Happy Birthday Alicia! It seems like yesterday that she was born and that beautiful baby has grown into a delightful 11-year-old!
San Cristobal is simply bursting with sea lions and just watching them is such a riot. They all seem so lazy while they are on land. They make great piles to sleep and they will sleep anywhere, even the gutter of the main street. We watched one which lay on it’s back in the sand, head pointing toward the water watching the waves. He just waited until the surf came in and carried him out. Kind of reminds you of a teenager! They are also big on body surfing and don’t mind sharing the space with the surfers and people on boogie boards. More than once the swimmers got a little shock to see a sea lion flying by!
Craziest of all was the last beach we visited. Apparently, I put my towel on the ground either in a place the sea lions like to sleep, or directly on the path to the sleeping pile. At least a dozen passed by, some so close I had to pick my feet up to let them pass! By the end of the afternoon, they were getting pretty bold. Someone had left their beach bag on the sand and every sea lion had a sniff of that. Alicia was sitting on her boogie board and one curious little guy came up and sat with her. It was more than a little unnerving, since we know that they can bite pretty hard. He decided she wasn’t worth nibbling, but we headed out pretty fast after that!
Yep, this is Alicia’s leg!!
“These animals will be scared if you scream across the water going here is a shark! Or here is a turtle… So we have invented that if you do this, it means there is a shark, this means there is a sea turtle, this means there is a sea lion, this means there is a ray and this means there is a hammer head shark.” The guys said.So, shark is put your hand up with fingers pointing up to your forehead,turtle is put one hand out, put the other hand on top, close both hands and move your thumbs, sea lion is clap with the whole arm from your elbow and for hammer head sharks, you make fists and put them on either her side of your head. I revised in my head even though I knew that I was not going to use it. The guide hoped into the water and just then, he put the shark single on. He looked back in and put the hammer head shark on. Leendert, how was freezing, wanted so bad to see it that he was the next one into the water. I jumped in after an inside screeched (because of the cold and I saw the hammer head). They are kine of scary but really cool looking. We saw a dozen at least!
We went snorkeling at kicker rock. It was amazing even though I was only in it for about five minutes. I saw about four hammer head sharks, plenty of Galapagos sharks and the water was at its best. A deep blue color seen in very few moments. Awesome. O_O
The boat stopped and I felt my suit get tighter around me and stick as we came to a halt.
“You guys can go first, the other people have never done this. It is their first time.” The nice and gentle guide said to us.
“That can work.” Dad said looking a little pleased that we got to go first. Leendert jumped in first. The water splashed up as slightly sprinkled me. Brrr. The water was so cold. I knew I was up next. I got to the edge and was about to go in when the assistant of the captain came and sprayed something in dad’s goggles.
“Alicia, take off you goggles. This, to what he said and I am going to trust him, this will help it not fog up.” Dad told me.
“But I am already half of board and it takes forever to take them off and to put them on.” I said trying no to wine. Finely I got them of and they sprayed the thing in. My dad handed it back to me.
“Am I suppose to do this…… alone?” I asked grabbing the edge of the boat and put my weight back on to the boat.
“No. But you will need to help.” Dad said looking at me.
“And how do you exactly want me to do that?” I asked. “I could fall of any minute.” In another minute or two, we were in the water looking for things. I felt myself being pulled back, by my flippers. I looked back and saw my dad pointing at what then seemed like a plain rock until it moved a little. Then I knew we had found a ray. I knew that I had stopped breathing because I was getting a little dizzy. Inside I felt myself screaming and jumping up and down. Mom grabbed my hand and we went on swimming. After a lot, I meant A LOT, of fish seeing, mom asked dad
“Should we start heading back?”
“It is fine. They are not even in the water yet.” Dad said. I saw mom’s mouth go open to argue but just put her snorkel in. We went a little way and turned around. Soon. When we got closer to the boat, I spotted another ray. I pulled about ten times on dad’s suit before he realized that I was pointing to the tiny little ray. We got to the group that had just jumped in when I spotted another little ray. I called out to the guide. He saw it and called out to the group, but by the time he looked down against it was gone.
“I saw it go over there.” I said. He just nodded and it kinder looked like maybe another day look. We got on the boat. Not even ten minutes later, we where off to Kicker Rock.
Isabela is a quiet island. There isn’t much traffic in terms of people or cars. You kind of forget about looking when you cross the street. The only paved road I saw was clearly brand new and headed up into the highlands. Elsewhere, the streets are dusty and speed bumps are made by laying down long pieces of old rope. The only vehicles are pickups and scooters, which are often left running if the owner makes a quick stop – like for breakfast! There is no fear of theft here, since any thief couldn’t escape except by boat – and they all leave from the same little port. Everyone here is so friendly and helpful, especially when Alexander explains he’s teaching at the school, then the red carpet comes out. I can’t believe our amazing luck landing here for 2 weeks, it’s going to be a tough act to follow!
After school we did some homework at a local café and then rented bikes to ride out to the Wall of Tears. We walked a large part of this trail yesterday and decided it would be fun to go further (and faster with the bikes). By all accounts, the Wall of Tears is just that, a wall, but the trip itself was full of lovely little stops. It’s one of the few trips you can do on Isabela without a guide.
Along the road, there are amazing little beaches and fantastic volcanic rock formations. One formation was a volcanic tunnel where you can see exactly the way the lava can form – and eventually collapse – into tunnels. We’ve seen these formations all over the island, now we understand how these massive rocks can be such a crazy pile up.
Just outside the town, we spotted a gorgeous sea lion, just hanging out on the beach. He looked beautiful in the late afternoon sunlight and even more graceful as he splashed into the ocean in search of a meal. I still can’t get used to the abundance of animals just hanging around in such close proximity to the human population.
Another of the stops was at a mangrove. There is a fresh water source that was used by the penal colony that constructed the Wall of Tears. There was also a beautiful little beach to access the water. In this mangrove forest are some of the biggest mangroves I’ve ever seen and the biggest black mangrove on the island. It was just like walking into one of the fairy houses Alicia used to construct in the forest.
Just down the road from this was the Camino de las Tortugas (the walk of the tortoises). Conveniently marked with a sign and a tortoise just next to the sign. We spotted at least another dozen in the next 4km as we rode up the hill; it was a real tortoise safari. About ¾ of the way along the path, Alexander’s bike chain broke. Fortunately, this path is frequented with guides and tourists, so it wasn’t long before he was rescued by a group of Argentinian travelers.
We still managed to enjoy the lookout, which offered an amazing view of the island. On the way back, the kids and I stopped at the mangroves for a little swim and got back to town just in time to see the most incredible full moon hovering over Isabela. A fitting way to end the day – and our two weeks on the island.
Wednesday 5th November
Oh what a day! We woke early 6:15 and cranked through breakfast which was a toad-in-the-hole. School was good, tried “don’t worry be happy” song which was the first time I saw the students engaged for more than 60 minutes.
Did a private lesson with Mathilde, which proved fantastic. She really wants to learn, and I am convinced this contributes for longer term. The discussion also gave me interesting background into island life.
We get stunning news from Jorge (person from the volunteering org in Quito). Though we had non-changeable tickets, he has made it possible to change TAME flights to Lima (we made booking error) avoiding huge potential costs.
But it gets better!
We meet a Vietnamese girl who stays next door. She mentions she will be back in Vietnam for their New Year, which is right around the time we will be there (mid February). She studied in the USA, living in North, mid and South California and tells us to reach out once we are in Vietnam.
No really hold on, it gets way better. . .
We have dinner in the highlands (friends via Alicia and the school where Heidi teaches); Yvette picks us up (extremely friendly, chatting all the way up to the highlands).
We are stunned upon arrival. As we drive up to an oasis unseen before on the island. Before us is a restaurant, surrounded by lush gardens and some guest rooms. The restaurant must be good for a seating of 55-60 people, and has a full (inox) professional kitchen. Bert is a retired chef cook.
All the tables are dressed, candles lit; one Central table with 6 settings (glasses, silverware for 3 courses, two types of home made bread rolls on little plates). After a quick scan of the garden and admiration of the view over the landscape we settle at the bar (which is also handmade by Bert) with a glass of excellent white Chilean wine.
Bert cooks and partially joins us at the dinner table as we dive into the fresh vegetables which we so crave. I find myself in heaven. Listening to Yvette, joking with Michelle and hearing Bert’s views. All the MasterCard commercial: Priceless!
Just after 10pm we leave, meaning Bert drives us down the mountain. We see the first owl on their rooftop, but end up seeing many more on the way down. Like the night-herons we encounter, they are not afraid, and at one moment we come to a complete stop as Bert has to switch his lights on and off several times to convince the birds it might be smart to get off the road.
Overall an unforgettable evening. This one will be hard to beat!