinners- there are several restaurants to choose from on the main dirt road in the center of town, but they all serve essentially the same stuff. We opted for the menu of the day and for $7-$8 it includes soup (sounds odd when it’s 80 degrees out right? but its so good) a glass of fresh squeezed juice-usually papaya, pineapple, tomato tree (tastes like a sweet tomatoes mixed with watermelon)  or passion fruit, grilled fish or chicken, a side of salad and rice, and desert. Desert was usually a little cup of jello. It’s decent food, but after having it 5 straight days in a row we were ready for something different.

Where we had breakfast each day.

Where we had breakfast each day.

I love soup!

I love soup!

One of our favorite activities is to hang out at the nicest resort in town and take advantage of their pool, their food, their service and their drinks. Thank you Iguana Crossing. This is the nicest hotel on the island, built four years ago with an infinity pool in the front of their property. Jeff and I would run past this hotel each day and made a pact to visit.  We had ourselves a nice little Monday Funday and literally stayed at this place from Noon until 6pm. Great service, tasty drinks and food. It was a perfect last day on the island.

Our day at Iguana Crossing

Our day at Iguana Crossing

All in all, this is a beautiful place to visit, it’s low key beach town vibe and wonderful sunsets make it the perfect place to just relax and enjoy the scenery for a few nights. Many afternoons were spent in the hammocks at our hostel on the beach, listening to a Serial podcast or reading our Kindles.

Relaxing in my favorite hammock.

Relaxing in my favorite hammock.

Jeff hard at work on the blog

Jeff hard at work on the blog

3 thoughts on “What have we been up to? The highlights and some lowlights. Part 1: Isabela

  1. Pingback: Jeff's Transformation | No Approval Needed

  2. Pingback: Floreana Galapagos | No Approval Needed

  3. Renee

    Love reading your blogs! You guys look like ur having so much fun. Just one thing from ur aunt……be careful! You guys are too trusting and friendly!! Love you guys

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