After a short (1.5 hour) bus ride and an overly convoluted border crossing – involving getting a Peruvian exit stamp miles before the border, crossing the border, getting an entry stamp after travelling 20 minutes past the border into Ecuador, then having to leave our bus and catch a cab back to the border to get a different bus (10 hours this time) – we were on our way to Quito.
After the uncomfortable overnight journey, we were woken by the shouting conductor at 6am – an hour early. In a half-asleep-half-awake daze we managed to persuade the driver that we wouldn’t be able to get our bags out of the luggage compartment under the bus if he persisted with his intention to drive off as soon as possible. Once we managed to drag them onto the street we used our now well-honed ability to act as if all taxi drivers are invisible to buy ourselves a couple of minutes of time to work out which street we were on – and therefore by how much the aforementioned taxi drivers were about to try and con us.
After some successful haggling and a short drive we arrived at our hostel. As we were an hour early, ringing the bell woke the guy on reception and after checking in we immediately headed out for an early breakfast as our room wasn’t ready. For the rest of the day and through the folowing night I was pretty ill with a 24 hour bug from hell. My pain was hammered home by the unbelievable racket coming from all around us that lasted until about 4am. We seemed to have booked into the noisiest hostel in the whole of Quito.
After a night of very little sleep, the hostel cleaner making me a concoction of oregano, salt and hot water with a squeeze of lime didn’t prove to be enough to persuade us to stay and by 10am Alexandra had managed to find a nice quiet alternative. We headed over to our new hostel and had an early siesta. That afternoon we ventured out into La Mariscal with a mission – to find and book a tour to the Galápagos Islands. We surprised ourselves by finding a decent-sounding 8 day tour for a pretty good price at the very first agency we walked into. After confirming it was good by shopping around at a few other agencies, we went ahead and booked it. The last big splurge of our trip was paid for!
After spending the following day walking around the beautiful old town area of Quito we got an early night, ready for our early flight to the Galápagos the next morning.
We arrived by 10am the next day and a were having lunch a couple of hours later on the Galápagos Voyager – the boat that was to be our home for the next 8 days. It was so much better than we expected. A decent sized cabin with comfortable beds and our own bathroom, a nice group of people travelling with us, great food and a very friendly crew.
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking… there are plenty of them! But to summarise, we spent the next week sailing from island to island – usually at night, and sometimes through some pretty rough seas – doing our best David Attenborough impressions. The volcanic landscapes were beautiful, the land-based wildlife was amazing (especially the giant tortoises, red and blue footed boobies and new-born sea lions) and the sea-based wildlife even more so. Snorkelling with sea lions that were so keen to play with me and bite at my flippers; following sea turtles along a 100 year old underwater lava flow; watching penguins swim past at stunning speed through a separating school of thousands of fish; we had even more memorable experiences in the water than out of it. We were amazed by how fearless the wildlife was, which meant we could get very close to the animals. It’s probably the best cageless zoo in the world!
Here’s a video I shot of one of the sea lions at La Loberia beach having fun with my flippers:
After 8 days of fun on the islands, we returned to Quito and had a couple of days of doing not very much, apart from visiting the incorrect and correct equatorial lines just north of Quito, before we were very happy – after having read recent news reports – to fly over the border into Colombia, for some more beach time!
Here is a huge bunch of pictures from our time in Quito and the Galápagos Islands: