Next stop and next country from Lima, Peru to Ecuador.
Ecuador (Part I)
Ecuador (Part II)
Ecuador (Part III)
Ecuador (Part IV)
Ecuador is a small country that rises above many other South American countries because of it incredibly beautiful natural bio diversity and wonders. Amazonian rainforests, Andean summits, coastal beauties and not to forget the archipelagos that are the Galapagos Islands! Ecuador is home to more species of wildlife than anywhere else in the world.
Since gaining independence in 1830, Ecuador has had nearly 100 changes in government but in very recent times the country seems to have gained some much needed stability and guidance under the stewardship of Mr Rafael Correa (in our opinion the only president in South America that looks and talks like a president – nothing like the cowboy and cowgirl type of presidents like Senores Morales, Chavez or Senora Kirchner!).
Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire and left to the two sons of Huayna Capac after he died. Internal fighting between the two saw the region experience civil war, but after several years of fighting Atahualpa defeated Huascar near Ambato. This weakened empire was easily defeated by the time Senor Francisco Pizarro arrived in the region as part of the expansion of the Spanish Colonial Empire.
From 1535 onwards the Spanish Colonial Empire had a firm hold of the region and with no significant uprisings were able to maintain control . Ecuador was a relatively peaceful colony for the colonists and locals alike with agriculture and arts flourishing the most. Many iglesias and monastries were built and Catholicism was embraced by the country.
In 1819, Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan Liberador, freed Colombia from Spanish rule and it wasn’t long before he had his sights set on freeing other South American including Ecuador. On 24 May, 1822 the famous field marshall, General Sucre, defeated the royalist soldiers and took control of Quito. It was the end of the Spanish rule in Ecuador! Ecuador was completely independent by 1830!
Ecuador (Part I)
Another country, another border crossing, another long bus ride! Lima to the border town of Tumbes was a quick stop and then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city! We had enough time to eat a cheap Almuerzo, go to the toilet and catch the next bus out.
We made it to Guayaquil from Tumbes to be greeted by our next Couchsurfing host, Erika Bruner. Another fabulous experience, we sure are loving couchsurfing and meeting so many lovely, hospitable and generous people! Couchsurfing has made our world trip so much more “real and authentic” because staying with and meeting locals you learn so much more about their country, place and culture it has been awesome!
We stayed with Erika for two nights and enjoyed a day of walking around and visiting Guayaquil. It is a city of some 2 million plus people and although it does not have that much to offer, Erika told us what to see and do.
We followed Erika’s great advice starting by taking a 25 cent bus ride into town, followed by visiting the main squares and churches as well as the famous Iguana Park. We have never seen so many iguanas in our life and the craziest part was that they were just roaming around the park without any concern for all the people around them! They were not caged in! They were on the grass, in trees and on the paths! Just everywhere and you had to be sure to watch that the ones above your head in the trees were not going to fall down onto you! They were so much fun to watch and some of them were massive! After the park we headed to the river and walked along the famous “Malecon 2000” a new boardwalk they built in the. From the boardwalk we reached Cerro Santa Ana after walking up 444 stairs to the top of the lookout and lighthouse for a great view of the city. We had a very pleasant day walking around the city and also had two pleasant evenings hanging out with Erika - thanks again and sorry you were not able to eat my spicy food. We will have to cook you another meal someday and I promise it won’t be bird! Haha! It is pajaro right, not pajero!!!
Next stop for us were the world famous Galapagos Islands! Somewhere I had been looking forward to visiting since we started our South America adventure! We had not yet taken one flight in South America! We have travelled this massive continent all by land! What an achievement and such a brilliant way of seeing each country!
Galapagos Islands (Isla Santa Cruz)
There are two airports in the Galapagos Islands and we flew into Baltra a small island north of the island of Santa Cruz. A very easy and quick flight and then we had to get from the airport to Puerto Ayora the capital of Santa Cruz. On this journey we met two lovely Canadian girls Rebekah and Marion from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Once we arrived in Puerto Ayora we found accommodation very quickly thanks to our helpful travel agents Abby and Andy from London who we met on our Salar de Uyuni trip and were now ahead of us in Ecuador. Abby and Andy gave us many helpful tips on the Galapagos Islands as they had spent two weeks there about one month earlier than us. We did not do a cruise, which most tourists do, and in the end were very happy about that decision as we were able to see and do so much as you will be able to see from the following entry…
We spent the next four days in Santa Cruz. We visited the Charles Darwin Conservation Center and learned a lot about how the islands were formed and the best part for me was seeing so many amazing giant land turtles! There were so many of them! I loved the really teeny tiny baby ones and also the massive adults! One of the other days on Santa Cruz we walked to Tortuga Bay which is a scenic 4km walk from town along a walkway and then onto a long gorgeous fine white sand beach. Whilst at Tortuga Bay I left Dean at one end of the beach to go and check out the price of renting kayaks. I was greeted by a very nice and friendly guy, I think he thought I was on my own so when I asked him how much it was to rent a kayak he said “normally it is $15 an hour but for you… you can have it for as long as you want for $15”. I told him that would be great but it was not just for me as my husband was further down the beach! He did not quite believe me, so walked down the beach, with his amazing Calvin Klein 6 pack to see where my husband was – it was hilarious! Anyway… a deal is a deal and we got the kayak for $15! We saw turtles, fish, rays and even some small sharks!
We also visited Las Grietas and Finch Bay while in Santa Cruz. One other day we hired a driver and went and visited massive lava tunnels – make sure you check out pictures as that is how all these islands were formed by volcanic eruptions. We walked through the tunnels, visited a turtle farm and we were able to get really close to these amazing giant turtles. The last site we visited that day with our driver was Los Gemelos which are giant craters formed by volcanic eruptions - see pictures to appreciate their size!
One of the days we were in Santa Cruz we took a day trip by boat out to visit one of the other islands called Bartolome. The movie called “Master and Commader” starring Russell Crowe was filmed here. The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of red, orange, green, and glistening black volcanic formations. Bartolome has a volcanic cone that is easy to climb and provides great views of the other islands. Bartolome is famous for its Pinnacle Rock, which is the distinctive characteristic of this island, and the most representative landmark of the Galapagos. We sure enjoyed the gorgeous views and the snorkeling. Check out our pictures to see this famous rock.
Another major highlight in Santa Cruz was the fantastic cevicheria we ate at many times! My favorite dish in South America for sure!
Galapagos Islands (Isla San Cristobal)
After a 2 hour boat ride from Santa Cruz we arrived at Isla San Cristobal to be greeted by hundreds of sea lions on the esplanade! We loved the place we found to stay as the couple who owned it were lovely and the room was clean, brand new and only $25 per night for the two of us! We spent 4 days on San Cristobal and wished we would have stayed longer!
We loved the feel of the little town, walking along the boardwalk each night after dinner while we ate an ice cream and watched as well as listened to the hundreds of sea lions lying on the beach, on the boardwalk, sitting on benches as well as in the slippery slide! They are such amazing creatures and make the funniest sounds ever! Not only were the sea lions amazing, we liked visiting the interpretation center and the free snorkeling. That was the first of many times we got to swim with the sea lions! They had no fear at all and were so playful in the water, such an awesome experience!
We hired a driver one day to drive us around the island to visit yet another turtle farm, a lake and a few gorgeous beaches - one of our favorite beaches in the Galapagos Islands was Puerto Chino. The color of the water was amazing and we got to swim with the turtles and sea lions! I think one of the other highlights was snorkeling at Kicker Rock, which is a massive rock formation about 30 minutes off the coast of San Cristobal. We saw at least 50 Galapagos Sharks, sea lions, turtles, exotic fish… just so much and so close! What an awesome island and in our opinion by far the most amazing island of all!
Galapagos Islands (Isla Isabela)
Well we kind of splurged a little to get to Isabela because to get from San Cristobal to Isabela by boat you have to go via Santa Cruz and that would be a whole day of travel (leave San Cristobal at 7am, arriving at Santa Cruz at 9am, then wait until 2pm to catch another boat to Isabela to arrive at 4pm). So as to not waste a day we flew from one island to the other via Baltra in 40 minutes! It was well worth the extra $60 each as we saved a whole day, got to see the islands from above which gave us a great perspective of the Galapagos Islands and we got to arrive at Isabela at 9am.
Unfortunately while we were in Isabela the tides were not great as it was a full moon, so we were unable to go snorkeling in the lave tunnels, which we were told were amazing. The other snorkeling we did was at Concha y Perla and also on one of the tours we did. The snorkeling was not great because the visibility was poor due and the currents were very strong due to the full moon! While on Isabela we rented bikes and saw some nice lakes, view of the island of Isabela in the distance, another turtle farm and the Wall of Tears. From 1945-1959, a penal colony hosted prisoners who were forced to build this wall, stone by stone, in isolation. This now historical site (El Muro de las Lagrimas), towering at 65 feet (25m) high, took the lives of thousands during its construction. Locals claim to hear cries coming from the heavy energy surrounding the site!
We also went and visited “Isla Tintoreras”. A beautiful small island with lots of marine life right in front of your eyes! We were lucky because we had a very informative guide! Whilst there we saw loads of wildlife as well, sea lions, crabs, turtles and sharks - see pictures to appreciate this tour!
from Isla Isabela back to Isla Santa Cruz…
A two hour boat ride back to Santa Cruz for a few more ceviches, a trip back to Tortuga Bay and to again enjoy the gorgeous beach and a day trip to Isla Floreana, which I think was our least favorite island and day tour. Our guide to Isla Floreana was terrible and unfortunately the snorkeling was not great, at least we got to swim up close with a few massive sea turtles but the water was not so clear that day.
I think our highlight back in Santa Cruz was diving at Seymour. We went for two dives in one day. We were so lucky and had an awesome instructor (thanks Israel) that not only helped us, but also took awesome pictures - check them out! We got to see hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, massive rays, turtles, fish of all types, shapes, sizes and colors, sea lions… just amazing! I sure have found a new hobby! After our day diving I just wanted to head out again the next day! By far one of the best activities we have done on our trip so far! What a fantastic way to end our 16 days in the Galapagos!
The islands are all different and worth a visit. We are very lucky we were able to visit all the islands we could possibly visit without going on a cruise. We loved our time on each island and would highly recommend the trip. We was shocked at how cheap you could live once on each island. Some of the activities were a little expensive, but there was so much you can see and do that was free! We were amazed that you could see so many wild animals without much effort searching for them - birds, iguanas, sea lions, turtles, sharks, rays, fish…you name it! All there right in front of you!
From the Galapagos to Quito… stay tuned for Ecuador Part 2…
Hope this finds you all happy, healthy and well xoxo