Galapagos Overview

We expected the Galapagos to be a highlight of the trip, and given how much it cost, and how much we had built it up, I was very much hoping it wouldn’t be a let down.

It wasn’t.

It was at least as good as our incredibly high expectations.

We spent our first week aboard the Letty, a beautiful 20-person boat, with two incredibly well-informed and personable naturalists on board to answer Lauren’s millions of questions about the animals and the islands.

This was no relaxing pleasure cruise. We were woken every day between 6am and 7am, for a hearty breakfast before a full day of hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, zodiac rides and time spent up on deck scanning for whales, dolphins, turtles, rays and other sea creatures as we sailed from one spot to another. During all of these activities, the naturalists kept up a constant stream of information about what we were seeing. We were given an hour or so after lunch for ‘nap time’ but given this was our only free time of the day, we inevitably got caught up doing washing, backing up photos, or simply taking a breather. We fell into bed before 9pm, after an always delicious dinner, and we were both often asleep within minutes, despite the often very rocky motion of the boat. We crossed the equator 6 times during the week.

I will go into more detail on the various animals we saw – on land and in the sea – in later posts, when I have the bandwidth to upload more photos, but while all of the animals – and even the birds – were fascinating, the most amazing thing of all was that none of them were scared of humans. Some of the sea creatures might mistake a human form for a predator and move off, but whether it was having to edge round enormous giant tortoises blocking our path, floating for ten minutes above a marine iguana contentedly munching on seaweed, having to back away from a massive sea turtle who was in no mood to deviate from his path, or watching a male blue footed booby put on a mating dance for a pretending-not-to-be-interested female – they all took absolutely no notice of us. The sea lions were actively keen to play with us, rolling around us and sticking their faces right in front of our masks as we swam or snorkelled. The feeling of not being perceived as a threat was odd, and wonderful. It’s hard to describe how tiny birds, massive fish, crusty land iguanas simply not being bothered by us is exhilarating. It feels like how it should be. And it is that feeling that I take away from the Galapagos – it was all wonderful – the stunning islands with their various red, yellow, white and black sand and volcanic backdrops, the azure sea, the animals and birds, the chance to hike, swim, kayak, snorkel in such pristine environments – but my main feeling is one of pure happiness that there is at least somewhere in the world where humans are not causing too much damage to the environment and its inhabitants, and where animals and birds can get on with their lives without too much interference from humans.

Its not perfect, nowhere is, and there are conflicts between human habitation, tourism and nature, but kudos to the Ecuadorian government, and the people of these islands, for the incredibly stringent rules, attention to detail and lack of corruption that keep it as pristine and natural as possible. What a place. Just incredible. I don’t think we have fully absorbed yet just how amazing this last week was. We keep replaying things in our heads and reminding each other of yet another amazing moment. I think we will be saying ‘remember when….’ for a long time to come.

If any of you ever get a chance to visit, do. It is absolutely worth the money, the distance, the effort. No photo or video or attempt to write it up can fully reflect how amazing this place is. If you can, come experience it for yourselves 😊.

This was no relaxing pleasure cruise. We were woken every day between 6am and 7am, for a hearty breakfast before a full day of hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, zodiac rides and time spent up on deck scanning for whales, dolphins, turtles, rays and other sea creatures as we sailed from one spot to another. During all of these activities, the naturalists kept up a constant stream of information about what we were seeing. We were given an hour or so after lunch for ‘nap time’ but given this was our only free time of the day, we inevitably got caught up doing washing, backing up photos, or simply taking a breather. We fell into bed before 9pm, after an always delicious dinner, and we were both often asleep within minutes, despite the often very rocky motion of the boat. We crossed the equator 6 times during the week.

I will go into more detail on the various animals we saw – on land and in the sea – in later posts, when I have the bandwidth to upload more photos, but while all of the animals – and even the birds – were fascinating, the most amazing thing of all was that none of them were scared of humans. Some of the sea creatures might mistake a human form for a predator and move off, but whether it was having to edge round enormous giant tortoises blocking our path, floating for ten minutes above a marine iguana contentedly munching on seaweed, having to back away from a massive sea turtle who was in no mood to deviate from his path, or watching a male blue footed booby put on a mating dance for a pretending-not-to-be-interested female – they all took absolutely no notice of us. The sea lions were actively keen to play with us, rolling around us and sticking their faces right in front of our masks as we swam or snorkelled. The feeling of not being perceived as a threat was odd, and wonderful. It’s hard to describe how tiny birds, massive fish, crusty land iguanas simply not being bothered by us is exhilarating. It feels like how it should be. And it is that feeling that I take away from the Galapagos – it was all wonderful – the stunning islands with their various red, yellow, white and black sand and volcanic backdrops, the azure sea, the animals and birds, the chance to hike, swim, kayak, snorkel in such pristine environments – but my main feeling is one of pure happiness that there is at least somewhere in the world where humans are not causing too much damage to the environment and its inhabitants, and where animals and birds can get on with their lives without too much interference from humans.

Its not perfect, nowhere is, and there are conflicts between human habitation, tourism and nature, but kudos to the Ecuadorian government, and the people of these islands, for the incredibly stringent rules, attention to detail and lack of corruption that keep it as pristine and natural as possible. What a place. Just incredible. I don’t think we have fully absorbed yet just how amazing this last week was. We keep replaying things in our heads and reminding each other of yet another amazing moment. I think we will be saying ‘remember when….’ for a long time to come.

If any of you ever get a chance to visit, do. It is absolutely worth the money, the distance, the effort. No photo or video or attempt to write it up can fully reflect how amazing this place is. If you can, come experience it for yourselves 😊.

Limited Connectivity in the Deep South

Hi guys, just to say sorry for the lack of blogs, but we are wildcamping in the deep south with no electricity, rare mobile signal and even rarer mobile internet. The battery on the laptop died a long time ago and each day we have to prioritize which of our multiple devices to charge on the one decent usb point in the van. We are having a blast, but when we do find a signal it can take 20-30 minutes to upload a picture, and even then if often “Fails to upload”. Its like living in 1997 but with better scenery.

Never fear, once we head north to the promised land of fast wifi and vegetables, I’ve lots to share.

In the meantime, heres a photo of where we are right now.

Oh and hope those who celebrate/get time off had a happy easter.

Torres Del Paine National Park

This national park in the very south of Chile has, without a doubt, been one of our highlights of the whole trip. I could go on for pages, but the battery on the laptop will run out and I’ve no idea when I will get to charge it again – and anyway, the pictures speak for themselves. I can’t upload much on the campsite wifi and am not going to bother with fiddly things like captions. I mean, you can probably work out “mountain”, and “lake” for yourselves…… hopefully the pics will give you an idea of just how stunningly beautiful this corner of the world is.

Huge mountains, azure lakes, massive waterfalls, many herds of guanacos (a type of llama), hundreds of flamingos, rheas (like a smaller version of the African ostrich), condors and other birds of prey, foxes and rabbits, beautiful butterflies…

It was a long drive from Puerto Natales to the park, with a conflict between the paper map and the electronic one causing some confusion…. The drive took most of day one, partly because I kept leaping out to take yet more photos and partly because of the rather rustic roads…. I am bossing the ripio by now though 🙂

We stayed one night by the side of a stunning lake, surrounded by mountains, and it was incredible to wake up in the morning and drink our tea in the peace and beauty of such a place.

The air was so pure, you felt that just breathing was doing you good.

On the second day we went on a fairly long hike, along generally well maintained but rocky and at times steep trails. It was fairly tough going for the unfit among us (me), but Lauren skipped ahead for most of it, and I let her be ‘scout’. This place is so safe, and she is a sensible child, so she enjoyed a fairly long leash, reveling in being up front and out of sight.

Eventually we made it to a lookout, and were rewarded for our efforts by seeing a mini avalanche hurling snow down the mountain. The noise was as impressive as the sight. A deep rumbling, then a cracking sound almost like thunder, then a big thud as huge amounts of snow hit the slopes below. We heard others that must have been happening out of sight, and it was a pretty eerie experience.

After trekking back to the van, passing a hard of guanaco on the way,

…..we had a quick lunch then set off for the other side of the park, for a second hike, this time to lake grey, where we had been told we would be able to see icebergs. It was tough going along the beach, but we were rewarded with not only spectacular views of the glacier at the far end of the lake, but also these amazing icebergs – they really are blue!!! The one on the left collapsed while we were there, throwing ‘baby icebergs’ into the sea and creating some fairly big waves.

Lauren had a great time chomping on the ice from the icebergs – it was incredibly pure tasting, but how much of that is psychological who knows. It’d have been nice in a G&T…

That night, utterly exhausted after our walks, we slept early, cuddled up in our van by the side of another lake. The park allows campers that are self sufficient to park up in certain places, free of charge. The park seems to be very well run by highly competent and enthusiastic people. The rangeWe had been incredibly lucky with the weather, and as it was forecast to rain heavily the next day, we agreed to head to our next stop the following day – El Calafate for the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier.