Ecuador - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 398 (208)
Sunday 10th April (2005)
With it being such a late night last night, we chose to sleep in this morning as opposed to getting up early enough for breakfast. By the time we had mobilised, we were starting to wonder just what to do with ourselves for the day. Not really knowing what our options were, we decided to check around town for a private guide for a half day. This didn’t seem like it was going to be terribly difficult so we decided to sort that our before getting breakfast. As it turned out, today being a weekend meant that many of the booking offices around town were closed. We ended up walking up and down the town’s main commercial street and thoroughly exhausting ourselves in the process – precisely what I had wanted to avoid. Most of the morning, then, was spent very unproductively. Even after following the advice of our hotel’s receptionist, we only found one place that was open and willing to entertain the idea of locating a private guide for the day. He first suggested that we spend the afternoon exploring the highlands here in the centre of the island. Apparently there are lava tubes and wild Galapagos tortoises to be enjoyed. The girls at the booking office where I had booked our cruise had told me that this tour of the highlands would likely be included in the cruise itinerary so instead he then suggested a place just around the coast called Tortuga bay. The only problem with that idea was that it required a one-hour trek to get there and another one-hour trek to get back. As it turns out, Tortuga Bay is where a twelve-year-old girl drowned just a few days ago. There is a huge and pristine white sand beach there and it is very good for snorkelling. Just past the sand banks, however, there are rip tides and heavy surf that can quickly cause problems. As was the case with Freddy from yesterday, I was starting to get the impression that we weren’t going to be doing ourselves a favour by booking a guide with this guy so we told him we would think about his offer of a guide for US$40 (€30,77) for a couple of hours in the afternoon and get back to him.
By now, it was lunchtime so we wandered around looking for a place to eat where we could either speak with an English speaking server or read from an English written menu. We weren’t successful in this endeavour and fatigue finally got the best of us so we settled for the same café that we ate at yesterday morning. Their hash brown, eggs and bacon breakfast sounded like it would go down well and it did look very appetising when it finally came out but the chef decided to throw in a slice of cheese so I had to send it back for another plate. As we sat and ate, another couple came into the open-air dining area and we quickly struck up a conversation with them. This was another Canadian couple that were here for just a few days trying to tackle the islands by means of day trips and excursions as opposed to a cruise.
We had struck out on finding a guide for the afternoon so we said goodbye to the Canadians and went back to our hotel to rest during the hottest part of the day. The Internet terminal was free so we jumped on to have a look at the website that we had been told to look at by the two girls at the booking office yesterday. Although we’d seen a small photo of the NEMO I, this was our first real look at the huge catamaran and its innards. We were very pleased by what we saw and are looking forward more than ever to the commencement of our cruise tomorrow morning. The exact itinerary was also posted on the website and I was somewhat interested to note that the only activity that would be taken in whilst the vessel was docked here in Puerto Ayora was the Charles Darwin Research Institute and not the highlands tour. With this very much in mind, it seemed that we might be able to salvage the afternoon after all by taking in that tour today. Since we had no luck in locating a guide via the booking offices here in town, however, it seemed like we might not get that chance. Then I remembered the really nice guide that we met yesterday and pondered the idea of being able to hire him for the afternoon. The problem was that we didn’t know who he was or how we could reach him. I knew that the couple that we had seen him with yesterday were diving this morning with a dive outfit close to where the research institute was. The reason I knew this was that the guide had half suggested we join them this morning. I declined the offer knowing that I would be too tired to get out of bed at six o’clock this morning. Armed with this information, I strolled over to the dive office in the hope that the staff there might know how to contact this couple so that I could ask them how they managed to secure the services of their guide. The woman at the dive office and I spent a while trying to identify which couple it was that I was referring to. Without any names to go on, she was trying to remember who went on the morning dive based on my description. As we were doing this, they returned from their dive and I was able to ask them directly. It turned out that the guide was from their hotel that they are staying in. The problem was that this hotel is located in the middle of the island and the guide was apparently giving a tour this morning already. With their help, I was able to find the guide’s mobile phone number so I took that with me to go search for a phone to call him from. I first tried our hotel’s reception desk but they apparently don’t have the ability to call mobile phones. I was more successful from an Internet café just around the corner and managed to actually reach him in the end. The connection was very poor but he did promise to call me back at the hotel to discuss our needs further. This he did but after all the effort, it turned out that he was unavailable this afternoon as he was already giving another tour. I explained to him that I had learnt that our cruise itinerary did not include the Santa Cruz highland tour so he made the suggestion that he would call his cousin, our cruise guide, to verify on which day it was that the NEMO I would be docked here at Santa Cruz. He suggested that we might hire him them to visit the highlands here whilst the rest of the boat passengers were visiting the research institute, which we have now already done. This seemed like a very good idea and I was thankful that he was so very helpful. It isn’t often that you meet someone willing to go so far out of his or her way to be so helpful. I certainly hope we get the chance to spend some time with him learning about the wildlife of Santa Cruz at some point during our cruise. This evening would very likely be the last chance we have to pick up a few souvenirs from here on the Galapagos Islands so we ventured out into town to do a bit of shopping. Pretty much every shop here sells a very similar array of t-shirts and trinkets based on the shapes of the typical animals found on and around the archipelago. Mangroves grow around the various island’s coastlines here and there is a fungus that grown on the mangroves that is harvested, dried and carved into Galapagos animal forms. Harvesting the fungus does not damage or harm the eco-system in any way and the resulting sculptures are quite a unique keepsake so we found a couple that we really liked from the one shop in town that sells them. We also picked up a t-shirt and, of course, a carved wooden Galapagos tortoise. Sandy also picked up some Galapagos animal bracelet pendants.
Whilst out shopping for souvenirs, we bumped into the second Canadian couple that we met earlier. It turned out that we were all planning to eat at the same restaurant this evening so we agreed to meet there at seven o’clock. After finishing off our shopping, we made our way to the Red Mango restaurant that is located, quite literally, in the middle of a mangrove forest right next to the waterfront. The annoying mosquitoes confirmed the location but when we turned up, we found not only the second Canadian couple that we expected but also the first Canadian couple that we ate with last night. The four of them were sitting at a table for six with our two places laid out waiting for us. It was a Japanese menu and I picked out the grilled eel to be a bit adventurous. It was delicious and we all enjoyed a long evening of mutually good company. The bill for the two of us came to about US$33 (€25,38). We had a lot of fun and the evening went on for some time. Yet again, we would make it back to our hotel much later than we might otherwise have. I’ve now sat here for the past couple of hours writing up my log entries for both yesterday and today and it’s now gone midnight.