One of the highlights of our family gap year is drawing to a close – it’s Week 5 in the Galapagos and our last days in San Cristobal island, most easterly and oldest in the archipelago where we’ve been volunteering and going to school. Now it’s time to say our goodbyes and go exploring! Having rejected an uber-expensive cruise, we’re making it up and planning a bit of island hopping which actually makes for a very affordable family adventure!
Monday is the girls’ last day at school. Tuesday is Ben’s – but they ask him to come back Wednesday for a goodbye party! Martin and I say goodbye to the head teacher and receive heartfelt hugs, thanks and invites to return. Then we head to the airport to meet Erika, Martin’s Mum, aka Oma (German for Grandma) who’s flown out to join us till February…
Great excitement and joy seeing her and with all the catching up as we head to lunch, she twists her ankle in the first 30 minutes on a crooked pavement! Now there are two of us hobbling! Our plans to walk everywhere for a whistle-stop tour of the local beaches and Malecon of Puerto Baquirez Moreno are somewhat scuppered.…but we have a great lunch at Miconia, overlooking the beautiful harbour. Erika and I share a bag of ice for our warm swollen ankle and knee!
Wednesday Ben and Martin head to school for the last time at 7.30. Martin has made a computer maintenance manual at the teacher’s request which I’ve translated to Spanish, he takes that in and goes through it.
At 8 o clock Zoe, Lara, Erika and I arrive, I have a rowdy goodbye with my class…
We pick Ben up from his early morning goodbye party – coke, crisps, gifts, hugs, photos…. Introduction of ‘mi Abuela’ (grandma) then we’re off on a trip to Kicker Rock from the harbour. It’s a rather grey wet day – not the best for a snorkel trip but we still have fun, see some sharks, turtles, fish, many more sea-lions (as if we needed to see more!) rays, Martin and I get stung by some weird stringy creatures. He still has stings all over his arms head and neck a week later…and when the sun peeps out for a while we visit a beautiful deserted bay.
Wednesday night we have time to pop in and say goodbye to some of Zoe’s friends at the English centre, then we head off for our last lobster in Descanso Marinara with Nina and Natasha, lovely volunteer friends.
Thursday it’s Lara’s 5th birthday party. It takes place at 10am in class!! Thank God I have Rusetty the teacher to help run it!! We’re a bit puzzled as we see kids from the whole school marching up the hill about 8am looking like they’re off on an outing! Turns out they’re on a tsunami evacuation practice and back at school in time for the party! It’s a lovely lively, crazy party with dancing, musical bumps, sausages, crisps and huge birthday cake!
When we leave at 12.30 I feel I could do with lying down in a dark room the rest of the day after popping various headache pills but it’s time to pack everything up after 5 weeks here, say goodbye to everyone and prepare for tomorrow’s flights to Isabela island.
We have another goodbye supper with Willy and family and teacher Erica who’s class Zoe’s helped out as teachers assistant and we all get fantastic goodbye pressies. Thanks guys!!
Back at our apartment, we have time for a quick goodbye with our neighbours Lola and Eduardo and of course the three dogs who the kids have become very fond of!
Friday morning, Ben Lara and I leave at 6.55am for our 7.30am flight! There aren’t enough seats for all six of us on one flight so Martin Zoe and Erika take a second flight at 10.30. A very different experience!! What can I say!!
We’re happy to be reunited on the pristine white sands of Puerto Vilamil in Isabela. Gorgeous long white beach with occasional rocks, marine iguanas everywhere!
We have a relaxing 6 days on the island, spending much of our time on the beach, which we share with tons of marine iguanas, and stay in the fabulous Casa Rosada or Caleta Iguana (it has two names in keeping with many places in the Galápagos!). We visit the breeding centre and meet more tortoises, pass lakes of flamingoes, do some cycling and take a wonderful trip to Tintareras – otherworldly volcanic outcrops in the sea where we see penguins, snorkel with fish, see sharks, rays and turtles and hundreds of marine iguanas. Read more about it on Ben’s blog My Galapagos Family and Other Animals.
Another mishap involving a small rock under the sea and Martin’s toenail coming clean off leaves all three of us hobbling. I won’t include the photo! Thankfully I’m almost walking normally again but Erika’s ankle is refusing to recover.
The quietness of Isabela makes it even more magical but all too soon it’s time to take the boat to Santa Cruz, most populated and touristy of the three. We have our last three nights in the Galápagos, enjoying seeing land iguanas and more tortoises at the breeding centre and roaming free in the highlands where we also look into giant craters, trek and crawl rather uncomfortably through natural lava tunnels and the kids get quite excited about the only tortoise-crossing point in the world!
The highlight of Santa Cruz is our visit to Tortuga Bay – a long hot trek in the sun over volcanic pathways and jellyfish strewn, wild white sand beach, rewarded with a gorgeous, still blue bay, edged with white sand and mangroves where we swim and canoe with turtles who bob up and down, mostly in pairs as its breeding season… Idyllic!
Lazily, we catch a boat back to town around the headland and spot the last blue footed boobies of our trip on the harbour rocks.
Finally our 6 weeks is up in the Galápagos, our 90 day Ecuador visas is drawing very close and Lara’s actual birthday and Christmas are approaching… It,s time to head again to Peru so next day, we fly back to Guayaquil for just an overnight stop, our last Ecuador Sushi supper at our favourite Noe Sushi chain restaurant and then onward to Lima for a couple of nights.
In Lima we stay in the fashionable Miraflores area in a simple hostel, surrounded by shops, restaurants and a slightly English looking long beach with crashing waves and surf, grey pebbles and grey cold looking water!
Highlight for the kids – a night out with me at Bembos (MacDonalds equivalent) – not for the food but for the soft play area… meanwhile Martin and his Mum have a more sophisticated dining experience and some good Mum-Son quality time:)
Highlight for Martin and I – a 17 course tasting menu with wine at Astrid y Gaston – one of South Americas top restaurants – wow!
Some of the courses were out of this world and even reminded me a little of Heston Blumental Fat Duck style back home where we celebrated Martin’s 40th. I think there is a Martin foodie blog coming with more info about this experience!
And two days later we fly into Cusco – Inca capital and beautiful Andean city – 3700m above sea level, where we find a lovely hostel and prepare for a very important 5th birthday and Peruvian Christmas!!