A Travellerspoint blog

TORTOISES AND TUNNELS

Well, our time on Santa Cruz was coming to an end.  One more self-guided tour left on our list and then we would be taking a boat to Isla Isabela.

The two places we wanted to go to were the Rancho Primicias (tortoise reserve) and the lava tunnels.  The tortoise reserve's entrance fee was $3.00 each and the entrance cost to the lava tunnels was the same but the day we went to the tunnels there was no admission charge.      When we left Puerto Ayora,the sky was clear but as we approached Santa Rosa the clouds were rolling in.  We wondered if we would be wandering around the turtle reserve in the rain, and would it be safe to go inside the lava tunnels? There was no need to worry however, as luck was on our side and the rain clouds disappeared.

 Taxi drivers have a set rate to the various tourist attractions. It cost us a total of $40.00  return for the ride to these two places.  The taxi driver waited for us at both places and then he drove us back to the pier.  The ride each way was approximately one hour.  We thought $40.00 was a good deal considering what you would have to pay back home.  

  I had read that the taxis on Santa Cruz were pick up trucks and this was true. After being here I understand why that was the case since I had a first-hand visual of the island. The pick-ups are handy if you want to bike,or hike.  Some of the terrain is pretty rough, and some of the bike riding/hiking would be quite a climb.  So, having the pick-up truck aka taxi gave people the option of putting their bikes in the pick-up truck and have the taxi driver take you to the top of let's say that steep climb up the mountain allowing you to bike down.  One time in Puerto Ayora, Tom biked around town and went a few kilometres out.  Tom said it was tough because some of the road is cobblestone which made the ride difficult.     Rancho Primicias is a wildlife reserve, but really it is known for being a tortoise reserve.  I wish I had  picture of this scene, but I don't...so here's my description.  As we were getting closer to the tortoise reserve, the taxi driver had to steer the taxi to the sides of the road because there were tortoises meandering on the middle of the road and when I tell you this I don't mean he had to do this just one or two times, it was several times. 

I cannot tell you what it was like to see these tortoises up close.  There was no division between us and them, no walls, or fences.  The rule was that you stay 6 feet away. There were large and medium size tortoises at the reserve.  We were able to hear them breathe even at 6 feet away.  I cannot tell you how awesome that was because who would ever think of hearing tortoises breathe.     We also saw lots of tortoise poop (big deal you say?) and I did take pictures of it because the tortoises eat about 62 varieties of vegetation and when they poop they are re-fertilizing the grounds.  Another example of how fine-tuned mother nature is.

A short distance away were the lava tunnels. The driver told us (mostly through hand gestures) that he would meet us at the other end of the tunnels. The tunnels are underground tunnels about a kilometre in length.  They were formed when the outside skin of the lava solidified.  When the lava flow stopped, the molten lava inside kept on going and emptied out the solidified skin and left the tunnel. (so says the Lonely Planet).  Since the tunnels are on private land we didn't need a guide.  When we first walked into the tunnel, we thought no big deal.  It was lit and we didn't have to crouch, which was a good thing for Tom.  We brought a flashlight, but hardly used it.  Well, first impressions are deceiving.  As we moved deeper into the tunnel, there was less lighting.  Tom did use his flashlight but we both quickly agreed it was probably safer not to use it because as we continued our walk there were more and more broken stones that we had to either walk on (they were slippery), or straddle over.  We felt our concentration needed to be focussed on not slipping rather than worrying about the flashlight, since there was some lighting.  As we went deeper into the tunnel the head space became limited due to number of rocks that were accumulated upwards and as a result decreased our head space. As we continue our walk we ended up being crouched down quite a bit AND THEN, in front of us was a crawl space that we each had to go through.  There was like a burlap bag on the ground so we each shimmied our way through the crawl space.  Tom was doing some positive self-talking to himself and then we could see "the light at the end of the tunnel" (thank goodness).  So as we moved towards the light we realized the way out was by climbing up a very steep set of stairs that were more like a ladder.  Our driver was waiting for us and upon seeing our faces and our gesturing, he laughed. Overall, we were glad that we did the lava tunnels, we would have kicked ourselves if we hadn't.  There was no disputing though, that the tortoise reserve was the highlight of our day!  

We absolutely loved this place

We absolutely loved this place


Two tortoises and a Tom

Two tortoises and a Tom


Tortoise reserve

Tortoise reserve


Follow the leader

Follow the leader


Going solo

Going solo


Wandering around

Wandering around


Photogenic

Photogenic


Getting up close

Getting up close


A funny story about this picture

A funny story about this picture


Tortoise  Poop

Tortoise Poop


Keeping our distance

Keeping our distance


Taking a stroll

Taking a stroll


Having a discussion ......

Having a discussion ......


Feeling shy

Feeling shy


Just wandering around

Just wandering around


Say cheese

Say cheese


The beginning of our walk

The beginning of our walk


See those rocks ?

See those rocks ?


Walking through the tunnel

Walking through the tunnel


Another view of the tunnel

Another view of the tunnel


We did it!

We did it!


The light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Rhonda's most excellent idea ---and our cell phone

Before we left Puerto Ayora, I asked Tom what he thought about the idea of flying from Guayaquil to Quito. After 2 long bus rides I really wasn't in the mood for another long ride. Originally we had planned to arrive in Guayaquil and spend two nights there but I had mentioned that our one full day in Guayaquil would require that we go to the bus terminal to pick up our tickets to Quito. Perhaps, it wouldn't be too expensive to fly into Guayaquil and forego the long bus ride and have close to two full days in Guayaquil. Tom thought it was a great idea and we asked the staff what airline they could recommend, and where was it located. Well, we were told that the Latam office was just a few minutes away from us on the main road; and so it was. (https://www.latam.com/en_un/latam-pass/how-many-kms-for-your-trip/latam-flights-domestic/) We must have passed it numerous times while walking to the fish market and the Charles Darwin Research Centre. So in we went (air conditioning, how nice) and our flight was booked. The cost of the flight was about $120 Cdn. each and even better the flight was less than an hour. Wow, we felt so good about our decision and freeing up our time. We knew that our trip was coming to the half way mark and we wanted to maximize our time as much as possible.

As mentioned earlier we had bought a cheap phone in Quito. The problem we were having was that we were unable to unlock the phone to use it. The screen said to press this key and then that key....well we did but had no luck. The staff showed us what we needed to do. What we were doing was right, but we weren't quick enough. Amazing that we had a cell phone that we could connect to the Internet, take pictures with and could had a double SIM card slot (why do you need 2 SIM card slots?). Since we only bought the phone to make phone calls we did not get an Internet package or the capability to take any pictures

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Laguna de las Ninfas....Just around the corner

One of the places that Tom and I wanted to go to was Laguna de las Ninfas (Children's Lagoon). It looked like it was not too far from where we were staying, so I asked the staff for directions to get there. Well, it was literally a 5 minute walk from where we were staying. Little did we know that there was a back entrance to our hostel, so all we had to do was go out the gate, turn an immediate left; which took us to another part of the town we hadn't been to. Then we walked up about two blocks, saw the sign, turned left again and there it was. Tom and I loved it here. This is one of the things we learned about the lagoon. The lagoon is the gathering point of freshwater that come from the highlands and the sea water that enters the lagoon via the tide. The salinity determines the life in the lagoon.

Listening to the birds, reading the signs and learning more about what we were seeing. We went here a couple of times while we were in Santa Cruz. As I sit here updating the blog, it is such an unseasonably warm February day, which is nice....but oh how peaceful that lagoon was. No such thing as being on the go, being stressed, doing this and that and multitasking to get everything done we need to do in a work day.......sigh... It was strange though as we started our walk, you could hear the sound of water from the pier and people's voices, yet here we were in this beautiful, quiet lagoon.

Lagoon look-out - walk starting point

Lagoon look-out - walk starting point


Lagoon ....starting our walk

Lagoon ....starting our walk


Starting our Lagoon Walk

Starting our Lagoon Walk


Laguna de las Ninfas

Laguna de las Ninfas


Laguna de las Ninfas

Laguna de las Ninfas


Finch spotting

Finch spotting


Lagoon view as we were finishing our walk

Lagoon view as we were finishing our walk


Another bird

Another bird


Half way around the lagoon

Half way around the lagoon


Nearing the end of our walk

Nearing the end of our walk


Mangrove information

Mangrove information


A little education bit of education

A little education bit of education


Mangrove

Mangrove


Better picture of mangrove root system

Better picture of mangrove root system


On the other side of the lagoon

On the other side of the lagoon


View from look-out point

View from look-out point

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Finch Bay and Las Grietas

The day after we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station we decided to go to Finch Bay and to Las Grietas.  As mentioned earlier, the pier at Santa Cruz was quite busy with boats coming and going to other islands. Water taxis (costing .80 cents per person) also took the tourists to the Angermeyer Hotel, which was only a couple of minutes by water taxi. Once you disembarked, you followed a path that took you to the Finch Bay Hotel.  Both hotels are higher end with the Finch Bay Hotel having room from $379.00 U.S.  The Angermeyer Waterfront Inn had rooms starting at $200.00 U.S.

 The pictures Tom took of the heron were taken at the Finch Bay hotel. When I look at the pictures of the Heron, I can't believe how skinny and wobbly looking their legs are.  

In front of the Finch Bay Hotel is a small beach. Like the other beaches we had been to, no food or drinks were sold. We decided to come back to beach on our way back from our hike.  Following the path further, we came across the salt mine.  Neither of us had ever seen a salt mine. Scattered about were bagfuls of salt.  Also, the salt was a pinkish colour.; it reminded me of himalayan sea salt. The information we read told us that the salt was used for a variety of things but one purpose it did have was to salt the fish that the fishermen caught. As we followed the path beyond the salt mine, we started an upward climb.  At this point we were at a landscape that primarily consisted of brush.  It was dry but in just a few feet would be what I would describe as a gorge which is filled with water where you could go snorkelling.  Apparently the locals will jump from the top of the gorge into the water.  Unfortunately, when we went there, there were no locals jumping into the water. Before snorkelling there was a park official there who wrote down our passport number, name and our citizenship. Since Tom doesn't snorkel, he decided to do some walking and take some pictures of the landscape. 

 After registering with the park official there were a few steps you had to take to get to the area where you went into the water.  To get into the water your descent was was on smooth and slippery rocks.  When I got into the water all I can say it was cold.  I snorkelled a fair bit but didn't see anything that I hadn't seen on any other snorkelling trips I had been part of.     Tom and I reconnected and backtracked past the salt mine and finally to the small beach which we had seen in front of the Finch Bay Hotel.  As I was watching the sunbathers, suddenly I saw a seal skimming in the water, his head pops up and then back down. The motions were smooth and quick. I could not believe how fast he was going!

Tom and I had thought maybe we should get a drink at the Finch Bay Hotel....but we didn't..and of course sitting back here on a cold winter's night, we kick ourselves that we didn't splurge and sit and have a cold one at the bar.  Also, we thought we still had a few days until we left in Santa Cruz, so perhaps we could take the tourist boat over at a later date...sad to say we never did.  So once again, an adventure we thought would only take a couple of hours, extended to 4 hours.

 

Walkway from Ambermeyer Hotel

Walkway from Ambermeyer Hotel


Finch Bay Swimming Pool

Finch Bay Swimming Pool


Hotel Bar at Finch Bay

Hotel Bar at Finch Bay


Heron Picture  at Finch Bay

Heron Picture at Finch Bay


Heron at Finch Bay Hotel

Heron at Finch Bay Hotel


Tom at the entrance of the salt mine

Tom at the entrance of the salt mine


Salt Mine - notice its pinkish colour

Salt Mine - notice its pinkish colour


Salt Mine on our hike to Los Gemelos

Salt Mine on our hike to Los Gemelos


Another view of the salt mine

Another view of the salt mine


Salt Mine

Salt Mine


Salt mine information

Salt mine information


The salt mine and salting fish information

The salt mine and salting fish information


View of the platform where you snorkelled from

View of the platform where you snorkelled from


View of the gorge at Las Grietas

View of the gorge at Las Grietas


Swimming gorge at Las Grietas

Swimming gorge at Las Grietas


Can you see me in there?

Can you see me in there?


Landscape consisting of shrubbery and cactus

Landscape consisting of shrubbery and cactus


More landscape pictures as Las Grielas

More landscape pictures as Las Grielas


Nearby landscape

Nearby landscape


Cacti at Las Grietas

Cacti at Las Grietas


Beach in front of the Finch  Bay Hotel

Beach in front of the Finch Bay Hotel


Beach in front of the Finch Bay Hotel

Beach in front of the Finch Bay Hotel


Beach in front of the Finch Bay Hotel

Beach in front of the Finch Bay Hotel

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

THE FISH MARKET - PUERTO AYORA, SANTA CRUZ

During the week Tom and I spent in Puerto Ayora, we often walked the main drag, and at various times would see the local haul of fish being filleted. The women and men who filleted the fish were quick at doing their task and throwing the innards to the surrounding audience of pelicans, sea lions and at the odd time blue herons. Of course us homo sapiens made up the remaining audience. I'm guessing that when money exchanged hands- it was the local restaurant owners picking up the main course for the day's lunch and/or dinner hour.

One time there was a fish so big I thought it was a shark (there was not a head on the fish at the time when I arrived at the market so I was just going by size). I was told that it was a tuna. Right next to the woman who was filleting the fish was a sea lion who was howling away, awaiting not too patiently for some of the innards to be thrown his way, which she obliged. This of course was the one time I didn't have my camera with me. There was also one incident that I thought was quite interesting. One time at the fish market there were sea lions, numerous pelicans and a blue heron waiting to be fed by the fish cutters. As the food was thrown, the heron, a most delicate-looking bird, let it be known that the food was for him. The heron let it be known that he was on the top of the pecking order to get the food. Surprisingly, the sea lions and the pelicans, moved aside and the heron got the first dibs on the food thrown his way.

One of the things I missed when we went to Island Isabela was the fish market and the pier where we could watch for fish at night.

FISH MARKET PUERTO AYORA

FISH MARKET PUERTO AYORA


FISH MARKET

FISH MARKET


PELICANS WAITING FOR THEIR FISH FEAST

PELICANS WAITING FOR THEIR FISH FEAST


TUNA

TUNA


FISH READY TO GO TO THE RESTAURANTS

FISH READY TO GO TO THE RESTAURANTS


Fish Market, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Fish Market, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz


When do I get my turn for some fish

When do I get my turn for some fish


JUST HANGIN' AROUND

JUST HANGIN' AROUND


STAND UP PADDLING MARKET

STAND UP PADDLING MARKET

Posted by Rhondalee 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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