A Travellerspoint blog

back home again!


View Ecuador & Galapagos ... me gusta mucho! - 2015 on Ils1976's travel map.

Surprisingly enough, I really slept and this for me, was the first time ever without the help of a little bit of alcohol. The only thing I can think of was the fact that I was really knackered and while it was still dark outside, trying to close my eyes and going for a second power nap was out of the question, so instead I just went for a stretch of the legs and a chat with a few members of our group till it was time for breakfast to arrive.

While I skipped it all together, I did however asked for a bit of hot water and enjoyed my oatmeal while watching the rest of the movie “the Seventh Son” and what can I say, it is an action movie and that’s about it. Nothing more and nothing less, pure entertainment and that’s about it.

Although we still had a little bit more than an hour before we arrived back at Schiphol, it was just too short for another movie, so instead I went for a documentary of one of my favorite persons, Sir David Attenborough and my favorite animal, the orangutan and watched those gorgeous creatures till it was time to land.

Once back on the ground again, reality really hit me that our holiday was finally over and 3 weeks once again went by so very fast. As we headed out for our luggage, we said our goodbyes to our group members and went for one last cup of our traditional coffee at Starbucks before we went on the lookout for our transfer bus, which was going to take us back to the hotel where Tania’s car was parked and where we arrived about an hour later.

As soon as we were handed the keys, we went for one last “technical stop” before our road trip towards Belgium could begin. Although it was still early in the afternoon, traffic was already quite terrible and after driving for a couple of hours, we finally reached Tania’s home a little after 5 PM.

Needless to say, it was a joy to see my loved ones back and as we drove back home, I started telling about all the adventures I went through the last couple of weeks. Nothing was left out, not even the bad things like the itches and the scratches of the insects and although there were some negative things, mainly thinking about our tour guide and our last day trip, all was quickly forgotten by loads of positive things and as we drove up our driveway, I was already thinking and planning about trips to come ... what can I say, I am a travel addict!

Posted by Ils1976 00:27 Archived in Belgium Comments (2)

final hours


View Ecuador & Galapagos ... me gusta mucho! - 2015 on Ils1976's travel map.

6.30 AM sounds enormously early, especially on a last day with a possibility to sleep in, but since me and Tania wanted to make the most of it here on the island, we just jumped out of our beds, got dressed as quickly as we could and made sure all of our things were packed for our leave within a few hours.

Although breakfast wasn’t officially being served, we still managed to get a cup of tea as well as a toast and at this point, this was more than enough for me. Usually I am a big fan of breakfast and for me, this is the most important meal of the day, but today the prospect of wandering around town was more tempting so instead of waiting for more food to arrive, we just made sure we had our essentials (read camera and good mood) and on the move we went.

With only a few hours left, we still wanted to see the Charles Darwin Research Centre which is located just outside the towns centre and although it felt like we were the only two out here, as soon as we arrived at the small fish market, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

DSC03078_Fotor.jpg

A handful of people were already quite busy with bringing fish on land as well as cleaning it and this of course made for such a funny view when we noticed a few sea lions and loads of pelicans making loud noises in order to get some yummy intestines. I know, how on earth can you dig something like this early in the morning, but looking at these guys it was like battling for the best piece of the fish. It was such a joy watching daily life going on, but if we wanted to see the Research Centre we had to move along and with the promise to the birds that we were coming back, we were on the move again, only to arrive at the Centre about 15 minutes later and to our luck, we were the first ones to enter and register.

Since there were some maintenance works going on, we couldn’t enter the Tortoise Breeding Centre as well as other scientific stations, but a visit to the small rocky beach with an awesome view on the harbor was allowed and as soon as we said our last goodbyes to the beautiful marine iguanas, we had one last view on the many turtles which they keep here in the Centre in the hope that one day a true breed of the Galapagos Giant turtle will rise again. I am sure that many years will pass, but hopefully in the end they manage coz to be honest, they are truly a joy for the eye.

DSC03108_Fotor.jpgDSC03130_Fotor.jpg

As soon as we were back on our way again towards the hotel after saying goodbye to the friendly guards of the Centre, it really hit me that in just an hour we were going to leave this beautiful place behind. Although our visit here at the islands was but a short one, this is one place I will never ever forget and I can only hope that one day I can return, but in the meantime I  am just happy with the experiences of the last couple of days.

Passing the fish market again, we had once again a quick look and were surprised that although the fish was already cleaned and ready to sell, the clients were none less than the birds and the lions. I guess it was still a bit too early for us humans, but I was sure that within an hour all this was going to change, so as we said our silent goodbyes to the animals, we were back on our way towards the hotel where we arrived a few minutes later.

Almost our entire group was packed and ready to go and while Tania went inside our room to get our bags, I began to ask some of our members of our group about their experience yesterday and to my surprise it seemed that I wasn’t the only one missing money … it seemed that my bad thoughts about the crew yesterday weren’t so wrong and while a few of them wanted to make a complaint, I was just glad it was but a bit of money. I know it wasn’t the best experience of the trip, but at least I learned my lesson and never ever am I going to take money with me again on a boat … from now on I stick to plastic!

Right on time, the tourbus of the travel agency arrived to pick us up and drove us all through the island, so that we could catch our boat towards Baltra, the island where the airport is situated and while we enjoyed the last rays of sun and hot air, we finally had to say goodbye to the islands and went straight for the check in.

Things go very slow on the islands and not that I mind one bit, but when even the computers fail to work, than you get an angry crowd. Maybe this was just a sign saying that we had to stay, but after waiting in line for almost an hour, we finally could check in and although our plane was about the leave in minutes, me and my travel buddy still went on the lookout for some food, after all, it was a two hours flight and the clock already turned noon, food was no option, it was a necessity.

With only minutes to spare, we made it to the gate and as soon as we could board, we were on our way towards the plane. As soon as everyone got to their assigned seat, we were good to go and although we had to wait a very long time at the check in, as soon as we were seated, it was nothing else but smooth sailing.

2 hours, a few snacks and watching some funny movies later, we finally arrived back in Guayaquil, where we had a 4 hour layover. Since this is but a small airport, there was not much to do than going for a bite to eat, doing some window-shopping in the few shops and find yourself a seat and wait for your plane to arrive … seems simple, but a bit boring as well and while we still needed to wait for an hour, me and Tania decided to do something different. While I went for the shoulder and head massage, which was awesome by the way, my friend went for a relaxing foot massage and both feeling a bit rejuvenated, we were minutes away from boarding the plane which was going to bring us back home again.

Feeling a bit sad, I got into the plane and went on the lookout for my seat, which was almost in the back of the plane. As it was already quite dark, we couldn’t see that much when we left the country behind us and I quickly resorted to looking for some movies to watch. The first one I choose was “Big Game”, a story about a young Finnish teenager who is camping in the woods and helps rescue the president of the USA when Air Force One is shot down near his campsite. Maybe it's hard to believe that something like this would happen in real live, but nevertheless it was a beautiful movie about a heroic youngster who doesn’t want to disappoint his father … it almost brought tears to my eyes.

Although it was almost midnight, after having a light meal consisting out of noodles, I still went for a second movie which was “the Seventh Son” and although this being a fantasy action movie and all, I soon dozed off to dreamland.

Posted by Ils1976 00:25 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

discovering South Plaza Island


View Ecuador & Galapagos ... me gusta mucho! - 2015 on Ils1976's travel map.

As soon as our alarm clock went off early in the morning, I suddenly realized that our holiday is slowly coming to an end as this was our last full day here on the island and in South America as well.

Three weeks had gone by so very fast but these were worries for another day, we were still here on this beautiful island and since we still had a complete day to discover nothing but beautiful things, I was more than eager to make the best of it.

In the beginning of our holiday we booked a very expensive day trip towards South Plaza island and after waiting for almost three weeks, we were more than curious what to expect. According to the lady of the travel agency back in Quito, we were going to see nothing but beautiful things which were nowhere else to be found except on this island and maybe three weeks back we believed everything she said, nowadays we already have a suspicious feeling when someone says something like that but all things aside, I was still more than curious to see the land iguanas since they were the only ones on my list which I still hadn’t seen yet … so today had to be that day!

Breakfast was being served at 8 AM and although it was very basic, it was more than suitable and after taking for the very last time "my always so important sea sickness pill”, I was more than ready for a day on the water. Our guide and captain of the day arrived at 8.30 AM and with him a small tourist bus as well, but unlike the comfortable busses we had all during our trip on the mainland, this school bus was all but comfy and seeing that the roads here on the island weren’t always paved, we were in for one hell of a bumpy ride but of course … that made things more than exciting as well.

When we left Puerto Ayora early in the morning, it was still raining, but by the time we arrived at the port on the other side of the island which was about an hour later, the weather changed for the better and by the time we got out of the bus, it was already pretty hot.

Although we had to wait for a while for our dingy to arrive, as soon as we were on it, we were on our way towards our boat, which turned out to be a bit more modern than the “lancha” which we experienced a day ago. As soon as we set foot on the boat, our captain immediately screamed that we had to put out our shoes. Maybe this is something very important when going on a boat, but for the love of God, there are better ways expressing yourself than by screaming, after all, it is not like we were little kids.

DSC03009_Fotor.jpg

When each and everyone of our group was finally on board, we got the simple instruction to sit down and off we were towards South Plaza Island or Isla Plaza Sur as it is called by the locals.

DSC02952_Fotor.jpg

I don’t exactly know how long we were sailing and from time to time, I even dozed off but I am sure it couldn’t have been more than an hour when we finally arrived at the island with the sun shining bright upon our face. Upon our arrival at Plaza Sur, our captain just give us five minutes to prepare ourselves for the walk on the island and together with screaming nothing else but instructions to bring only water, a camera and a hat on the island, we were as good to go as we would ever be.

I must admit that for the first time during this trip I just wished I was somewhere else instead and I guess I wasn’t the only one thinking this. One of our group members earlier in the morning described our captain like a bald villain in a James Bond movie and although at the time we laughed about it, maybe he wasn’t so wrong after all!

As soon as we got on the island, I must admit that I was more than impressed with the vegetation which is called “sesuvium" and to me it looked a bit like the succulents at home, only these ones were more than colorful. Besides these beautiful plants, there were amazing examples of a pear cactus tree as well, but the bonus of the day were definitely the iguanas hiding from the sun underneath these trees. On our last day here on the islands, I finally got the see those incredible land iguanas and since yellow is one of my favorite colors, I can’t but state that these animals were my most favorite ones of this entire holiday and I couldn’t agree more with the saying : “safe the best for last”!

DSC02916_Fotor.jpgDSC02949_Fotor.jpg

South Plaza Island isn’t exactly the biggest islet of them all, but it definitely is worth a visit not only because of its incredible flora but for its birdlife as well coz when we finally reached a cliff on one side of the islet, we just saw one bird species after another. Although we only spend an hour on it, once we got back on the boat again, I was glad to be in the shade coz it was definitely a hot day today. Luckily we were on the water, so that there was some kind of breeze, otherwise I would definitely have had a bad case of sunburn.

DSC03004_Fotor.jpg

As soon as the entire group was back on board again, the staff prepared us some lunch, but for some reason we only got 15 minutes to eat it all and still not sure what was going on, before we actually got a clue, we were sailing again towards the spot were we were supposed to go snorkeling.

I guess we were sailing for about half an hour when we arrived at our snorkeling spot and once again we were treated like we were in some kind of military school. I’ve never in my life seen 20 people go so quick into the water like we did and I guess we even must be proud coz I think we are holding a record!

Unlike our snorkeling trip around Los Lobos, this time we saw the same fish, but for some reason the water wasn’t so clear and even the materials we got from our crew on board weren’t exactly the best … not that I complain easily, but when you get broken flippers … I guess it is time to change things … or am I wrong!?

We went into the water in record time and I guess the same goes for getting out of it. Although they promised enough time to snorkel, for some reason a few crew members followed us with the dingy, but not to help people in trouble … no, that’s not why it is there for … the dingy was used to keep us together and if people were tired, they'd just had to swim back towards the boat and this really said it all. I had never in my entire life seen such unfriendly people and I guess that in a way they really were villains.

After being not more than half an hour in the water, our entire group was back on the boat again and as soon as we changed into our clothes again, we were well on our way again to the harbor where we arrived about half an hour later … by the time we were all in the bus again and back at our hotel it was a little after 4 PM … we were flabbergasted and not in the right way!!!!

One thing me and Tania learned on this day … never ever go for a trip which is organized by a travel agency you know nothing about!

This aside, as soon as we arrived back at our room, we dropped of our gear and swimmers and walked straight back to the harbor. Although we didn’t had much time left, Tania still wanted to go and see Tortuga Bay, which is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches on Santa Cruz.

large_64ec4180-d793-11e9-b189-1337074beeff.jpg

Since we didn’t want to walk all the way towards the entrance of the beach, we went by taxi and once we were registered, coz we were entering a NP after all, we were good to go and followed the very, very long walking trail all the way towards the beach, which was completely empty due to the late hour. Although we didn’t had much time to spare, we still enjoyed the most of it, but after half an hour admiring the water and the sand, we had to go back otherwise there might be a chance they were going to lock us up behind the gate and this was not something we were looking for!

Although it started to get darker and darker once we arrived back at the entrance of the beach, we decided to walk all the way back to the harbor of Puerto Ayora, which on itself was quite an interesting evening walk. From all that walking, we really worked up an appetite and since this was our last day, the both of us wanted to celebrate this in style and went for the best restaurant we could think of. Since we didn’t had much food all day long, we not only went for a delicious soup and a main course but for a dessert as well. We really had such a great time that by the time I wanted to pay the bill, I really got thunderstruck!

Not entirely sure what happened, I seemed to miss about 20 dollars in our mutual holiday wallet which me and Tania keep. Still not entirely sure what I was seeing and that I counted wrong, I checked my own wallet and guess what … I am missing 20 dollars as well … what the hell???? 
The only thing the both of us could think of was the fact that the money was stolen during our day trip on the island, but for some reason I felt bad about it coz I am not a person who accuses someone easily. If you can’t say for sure, you can’t point a finger but still, this wasn’t the most pleasant moment of the entire evening. Could our crew be that bad???

Loads of questions still remained in the back of my mind and although we went for another walk to clear our heads, by the time we were back into our hotel room and managed to pack all of our stuff, it was already way past 12 PM and more than time to go to sleep coz the both of us were going to have an early start tomorrow!

Posted by Ils1976 01:46 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

crossing islands


View Ecuador & Galapagos ... me gusta mucho! - 2015 on Ils1976's travel map.

Promptly at 8 AM in the morning our alarm clock went off and although I was more than interested to see how Santa Cruz was like, the prospect of getting there with a local “lancha” was something completely different. For some reason I am not that great with boats, the water I don’t mind so much, but boats are not really my thing and as soon as I went to breakfast, I noticed that the staff had prepared some eggs … for heaven’s sake, who gives people eggs when they are about to cross a wild sea … this is not good, not good at all!

Because I didn’t want to look unthankful, I just ate a little bit of the egg, but for once during this trip, I wisely enough decided to eat not that much unlike a few others from our group and just hoped that the sea sickness pill I was about to have, will do his magical trick!

With still a bit of time to spare before our pick-up at the hotel, I decided to take things slow and went in some kind of trance hoping that I wouldn’t get sea sick, while Tania wanted to have one last look at the harbor and the local sea lion population and before we knew it was time to leave this island behind us.

Before we could leave, we still had to undergo some serious control at the harbor and although it sounded a bit ridiculous to most of us, here on the islands, people are serious when it concerns the protection of the local fauna and flora and not only our luggage underwent some serious investigation, even our shoes needed to be “screened” as well. 

As soon as we all got cleared, we needed to bring our own luggage on board before we could board ourselves and unlike the cozy small boat we had yesterday, today we were “lucky” enough to sail out on a old looking boat with not too much ventilation … this was just disaster waiting to happen and not only half an hour later, my nightmare became true as the first member of our group got really sea sick!

24 people in a small boat with no fresh air is basically my worst nightmare and although I knew this was going to be my home for the next upcoming 2 hours, the only thing left for me was to close my eyes and say my mantra over and over again! 

Amazingly enough this worked out for me and although I was more than happy to set foot again on solid ground, I was just so glad that unlike a few others of our group, I didn’t get sea sick. After a few hours spending some time in a local “lancha” or speedboat as they call it, I was so glad to breath fresh air again … I made it and more importantly, I survived the roughed sea … yeah me!

Upon our arrival in Santa Cruz, we left the sunny weather behind us as well, as it was raining cats and dogs from the moment we set foot on the island. In a way this was just a shame and as soon as we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we drove onwards to the centre of the island for another highland tour while in the meantime I hoped the weather would clear up but sadly enough as soon as we arrived at our first stop, it kept on raining.

Los Gemelos, which literally means “twins” in Spanish, are two large craters that were once underground magma chambers. When the magma chambers caved in, they left two huge impressive looking craters and although the weather wasn’t all that good, in a way it made sure you got some kind of spooky feel when you walked around the edge of the crater with loads of fog surrounding it.

large_DSC02806_Fotor.jpg

DSC02859_Fotor.jpg

As we left the craters behind us, we went for that other highlight here at the island, as we visited a local tortoise breeding centre. Hungry upon arrival, the staff of the centre prepared us some lunch and as soon as we got rid of that feeling, we could go for a small walk. Our guide first divided our group into 2 before she showed us a lava tunnel and told us a little bit more about this phenomenon. As soon as we saw daylight again, we went on the look for that other interesting animal here on the island, the Galapagos Giant turtle and although they look a little bit different than the species on San Cristobal, they are just as cute and they didn’t left us feeling disappointed.

DSC02893_Fotor.jpg

Once we arrived back in Puerto Ayora, the sun was already setting, but Tania and I still wanted to see what the town had to offer and for us this were the pelicans who were fishing near the harbor. For the first time ever, we saw this bird from up close and I was so amazed to see that even when it got darker and darker, he still managed to get his food … this bird really has a good set of eyes, that’s for sure.

By the time it was 8 PM, the both of us went on the lookout for some food as well and ended up at a local Italian restaurant which served surprisingly enough a good pasta. 

Since the night was still young, the both of us just went for a bit of souvenir shopping, but besides loads of looking, not much was bought. Going from one shop to another in the rain can leave a girl feeling hungry so instead of constantly hiding under our umbrellas, we decided to go for a piece of delicious looking apple cake with some hot tea, which actually was a perfect ending for such an interesting day! 

Posted by Ils1976 10:22 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

day tripping in and around San Christobal

As our alarm clock went off at about 7 AM, I still felt a little bit tired, but the prospect of all the beautiful things we were about to see, made sure I jumped out of bed with a big smile on my face. As soon as I got dressed, had a bit of food into my system as well as that unavoidable sea sickness pill, I only needed my flippers and I was as good as ready!

It seemed that not only me and Tania were looking forward to this trip, even the rest of our group had a smile on their face and as we walked towards the harbor to catch our boat, the local sea lions where there as well to wish us a very pleasant trip.

Since we are such a large group, we weren’t able to fit into one boat, so the travel agency divided us into two groups, of which one consisted out of 18 people and a smaller one of about 6 people. Me and Tania, together with 4 others were going to be the small group and since our little group consisted out of likeminded people, I knew this was going to be a perfect morning.

As soon as we set out sailing and left the harbor behind us, we sailed a bit around the island as we were looking out for some birdlife and we weren’t disappointed coz even after sailing for about 15 minutes, we saw our first frigate birds, herons, pelicans and even blue footed boobies! 

It took us about an hour to reach the small islet of Isla Lobos and although it is but a small one, our guide was more than lyrical about not only the birdlife we were going to see as well as the other amazing animals living in this area. As soon as we set foot ashore, we were greeted by a few small marine iguanas and thanks to the interesting words of our guide, we soon learned more about this species, as well as loads of others as we crossed a rough nest of a frigate bird in one the many low trees. As if this wasn’t amazing enough, standing not more than a meter away from a peculiar looking blue footed booby was more than awesome and unreal at the same time as well!

large_DSC02689_Fotor.jpg

While we were walking on the islet, it was like if we were walking through a zoo without the usual cages coz not only did we encounter about a dozen of local birds in the air and on the ground, we even had fun watching a sea lion colony basking in the sun, saw a frigate bird inflating his red throat sac for a female, a mother blue footed booby protecting her chick and last but not least an iguana showing off and pretending he was bigger than us humans … all in all a more than successful morning.

large_DSC02740_Fotor.jpg

Upon our arrival back on the boat, the crew did their best to provide us a few simple snacks so that we had a bit of food into our system before we could start the second part of our program which was a short snorkeling trip around the islet.

Although I was a bit afraid of the cold water, I was more than pleasantly surprised to notice that the water was actually warm, which sadly enough was another “El Nino" phenomenon and just because of this reason it was a bit difficult to see all the fish. Nevertheless, I had the time of my life and although at times it was a bit difficult to see the smaller examples, the big ones like for example the parrot fish and such were more than recognizable and when you actually have the opportunity to swim alongside some local sea lions, you know this counts as a day you will never forget … this was definitely such a day. Once back on board after more than an hour of snorkeling, we were spoiled rotten again by our crew who provided a simple yet yummy lunch of rice, chicken and some greens. Just before we went back to the harbor again, our captain dropped us off at a small white sandy beach, where we could bask in the sun as well as the sea lions who showed us how to do it … this was definitely worth getting sunburned, that’s for sure!

8a0985d0-cca9-11e9-91b5-39e267db356e.jpg

As we arrived back into our hotel room, we saw no sign of “el Jefe” and as soon as we changed into some other clothes and left our swimmers to dry in the bathroom, we were on our way again for an afternoon into the highlands.
 We started out booking this trip with just three persons, being me, Tania and Bert, but by the time we arrived at the diving shop, we had 3 more followers and with the six of us, we drove off towards the centre of the island which is also known as the “highland" and although the weather was nice and sunny when we left the town, as soon as we were driving towards the middle of the island, this all changed for the worse, which unabled us to see the infamous El Junco lagoon which sadly enough was covered with fog. How sad this actually was, there were still some other things to see and instead of mourning about this one thing, we drove further into the centre and visited the Galapaguera Tortoise Center where we not only had the pleasure of seeing some giant turtles, but at the same time learned a little bit more about these gentle giants.

As soon as we said goodbye to these cute animals, we had one more stop at Puerto Chino beach, which is one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches of the islands and although it would have been nice to go for a swim, by the time we arrived, the sun was almost setting so instead we just admired the beauty that surrounded us.

DSC02796_Fotor.jpg

It was already pretty dark when we arrived back in town and since we didn’t had anything to eat except on the boat, we were pretty hungry as well. We started out looking for something suitable to eat but for some reason ended back at the pizza place we had such great food yesterday and instead of going for a second round of pizza, this time we went for a delicious burger and a dessert as well. 

The three of us were just so intrigued when we read that they’d had a lava cake on offer that we had to try it and OMG, this was just to die for and if I have to be honest, this was definitely the best dessert I had throughout this entire holiday here in South America!

With our tummies filled, we strolled for a while through the main street and visited a few souvenir shops before heading back towards our room, where we once again had a small encounter not only with “el Jefe” but with his friend “el Capitan” as well … before we went to bed making sure our 2 roommates were secured into a dark place, we managed to get packed as well and this all before the clock turned 12 PM. The only thing we could dream of was that our roaches would turn into a couple of princes, but I guess that would be a very strange fairy tale, so instead I just closed my eyes and hoped I would survive our island crossing in the morning!

Posted by Ils1976 04:18 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 19) Page [1] 2 3 4 »