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Ekke Writes:

It was about noon, on Friday, July 22, as we left the Colombian side of the border and started the process for entering Ecuador.  It was the exact opposite of the Colombian crossing in that the immigration was quick and easy while temporary import permits for the bikes took a long time.  Soon enough we were on our way in our seventy-second country.  The roads were wide, with nice shoulders and the drivers weren’t as aggressive as their Colombian counterparts.  We were still quite high so it was cool riding but what was surprising was the amount of agriculture at this elevation.  Orderly patches of green fields clung to the sides of mountains as a light mist condensed out of the low clouds.  We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant and had our first opportunity to use the Ecuadorian currency.  Fortunately it was pretty easy to adapt since Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar.  A meal of rice, eggs, pork and fried plantains fortified us against the chill in the air as we continued south on the Pan Americana.  As we rode south we came to a construction zone where the double solid line veered off to the right to a small road.  The GPS indicated we should continue on the main road but the construction sign seemed to indicate that traffic could not get from where we were to Ibarra.  Since there were vehicles coming out of the construction zone we thought we would try it and hope for the best.  The road wound down into a deep valley and we kept our fingers crossed that the bridge at the bottom wasn’t closed.  Fortunately it wasn’t, otherwise it would have been a long way around.  It was quite warm at the bottom of the valley at 29 degrees despite still being at an elevation of 1,600 metres.  Soon enough we started to climb back out of the valley and into cooler air and shortly came to the town of Cotacachi where the Land of the Sun Hotel was just off the main square.  The check-in clerk gave us directions around the block to secure parking.  He met us at the entrance and swung open heavy steel doors to reveal the rear courtyard of the cathedral that dominated the square.  The bikes would be safe here for a couple of days.

Only minutes into Ecuador and the wildlife is already evident

Four-lane highway under construction


Lovely view from our balcony with Imbabura volcano towering over Cotacachi

The bikes should be secure here at the rear of the cathedral

The front of the cathedral

The next day we took a taxi to nearby Otavalo for its famous Saturday market.  Stalls filled the market square and overflowed into the adjacent streets for several blocks.  While it was still a local market in that people came from villages all around Otavalo to purchase everyday items it was also a tourist destination.  So there were lots of stalls selling everything from vibrant, colourful paintings to silver jewelry intermixed with stalls selling bolts of cloth and wooden spoons.  It was the first time since landing in South America that we saw a lot of tourists.  Back at Cotacachi we were talking with the American owner of the hotel and he told us of his trip to the Otavalo market the day before.  They had gone into town with the visiting sister-in-law and her family.  While he was parking the car he thought that everyone was out and started to back up.  It turned out that the sister-in-law was still reaching into the car for a bottle of water and he “drug her about five feet.”  By way of explanation he said that she was quite short and “what are you going to do?”  We found out that Cotacachi is a very popular spot with Americans as a retirement haven.  And why not?  Great climate and reasonable prices made for a lovely place to live.  Across the street at Jeanine’s bar it was all American expats and whenever someone new walked in it seemed that everyone knew everyone else.  Kind of like the sitcom “Cheers”.  We half expected everyone to shout “Norm!” the next time someone walked in.

Bright, colourful paintings at the Otovalo Market for the tourists

Bolts of cloth for the locals



Waiting for the bus after the shopping is done

Imbabura volcano watches over the dusty, empty animal market

A special mass at the cathedral in Cotacachi ends with dancing and a parade

On the 24th of July we relaxed in the central courtyard of the Land of the Sun hotel before packing for the short ride to Quito.  We had arranged for an apartment in the northern part of Quito but check-in wasn’t until 3:00.  It was an easy ride, except for missing a turn in the midst of a construction zone just as we entered the city so we were still early when we pulled into the street where the BlueZone Apartments office was located.  A KFC had motorcycle parking out front where we could keep an eye on the bikes and all of our luggage while we had fried chicken for lunch.  We met Jorge at 3:00 and he guided us to the apartment on Finlandia Street where we parked the bikes in the underground parkade and then made ourselves at home.  One of the main draws for us was that the apartment had a washing machine but unfortunately it wasn’t hooked up.  Still it had a wash board and a balcony with a drying rack so doing some much needed laundry was easy.  As a bonus Jorge said that we could have housekeeping do one load of laundry per week for free.  After dinner at a Crepes & Waffles (just like Bogota) we realised that we had crossed the equator without even knowing it.   Neither of us recalled seeing a sign along the Pan Americana or anything else.  Apparently there is a park with a monument northwest of Quito but not along the Pan Americana.  Oh well, we’ll have to get a photo on the way back up next year.

Idyllic courtyard of the Land of the Sun hotel

Riding to Quito

The next couple of days we worked on the website (it always takes a while to remember how to organise the photos, build the website, create the map with the GPS tracks and so on) and we made a big decision about our trip.  The original plan was to move fairly quickly through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru so that we could go down the Amazon to Manaus and then Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana during the dry season.  While this was a good plan it did have the risk that when we came back north in 2017 we might be pushed for time and not be able to do some of the things we really wanted to do such as visiting Galapagos or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.  So we made the decision to continue down the west side of South America and then come up the east side on the way home.  Then if we were pressed for time we might miss the northeast side of the continent but we would have done the things we were more interested in doing.  So with the decision made we booked a cruise to the Galapagos starting August 4 and decided to fly out a few days early to visit Santa Cruz island on our own.  We arranged the apartment for two more days and asked if we could park the bikes in the parkade while we were in the Galapagos.  No problem, said Jorge.  So on the 28th we visited the old town of Quito and just wandered around, absorbing the atmosphere.  There was the Spanish colonial architecture of course such as the Iglesia de San Francisco but also surprises like the extra-baroque Iglasia de la Compania de Jesus and one of the best museums anywhere, the Museo Casa del Alabado.  This modern renovation of a 17th century Spanish colonial house displayed pre-Colombian artefacts in a gorgeous setting, treating the objects more like art than the results of an archaeological dig.  We jumped in a taxi back to the apartment to pack everything that we weren’t taking to the Galapagos on the bikes and move the bikes to the parkade for safe storage.  Since the morning flight to the Galapagos departed at 6:45 we needed to be at the airport at 5:45.  Our landlady arranged for their regular driver to pick us up at 5:00 AM (what an ungodly hour!) in order to drive the 36 kilometres to the airport, so we tucked into bed early to prepare for the trip of a lifetime.

Parque Plaza Grande is the heart of Quito

The park is framed by the Catedral Metropolitana de Quito (shown here), the presidential palace and city hall

Iglesia do San Francisco

A tame parakeet in the courtyard of the museum adjacent to the church is a pleasant surprise

Iglesia de la Compana de Jesus is baroque on the outside by way over-the-top baroque inside (no photos allowed)

Whoa, a chocolate lab?  Watch chocolates being made and enjoy samples.  Heaven.

The Museo Casa del Alabado displayed pre-Colombian treasures as art



Wandering the streets of old town Quito

Spanish colonial

Audrey writes:

Visiting the Galapagos had always been high on our ‘To Do’ list, so when our plans changed from riding east in South America to riding south, this was our big opportunity to go there. We had an inkling that Galapagos cruises were very expensive, so after looking at our options we settled on a four-day cruise and then three days on Santa Cruz Island doing a self-guided tour. The bikes were left in Quito in underground parking at Blue Zone Apartments (we highly recommend this place), locked up and alarms set.

The apartment owner’s driver took us to the airport at 5:00 AM on July 29th, and we were supposed to meet a representative from our tour company so we could get our cruise package of information. A rep from another company phoned our rep for us, and it turned out that our rep had slept in. So, we were able to get our own park passes for $20 US each and some boarding passes, with the help of the rep from the other company. In a couple of hours we were flying over the brilliantly blue sea, and the volcanic Galápagos Islands appeared in the distance. Beautiful. We landed at the airport on Baltra Island, near Santa Cruz Island. Usually a tour operator would have paid for our entry tax, but since we had booked the trip at the last minute and had no documentation because our rep had slept in, we were required to pay $100 cash, each, right at customs. We didn’t have $200 cash. A customs agent said we must pay it to go through, and I asked if there was a bank machine at the airport so that one of us could pay the fee, get the money and come back and pay the remainder. She said, "No." After much discussion, the customs agent said we were allowed to go but only if one of us left a passport there. We would then, we assumed, buy the pass in town, which was across the island, return to the airport, pay the fee and they would return the passport. Ekke reluctantly handed over his passport which, technically, you are supposed to carry with you anywhere in Ecuador. But then, when walking through the airport lobby, we spied a bank machine. We took out some cash, and Ekke went back through security and paid the customs agent, who happily returned his passport. Sheesh.

The airport on Baltras Island, just north of the larger island of Santa Cruz

A taxi took us across Santa Cruz Island, which went from very dry and arid, to lush and green in the highlands. La Casa De Judy hotel in Puerto Ayora overlooked the ocean, and Judy was the friendliest hotelier ever. The town was very touristy on the main street, with shops advertising boat tours or souvenirs. Big pelicans hovered around the fish-cleaning table, and a lone sea lion was stretched out on the warm concrete. Ekke saw some movement as we walked by the dock – little marine iguanas were scurrying around. Bright red and yellow Sally Lightfoot crabs sat on the black volcanic rock. So unusual. And all this wildlife was just in town.  Lunch at Il Giardino was fantastic, with views out to sea, and fresh fish on the menu.

La Casa De Judy, our home for three days on Santa Cruz

A fish seller on main street Puerto Ayora has to deal with pelicans and a sea lion

The lovely harbour at Puerto Ayora

One advantage of spending a few days on our own was that we could visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, which was not on our cruise itinerary. Walking the kilometre from the hotel beside a mangrove swamp was pleasant, and we were greeted by a park naturalist who explained what we could visit. Displays about the origins of the volcanic islands and conservation were excellent, and a huge whale skeleton was quite something to behold. The station also had a tortoise captive breeding program, and seeing our first of the giant beasts was awesome. We were a bit disappointed that the baby-tortoise incubator house was closed to the public, but we did see some land iguanas in their enclosures. Star-gazing from the hotel's rooftop terrace capped off a wonderful day, and we identified the Southern Cross constellation in the Southern Hemisphere sky.

The voyage of the Beagle in 1836 with Charles Darwin aboard

Part of the tortoise breeding program at the Charles Darwin Research Station

Judy helped us get a taxi to the Lava Tunnels the next day, up in the highlands. The volcanic tunnels were formed when the outside skin of a molten-lava flow hardened and emptied out. Ekke was very excited (not) to learn that we could walk for a kilometre underground. In past tunnels we had encountered, he inevitably ended up hitting his head due to his height. But as we climbed a steep path down into the dark opening, we realized that this tunnel was at least ten metres in height. It was fairly eerie walking through pitch-black tunnels, with only a flashlight and ourselves for company, and it reminded me of a road tunnel, but a bit more rocky. Seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was a welcome sight.

Enormous lava tunnel was a kilometre long

It was mostly easy walking in the tube but some  scrambling was required

The light at the end of the tunnel

The taxi driver then took us to Rancho Primicius, where the big draw was Giant Galapagos tortoises. The beauty of this place was that one could wander among the free-ranging tortoises - they were not in enclosures and wandered around the island. The driver gave us an impromptu tour with his limited English and our limited Spanish. There was a lot of hand-waving and mimicking of tortoise behaviour. Somehow he explained that males had a rounded shell and females a flatter shell, which made the mating procedure easier. It was very special just hanging out with these glorious beasts, watching their necks telescope out to delicately pick up guava fruit to munch on. Their heavy bodies were supported by flippers, which had evolved into strong legs as they were now land animals. Our driver encouraged us to climb into a couple of tortoise shells for a photo op, and neither of us could lift the heavy shells, but we had a new respect for the weight tortoises carried on their backs. And for the mating procedure. We felt very privileged to spend this up-close-and-personal quality time with these majestic beasts.

A mural painting project at a school on Santa Cruz

Close to the ranch we spot a stray Giant Tortoise

We could barely budge the heavy shells, no wonder the turtles moved so slowly

The tortoises roamed wild and free while we were able to simply walk among them


Snack time of guava

To see the turtles so close up was simply magical

Tortuga Bay Beach was a 2.5 kilometre walk from town, so after fortifying ourselves with pizza, we headed up the rocky pathway. It was a very hot walk through a cactus forest, with the sun beating down, but the view of the blue sea and white stretch of sand that awaited us was worth it. Giant waves broke close to the beach to the delight of the surfers and we walked barefoot one kilometre down the soft, talcum powder stretch of sand. A jet-black volcanic rock was an interesting contrast to the white sand it was lying on, but then... the rock moved! It was not a rock after all, but a big black marine iguana, lying in the sun. Then, to our delight, it walked across the beach, stepped into the ocean and started swimming around. Several other marine iguanas crawled out of the mangroves to go for a swim as well. Some snorkelers got to swim with them and it must have been quite an experience.

The hike to Tortuga Bay Beach was hot...

... but so worth it

A marine iguana sunning itself on Tortuga Bay Beach

And then the marine iguanas head to the water to cool off

Swimming with the iguanas

The marine iguanas are well adapted to their surroundings.  How many are in this picture?

Our third day on Santa Cruz Island was spent sitting beside the pool at the hotel, catching up on CBC news via the internet, and planning the next part of our tour. In the afternoon we craved some much-needed exercise and took a water taxi to another bay to go on a hike. What luck to dock beside a beautiful restaurant, Angermayer Point, where we watched sea turtles swim by. The hike could wait. I tried the ceviche, which was three types of seafood in various sauces, complemented by plantain chips, and Ekke's octopus arrived on a hot lava stone. We finally got hiking, and a pathway of loose volcanic rock led us on a climb up to Las Grietas. This was a huge crack in the cliff, filled with sea water, like a fjord. Families were diving in and swimming up the inlet, enjoying the cool water on the hot day. Our walk took us by German Beach, also very popular with locals and tourists on this lovely Sunday, and we just sat and soaked it all in.

To roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.  We knew we found our restaurant

Ekke tucks into his octopus

A warm walk through the cactus forest

Swimmers in Las Grietas

On August 1st, we began the second leg of our Galapagos journey, the cruise. A taxi took us to the airport in the morning, and we asked the driver to stop at Las Gemelos on the way. Here we walked beside two large sinkholes that had collapsed after the magma that formed the island had cooled. They looked like small canyons, and lots of birds called them home. At the airport, Ekke saw someone wearing a Galapagos Legend t-shirt, carrying a clipboard. It was a tour guide and we were quite relieved to see that he had our names on the list for the cruise, as we didn’t have any documentation. Our fellow passengers had just come by plane from the mainland, and a bus took us all to the dock where we saw the ship in the bay, the Galapagos Legend. Seas had the potential to be rough at this time of year, so we wanted to be on a bigger boat to lessen our chances of seasickness, which we had both experienced in the Mediterranean. This one had a capacity of 100 guests, but there were only 42 of us on board, which made it very roomy. Many other smaller boats also cruise the islands, and we spoke with people who had fantastic experiences on those as well. One worry was that a big boat would feel less personal, but we were divided into three groups, the Albatross (us), the Boobies (stop snickering) and the Cormorants, and we developed a camaraderie with our group members. Our cabin was lovely, with big windows, a couple of twin beds and a bathroom.

Las Gemelos sink holes

Our first view of the Galapagos Legend, our home for the next three nights

After a buffet lunch, the Albatross were called to the embarkation area where we donned life vests and took a dinghy to Mosquera Islet. A couple of playful sea lions greeted us, swimming around the dinghy. This was a wet landing, where we stepped out of the boat into the water and walked to the white-sand beach. Our naturalist guide, Marcella, a local from Puerto Ayora, told us about the group of sea lions at this beach, and we watched for the alpha male, the big one with a bump on its forehead. The remainder were females, and there were several babies as well. Some volcanic rocks formed a calm pool of water, a perfect nursery so the little ones could be safe from sharks. A few little marine iguanas climbed up the black volcanic rock, and lava gulls and frigate birds soared through the sky, hunting for fish.

A sea lion pup at Mosquera Islet as the "Albatrosses" arrive

Don't trip over the sea lion when disembarking






Sally Lightfoot Crab

Perfect white sandy islet

Nap time

A frigate bird

At meal times we shared a table with Sateesh and Meera, a couple from Rochester, New York, and we got to know them quite well. They regaled us with tales about their travels to all corners of the world, which was a lot of fun, and kindly asked us about our trips. They were also in our Albatross group, so we did our excursions together. Ekke and I joked with them that we had practised singing the theme song from Gilligan’s Island to prepare for karaoke night on the ship. After that their nicknames were ‘The Professor and Maryann’ as Sateesh was a university professor and Meera was a perfect Maryann. We even had a ‘Ginger,’ a lovely lady, Connie, from Tucson, whom we had met on the bus. So, that made Ekke ‘The Skipper’ and I must be ‘Gilligan’. We're pretty sure the 'Millionaire and his wife' were on the ship, as well. The opportunity for us to sing karaoke, however, did not, sadly, come up.

The boat cruised to North and South Plaza Islands sometime early in the morning, and we were relieved that it was smooth sailing. Ekke had heard the anchor lift and engine start and I had slept through it. A dry landing, where we could step out of the dinghy onto a concrete jetty, was great because we could just wear our hiking shoes. Slippery, smooth rock had been polished by basking sea lions, and we walked carefully toward a stand of Opuntia cacti. There, as if on cue, we saw our first land iguana. It looked like something from prehistoric times, its grey, white and yellow body covered in spiky armour. It was surreal to see such a beast, endemic to these islands. And it didn’t run away from us, having evolved without predators. The area around these few cacti was its own turf, and we saw his mates, two females, nearby. Further along we observed other iguanas eating a piece of cactus that had fallen to the ground, its main food source in the dry season. Back on the ship, we cruised to Santa Fe Island while enjoying an outdoor barbeque on the deck. There was no barbecued iguana on the menu, however, just pork, beef and shrimp.

On our way to the Plaza Islands

The spectacular land iguana

Also evovled to match its surroundings

Two female land iguanas

The tenders arrive to take us back to the Galapagos Legend

Barbeque lunch

Our choice to rent wetsuits for $10 each turned out to be a good one as the water was freezing. Ekke acquired the longest wetsuit they had, and it was still an ordeal for him to slither his 193 centimetre frame into it. Dinghies took us to a rocky area beside the island for deep water snorkelling, where we just rolled out of the dinghy into the ocean. It took a minute to catch my breath when I hit the cold water, but the wetsuit really did insulate well. Sea lions immediately came out to play and swam around us. Marcella had warned us that this was the only place in Galapagos where it was important for snorkelers to stay in groups of two or more. “Why?” we asked. “Because of sharks," she said. I stuck very close to Ekke while we snorkelled. A myriad of colourful fish greeted us, and the waterproof cameras that we carried on the motorcycles came in very handy. We were amazed by the variety of sea life and I began to feel more comfortable, enjoying the gentle waves, bobbing along with the current. Just as I was feeling very comfortable, we floated over a couple of really big fish, and I thought, those look an awful lot like…sharks! Cue the 'Jaws' soundtrack. Ekke and I nudged each other, our eyes bulging out in surprise, and quickly took some photos of them. A young snorkeler, travelling with his family from California confirmed it, saying, “Do you know that you just swam over sharks?” Anyway, the sharks just sat at the bottom of the ocean, minding their own business, but I think I would have freaked out if they had moved.

Looking trim in our snug wetsuits

Swimming with the fishes

Clear blue water

Sharks!

After climbing the ladder back up into the dinghy, we motored back to the ship, where we had just 30 minutes to struggle out of the wetsuits, shower, and head back to Santa Fe Island for a hike. The schedule is tight on these boat trips, something Ekke and I weren't used to. Sea lions lazed around on the sand and we headed up into the hills to search for the Santa Fe iguana. These iguanas weren’t quite as colourful as others we had seen, their grey colouring camouflaging them very well. But they were the biggest in the Galapagos. The cacti were also very interesting as they were so old that their trunks weren’t prickly anymore and were the size of a big tree.

Sea lions basking on the beach on Santa Fe Island

A well camouflaged lizard

A harmless snake

The largest Galapagos iguana lives on Santa Fe

Almost as if the cacti were planted specifically as a photo frame

The "Albatrosses" head back to the ship while sea lion pups look on with curiosity

San Cristobal Island was our destination the next morning. At Point Pitt we landed on an olivine beach, green in colour because of the minerals in the sand. After that we hiked on volcanic tuff, which Marcella explained was volcanic ash that had mixed with water and hardened. The whole hike was on tuff, and it was super steep and rocky, and we were warned that it would break away if we got too close to the edge of the cliff. It was the perfect habitat for boobies. Sitting in a nest, which was really just a flat spot on the ground, we saw a pair of baby blue-footed boobies but there was no adult to be seen. I was really getting worried that we would not see one. And then, there it was – a female blue-footed booby standing by its nest, a baby chick close by. It was so cool to see it in real life after only seeing it in pictures. Its feet were extremely blue. Marcella explained that the bluer the feet, the healthier the bird, meaning it had taken in some important nutrients. Further along, we spied some red-footed boobies, which live in the bushes, and watched a teenage booby take its first wobbly flight. Very special.

A colony of birds at Point Pitt

Climbing up to Point Pitt

Young boobies

Yes, the blue-footed booby!

Yep, those are really blue feet

The red-footed booby nests in trees, rather than on the ground

A booby poses with the Galapagos Legend

Yes, you can get this close

A youngster takes its first tentative, wobbly flight

A lava lizard

After hiking back to the beach, I jumped into my wetsuit, with Ekke's help, as Marcella was urging me to go quickly as the dinghy for deep water snorkelling was leaving. Ekke had been feeling a bit whoozie after the last snorkel trip, so he decided to snorkel in the calmer water by the beach. I didn't have time to think about what snorkelling by myself, without Ekke, in deep water, would be like, but I just took deep breaths and rolled off the dinghy into the water beside Bird Islet. The current gently took me beside the volcanic rocks and once again I was amazed at the diversity of fish. I even spied a stingray swimming along the bottom. I kept looking up to make sure other snorkelers were within sight, and in no time, the whistle blew and I climbed the ladder into the dinghy. Ekke had a different experience back on the beach, spending twenty minutes trying to climb into his two-sizes-too-small wetsuit. He eventually waddled over to Billy, a naturalist guide, to enlist his help. He finally made it into the water and snorkelled near the volcanic rocks, seeing many colourful fish. Some others were snorkelling with a baby sea lion near the beach, so he joined them and he got some great underwater photos of the playful pup.

Audrey goes deep water diving

And spots a stingray

While Ekke stays closer to shore and plays with a sea lion pup

A snack always awaited us as we climbed off the dinghy onto the Legend ship, such as little cakes, cheese or fruit dipped in chocolate. The hot shower in our room felt unbelievably good after a dip in the ocean, and there was a plastic basket under the bed to contain the wetsuits. Lunch included make-your-own tortillas that we could assemble ourselves, and we watched and learned how the family from Mexico City expertly wrapped up the ground beef, cheese, tomato and sour cream without making a mess. Talented.

Our next landing was at Cerro Brujo, or Witch's Beach, named after the shape of a cliff that resembled a witch in profile. While walking through a narrow beach pathway, Ekke accidentally stubbed his toe, much to the chagrin of a nearby sleeping sea lion, who turned and growled at the intruder. Ekke jumped up onto a sand dune to avoid an encounter of the unwanted kind with the sea lion. The guide, Billy, informed him that he couldn't walk on the dunes so as to not erode them. So, Ekke gingerly tiptoed beside the grumpy sea lion, who continued to eye Ekke with suspicion. The stretch of beach was crescent-shaped and as soft as powdered sugar. I wanted to try snorkelling again but another fellow said that the rough sea was stirring up a lot of sand and it was very turbid, so the fish could not be seen. So, we just enjoyed the beach, and I played in the big waves for a while. While I was swimming, I saw Ekke calling to me, pointing, wondering what he had seen. There was a dark shape swimming a bit further out. Cue the 'Jaws' soundtrack, again. But alas, it turned out to be a big sea turtle, and I breathed a sigh of relief that it was not a shark. That evening, we enjoyed a farewell cocktail, and the winners of the photo contest were announced - Ekke won a prize, a Galápagos Legend barbecue apron, for his fantastic photo of a blue-footed booby.

Sure they look peaceful, just don't make any sudden moves

Ekke looking out toward Kicker Rock while keeping an eye open for sea turtles

The award winning photo

In the morning, the ship cruised to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where we disembarked one last time. A lovely air-conditioned bus waited in town for us and whisked us to the San Cristobal giant tortoise breeding centre. It was our third tortoise experience, but one can never get enough of spending time with the giant beasts. It was great to get information about them from our naturalist guide versus the Spanish-speaking taxi driver back on Santa Cruz. She told us all about how they tried breeding tortoises here, but it was too humid to be successful. So, they tried incubating young turtles and then carefully monitored them for a few years before reintroducing them into the wild. This will ensure the continuation of this once nearly extinct species. The best part of this trip was that we finally got to see the baby tortoises, so cute in their little enclosures. Each one had a number painted on its back so they could be easily identified for future studies.

Disembarking for the last time

A dolphin accompanies us toward our final destination

The harbour at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Young tortoises are raised at the San Cristobal breeding centre

And released back into the wild

Back in town, we had some time to eat lunch and shop for souvenirs, but chose, instead, to go up to Cerro Las Tijeretas, an information centre that we had read about in Lonely Planet. Not being on our official cruise itinerary, we felt a bit deviant going there, but Marcella said that a taxi would only take a few minutes and we could be back in time to get the bus to the airport. Sateesh and Meera decided to join us. The centre was beautiful, with boardwalks and bridges, and we looked at informative displays of the human impact and conservation efforts on the islands.

The Cerro Las Tijeretas information centre had a great view of the harbour

We did make it back in time for the bus to the airport, boarded the flight to Quito, and reflected on what an amazing Galápagos trip we had, a dream come true. As we flew toward Quito, we saw Cotopaxi Volcano, and wondered what new adventures awaited us.

Cotopaxi as our flight back to Quito passed through The Avenue of Volcanoes

Map of our ride from Colombia to Quito  

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